What Is Desktop Virtualization? (Plus Benefits and Types)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 29, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Optimizing internal processes and workflow can result in higher efficiency and savings for businesses. Desktop virtualization is one way many companies begin the process of digitizing and optimizing their processes. Learning more about the virtualization process can help you get a competitive advantage over your competition. In this article, we define desktop virtualization, discuss why it's important, explain the types and benefits of virtualization options, and offer tips for implementation.

What is desktop virtualization?

Desktop virtualization is the process of migrating information that's on an employee's computer to a server or different servers. With all their relevant work files and programs on a server, employees can access them via a virtual desktop. For most practical purposes, this looks and functions like a traditional desktop when you start a computer. A significant benefit of this approach is that any computers connected to the same server can access the desktop with the right authorization. This means a company can give employees access to their files from almost any digital device.

Why is virtualization important?

Virtualization is important because it offers greater flexibility and helps optimize resources. It can save space, time, and money based on a company's current distribution of resources. For example, desktop virtualization can allow employees to work from home with little or no reduction in productivity. Virtualization is also suitable for companies with rotating employees, as they can easily access their particular projects without requiring as many devices. Employees can have access to all their files immediately, without sending an access request or carrying them on a storage device.

Related: What Is Remote Work?

Benefits of virtualization

Here is a list of several benefits of virtualization:

Remote work capabilities

One of the primary reasons companies choose virtualization is because it facilitates remote work. Virtualization makes the employee's ability to access a particular physical device largely irrelevant. Instead, the primary device, or devices, a company focuses on are the servers. A server allows employees to access their work remotely. Another benefit is that this access is scalable and customizable. For example, some companies may only require employees to access work while in a particular location. Others may only want employees to access specific data or applications.

In most cases, the business goals regarding remote work capabilities guide the decisions of virtualizing employee workstations. Factors like the number of employees, data transfer volumes, and the number of access points can determine the size of investment in storage and servers.

Related: Remote Work Policy: Importance and What to Include

Resource optimization

A company can save resources through virtualization. One example is the reduction in effort and time in system updates and upgrades. Many applications, especially those from major software providers, require periodic updates to make them more secure, add new features, or improve stability. Traditional computer workstations require a company to update every computer they own. This can use significant resources or even result in loss of productivity. With virtualization, all applications are on a centralized server, and only the server requires updating.

This is in addition to savings on hardware costs. Virtualization means the devices running the virtual desktops require less memory, even if the employee is working on large files. It also means that a company doesn't need multiple copies of the same file across various devices. This results in lower data storage requirements and reduces the number of data storage devices, like hard drives. Many companies also require fewer computers, as employees can often access their stations on their own devices or easily share company devices.

Better security

Virtualization can help improve a company's data security by reducing vulnerabilities. Similar to how a centralized server can save resources, it allows a company to focus security efforts on limited systems and servers. When employees access files and applications on a virtual desktop, it's harder to accidentally or intentionally aid in cyberattacks that may result in data leaks or corruption.

Another way virtualization strengthens security is by ensuring that lost or stolen devices don't give a potential attacker meaningful access to a company's files. This is because all data and files aren't present on the device but on the central server. While an employee's account info may give an attacker limited access, making sure accounts time out or require re-authorization when making major changes can offer more protection. Stringent and comprehensive access management in virtualized systems can help companies enhance their cybersecurity.

Three types of virtualization

Here's a list of the three primary types of virtualization for you to consider:

1. Remote desktop services

Remote desktop services, or RDS, refer to various Microsoft Windows Server services. These features allow users to access desktops and Microsoft applications remotely from Microsoft or non-Microsoft devices. RDS can be especially useful if users only require access to select applications. In many companies, employees may only use a text editor or spreadsheet application to perform most of their work.

2. Virtual desktop infrastructure

Virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI, is a common form of virtualization that uses a central server to host the data of individual workstations. The operating system contains desktop images that users can access remotely from end-point devices. Employees can then use these virtual workstations to access their work data and projects.

3. Desktop as a Service

Desktop as a Service, or DaaS, is a type of VDI that operates as a subscription service that a company can purchase. The difference is that while DaaS is cloud-based, VDI is server-based. DaaS allows companies to access the benefits of virtualization without maintaining their own server infrastructure.

Benefits of RDS, VDI, and DaaS

Understanding the benefits of each virtualization type can help you make the right decision while choosing a virtualization solution. Here are the advantages that RDS and VDI provide and the benefits of DaaS:

Benefits of RDS and VDI

RDS and VDI require companies to invest in server infrastructure and personnel for maintenance. These solutions are often suitable for companies that want to invest in virtualization as a permanent asset and long-term shift to remote work. Although they're more expensive, they allow businesses to extend virtualization to their entire network and provide the administration with complete control over their IT processes. If a business has highly specific goals and requirements for its virtualization effort, these solutions are better, as they also offer a higher degree of customization.

Benefits of DaaS

DaaS is usually ideal for companies that want to purchase virtualization as a service and for businesses that may not require an extensive virtualization program. Since it's cloud-based, small and medium companies can use DaaS without investing in expensive server infrastructure. One significant benefit is that businesses can set it up quickly and stop their subscription at any time. While working with a third-party service provider might seem riskier than setting up your own virtualization system, many DaaS companies offer sophisticated security and maintenance options.

Tips for implementing virtualization

Here are a few tips that can help you choose the right virtualization tools and implement them effectively:

Train your staff

Whenever you introduce new processes or technologies, it can be helpful to conduct training sessions with employees. If you plan to use virtualization, consider bringing in IT experts to explain the new technology to employees and train them how to use it effectively. A well-trained team can help a company take advantage of the many benefits that virtualization offers, including greater productivity, lower costs, and increased security.

Related: Understanding the Importance of Training Employees

Understand your options

Several types of virtualization solutions are available in the market, so analyze the company's requirements when choosing one. You can compare your requirements with the capabilities of VDI, RDS, or DaaS and select the solution that best matches your priorities. Consider the following when looking for virtualization architecture:

  • Cost: If you want to make virtualization a long-term investment, you can consider RDS or VDI. If you want to keep your costs low, DaaS may be a good choice.

  • Scope: Consider whether you want to virtualize all of your workspaces or only certain applications. RDS and VDI may be better for extensive virtualized networks, while DaaS can help you manage smaller projects.

  • Maintenance: Think about whether the company can manage its own server infrastructure. If yes, then VDI or RDS might be a good option, and if not, a cloud-based DaaS system may be better.

Start with a pilot

Before implementing virtualization throughout your entire network, consider testing it with a smaller pilot program. You can select one application to virtualize or choose a small group of users and devices to test virtualization. This can allow you to observe how your virtualization process might work and can provide you with valuable feedback from employees. You can use this information to solve any issues before expanding your plans to an entire organization.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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