How to get the most out of the virtual workspace

Virtual workspaces are a great solution to provide uniform as well as customized access to systems and resources, especially for remote workers. Learn some tips to get the maximum benefit from these environments.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Thanks to the pandemic, a majority of companies have not only fostered and supported remote access over the past couple of years, but in some cases have actually closed physical sites and allowed their employees to work 100% remote. This has helped organizations and workers save money by reducing or eliminating on-premises resources and saving commute and vehicle maintenance costs.

The concept of remote access across a diverse, geographically disparate worker base with an array of needs and requirements need not be as daunting as it sounds. Rather than dealing with deploying thick client applications to user workstations or having to wade through headaches over providing a multitude of firewall access requests for these workstations to help employees do their job, a centralized internal (whether on-premises or cloud-based) environment to provide a “single pane of glass” point of access is a better solution.

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Namely, the virtual workspace, also known as virtual desktop infrastructure or VDI. This allows companies to provision virtual machines for users that they can then get on the VPN and connect to and have the applications and access they need—and these machines can be properly secured. Applications and access can be set up on a per-user or group-based role method. It’s simple in theory, but there are some complex challenges, which I discussed with Nerdio CEO and co-founder Vadim Vladimirskiy.

“Traditional virtual desktop infrastructure solutions are known to be highly complex, costly to license and difficult to manage because they are usually deployed with on-premises architecture, which requires highly skilled VDI engineers to manage, maintain and support,” Vladimirskiy said. “They also require a heavy investment in infrastructure, and costly long-term license agreements. In addition to staffing and maintenance challenges, virtual workspaces provided by legacy solutions often offer a poor user experience in the form of slow login times and limited access to the apps and data users need to remain productive.”

Vladimirsky warned of the danger that limitations to the employee experience can entail: employee disengagement and even an impact to loyalty and retention. Such limitations can also increase the use of risky shadow IT services, where unauthorized tools are used to store and access data.

Vladimirskiy pointed out that legacy VDI solutions can also result in vendor lock-in and often contain proprietary technologies or require substantial training/certifications to effectively use the technology. These can greatly affect a business’s ability to change solutions or directions if they encounter issues managing or scaling virtual workspaces.

Vladimirskiy recommends new cloud-based VDI solutions such as Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop or Windows 365 Cloud PCs. These provide the redundancy that is essential if you’re going to rely on an eggs-in-one-basket solution.

“By delivering the virtual workspace from the cloud as a desktop-as-a-service solution, the cost, complexity and management obstacles that traditionally come with offering virtual workspaces can be avoided. The virtual workspaces instead are highly scalable, lower in cost and much easier to manage for a more simplified and rapid deployment to remote workforces, Vladimirskiy stated.

Other advantages involve providing users greater access to the apps and data they need to remain productive, decreased security risks by minimizing the endpoint attack surface and offering integrated identity and access management technology to assure only privileged access use.

We discussed some of the other risks outside of security.

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Vladimirskiy told me that as with any technology transformation, there is always the risk of improper architecture configurations and optimization errors adding needless expense. Some organizations may view cloud-based solutions as risky because major public clouds typically run on a consumption basis, and computing costs can vary unpredictably. But there are solutions on the market that keep cloud costs in check and allow organizations to stick to their allotted budgets. To assure the most optimum user experience and IT efficiency when deploying a cloud-enabled virtual desktop approach, such as AVD, these intelligent automation platforms can greatly reduce costs while simplifying management and adding scalability.

We then focused on what employees and businesses most want from the virtual workspace experience.

“Ultimately, employees want to remain productive and engaged in every environment and location they work, while having high-performance access to the apps and data they need to get their job done. They also want to work on their preferred systems, even their own devices, while having full access to a their own Windows experience, including their personalized apps, content and settings streaming to any device. This can enhance employee engagement and simplify the user experience so they can achieve what they want, how they want it, and minimize their reliance on the IT help desk, Vladimirskiy said.

We both agreed from our own personal experience that businesses want to empower employees with the end-user computing that will keep them engaged, productive and collaborative. A fast and powerful user experience, where employees can get work done from anywhere with their optimal work tools and environments, can increase business productivity and growth.

Vladimrskiy concluded by emphasizing that “cloud-delivered desktops are an ideal solution to meet today’s increased demand for workplace agility–remote, in office or hybrid–without the risk and cost of the architecture lock-in that has traditionally come from on-premises VDI deployments.”

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