Cloud Desktops: Should You Use Them?

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Many businesses are seeing the benefits of transforming their business to operate more in the cloud. We have many of our managed IT support clients asking us if it is a good idea to move their employee’s desktops or workstations to the cloud. This means that employees can access their workstations from any device and from any location since the desktop environment is hosted in the cloud. There can be many advantages to DaaS (Desktop-as-a-Service), but also several disadvantages. The choice is up to you if it is the direction you would like to take your business.

There are 2 different ways to deploy DaaS to employees. One is to host your own virtual environment. This is usually done through the use of an onsite or hosted server environment, typically built on a Citrix, VMWare or Windows platform. In this scenario, each person is basically logging into the same computer, but with different settings for each user. When one user installs software, it would be available to all the users who login since it is essentially the same workstation.

Additionally, you can deploy DaaS through a cloud service specifically selling desktop environments. With this scenario, although the desktops may virtually reside on the same piece of hardware, the desktop environment is isolated. This means that something you install on one workstation would not be available on another.

Advantages to DaaS

  • Cost – The main reason DaaS is becoming so popular is the upfront cost is usually so minimal. As your company grows you are able to add more desktops very quickly and easily without expensive hardware. You can easily scale up or scale down as your business needs dictate.
  • Easy to Maintain – In both of the above DaaS deployment scenarios the maintenance of these devices becomes very simple. With the self-hosted virtual environments backups, updates, and other maintenance tasks only need to be performed once on the hosted machine. On the other hand, with a hosted environment, these tasks are usually included in the cost of the service and are performed by the company hosting the desktops.
  • Access Anywhere – When your workstation lives inside the internet, and not in a tower at your desk in your office, you gain the ability to work from any location. As long as there is internet access, and you have a device that you can use to login to the desktop, you become free to work without walls. More companies are allowing their employees to work remotely on a regular basis, and this allows them to do that easily. It is also especially helpful for employees that are on the road for a good portion of their day servicing clients or meeting with potential customers.

Disadvantages to DaaS

  • Security – Something that comes along with the ability to access your company data from anywhere is the window of opportunity it leaves open for attackers. Free wifi locations are especially known to be the source of attacks on user data. Another issue can arise from the self-hosted virtual environments. Just as you only need to install software and updates in one location for everyone to access, a virus that one user downloads can infect all users on the system.
  • Internet Connection Required – With a desktop inside your office, if the internet goes down, it can be possible to continue to work, although it will likely pretty limited. There are still proposals you can write or data you can analyze without an internet connection. If your desktop resides on the internet though, being without the internet can leave you dead in the water unable to perform any work tasks.
  • Still Requires Hardware – Although you are able to access your desktop environment from any device, you still need to have a device to access it from. Luckily you can get away with something cheap like a Chromebook or other thin client machines. You can allow your employees to BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) to still limit that cost as well. Most of the computing power will come from the hosted environment, so the device used to access it doesn’t need to have robust specs or features.

Many small and medium-sized businesses are choosing a DaaS solution, you just need to ask yourself if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for your business.