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What is desktop virtualisation?

This article is from our 'Future of Cloud Computing' series

What is desktop virtualisation?

Virtualisation is the process of creating a separate computer that doesn’t need a physical device to exist.  Think of a traditional laptop – usually you’d have one operating system like Windows 10 that you work from as your desktop.  With virtualisation, you could create another desktop on that very same laptop… and then use it like an independent computer.  That ‘new’ computer now has another name – it’s a virtual machine (VM).  

If you’re still not sure what we mean, watch our Boxxe specialist explain virtual desktops in seconds, below.


Why desktop virtualisation?

Why not just give each employee their own physical desktop? To answer that, we’ve got to look at the fundamental weaknesses of traditional work stations:  


The 1st challenge = Traditional workstations need to be configured for each user. Imagine you need to update some software installed on 100 workstations. You need to work out how to efficiently deploy that update to 100 computers, whilst relying on every user to tell you if the update works.


The solution = A virtual desktop is centrally managed. That means the IT team can quickly deploy the update to all desktops without physically visiting 100 computers.


The 2nd challenge = With a traditional desktop, a broken computer can be a headache. The IT department has to replace the hardware, rebuild the user’s profile and reinstall their applications. That doesn’t always fix the issue though.  And any data stored directly on the users' computer might not be backed up to the network. If the storage hardware keeping that data dies, it’s well and truly gone.


The solution = With a virtual desktop, all of the data is stored and back up elsewhere. If the machine you use to access it dies, you can just reconnect with a different device and all of your data will be sitting waiting for you! 


The 3rd challenge = Your employees need the freedom to swap between devices or different platforms on the move. For example, from a Windows laptop at their desk to an iPad on the train). Unfortunately their software works differently on each device and not as effectively.


The solution = Tools like Windows Virtual Desktop, let you connect to the same desktop… From laptops, tablets, and phones, whilst ensuring you have an identical software experience on each.



How easy is it to deploy desktop virtualisation? 


There are several ways an organisation can achieve desktop virtualisation.  The method you use should be determined by:

  1. What your IT team can manage

  2. What your users need

  3. What your VMs need to accomplish

There are two key types of desktop virtualisation you use:  Local and Remote.  Here’s what you need to know:


Local desktop virtualisation

It’s a method where some of your local hardware resources (i.e. your computer) are used to run a separate desktop to your main one.  This means each VM is powered by the physical device you’re using.  What’s great is that your users don’t need a continuous internet connection to work.  Instead, they can operate all VMs offline.  Since the processing is done locally, you can’t share VMs or resources across a network to your clients or mobile devices. Which can be a big problem!

Remote desktop virtualisation

This virtual desktop operates on external hardware which enables users to stream it onto, and operate it, remotely from their device.  Basically, you can click, open files and connect to your apps just like any other computer.  IT departments get much more centralised control over applications and desktops since they’re hosted in a remote server.  Not only does this give your organisation a huge security boost – it means you can maximise your IT hardware investments with shared resources.  Plus users get the added flexibility and freedom to connect to a virtual desktop from most smart devices. 

The downside is that you need a stable internet connection to run a remote desktop. Having said that, you don’t need download speeds as fast as you might think.  We found that the UK’s average internet speed was typically 2x faster than needed for effective cloud computing.  So, those are the two types of desktop virtualisation.  But you still have another important decision to make… Hosted desktop virtualisation or virtual desktops.


Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS)

With hosted desktops, your organisation’s virtual desktops aren’t connected to in-house servers.  Instead, your desktop-as-a-service provider manages network control, load balancing and resource provisioning for you.

A third-party data centre is responsible for hosting your company’s desktops.  
With the correct set-up, hosted desktops can stream to almost any other device, which means your staff can access their desktops, applications and data from any location.  A lot of organisations utilise this option, since it's often a much more affordable entry into cloud computing than VDIs (more on that below). Instead of paying a substantial upfront cost to buy the required hardware (or hire cloud specialists to manage a virtual infrastructure) organisations can access a modern, cloud desktop for a flat monthly fee.

Depending on your needs, you can also choose a specialised DaaS supplier for added advantages.


Virtual Desktops (VDIs)

Virtual desktops and hosted desktops offer similar functionalities.  As with hosted desktops, your staff can access their data, applications and desktops from any location. 
The fundamental difference is the solution’s setup:  VDIs are managed in-house and not by a third-party (external) solution provider. 

So, what i
s the best hosted virtual desktop for Windows 10?

66% of all UK desktops run via a Windows operating system, like Windows 10, which is the latest and most sophisticated supported operating system available.  Our favourite pick is Azure Windows Virtual Desktop – every time!

For a full summary of why it has us excited, read about the unsung hero of digital transformation in 2021.


Hopefully now you will have a better understanding of what virtual desktops are, how they work, and what options are available to you if you're thinking about bringing them into your own organisation. 

Did you know that boxxe has a Modern Desktop on Demand service?  Your cloud desktop would be managed by MoD-certified security specialists, giving you the added benefit of sensitive data protection – at no extra cost.

Interested in speaking to an expert about getting started with virtual desktops?

Call us on the number below, or fill in the form and one of our virtual desktop specialists will be in touch.
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