We live in a mobile world. The emergence of powerful mobile computing platforms like smartphones and tablets has changed the landscape of business… and IT departments. Mobile device management is a major focus and thin, mobile-friendly, versions of core business tools emerge on a regular basis. However, most legacy systems resist the transition to a mobile-friendly thin client because of their age, complexity and/or platform (and, frankly, for many, it’s a nearly impossible task). So, how do companies move these long-lived business pillars into the mobile age?
The answer is mobile virtualization. Specifically, a blend between mobile technology and virtual desktop integration (VDI).
What is Mobile Virtual Desktop Integration?
As modern workforces become more distributed and remote, IT departments face a new challenge in maintaining the company’s PCs. While screen-sharing tools and other remote management software provide some solution, they require the operating system on the remote system to be running, and that limits their usefulness – especially during critical failures or necessary system upgrades.
A VDI allows for the operating system and other software to reside in a single data center. The end-user accesses these systems remotely – essentially creating a type of client/server infrastructure. This type of system has a few significant advantages over a more traditional “local only” configuration:
- No more need for offsite repair –With a virtualized environment, the PCs used by the end user are interchangeable (and thus, can be swapped out in the event of critical failure) and the operating system can be repaired/corrected at the data center by onsite personnel.
- Easier update management – Remotely updating operating systems and even business software can be a tedious “one at a time” process in a traditional environment. When your operating system resides at a data center, the upgrades can be applied en masse.
- Increased Data Security – Sometime someone is going to lose a laptop or have one stolen. When it happens, that laptop can be cut off from the virtual desktop and all of the data and software that might have otherwise been accessible to the machine’s “new owner” is essentially gone.
Taking Virtual Desktop Integration Mobile
While VDI may have originated as a way to reduce maintenance and distribution challenges, it really starts to shine when combined with mobile technology. Instead of creating a mobile version of the software or legacy systems in question, a mobile virtual desktop integration allows the user to simply access those systems as if they were using a regular PC. A mobile VDI, then, provides its users with complete access to all of their critical software, no matter where they are.
Mobile VDI systems have the same advantages as a traditional VDI, but they’re even more pronounced:
- Portability – Because of their nature (and frequency of use), mobile devices are prone to breakage and loss. Re-configuring new devices is a tiresome challenge, especially when done frequently. Because the VDI can be accessed from any system with the right credentials, users can access their desktop from multiple devices (like their smartphone and table), and easily re-access their system on new devices.
- Ease of Maintenance –Mobile screen sharing and other support tools are not as evolved as their PC counterparts. This makes the centralized nature of the desktop environment even more useful, as the environment can be easily maintained by onsite personnel.
- Security – Smartphones and tablets are more susceptible to loss or theft than desktops or even laptops. The increased security that comes from a mobile environment, and specifically they ability to cut that device off from any secure or critical information, makes mobile devices even more palatable options for a remote workforce.
By creating a mobile interface to the VDI environment, companies are able to offer all the functionality of their desktop software and systems through mobile devices, to their offsite workforce.
Configuring and Maintaining a Mobile VDI
Properly configuring and maintaining a mobile VDI system presents some unique challenges to IT departments. Specifically, they require expertise and experience in both virtual desktop integration and mobile device management. While a few companies will already have internal experience in both of these areas, most will not.
Some companies may be tempted to try it themselves and “learn as they go”, but a truly effective mobile VDI typically represents the backbone of their infrastructure. It’s especially critical that the system is done right, from the beginning, to avoid costly downtime. The lack of room for error causes many companies to look for an external partner that has the requisite experience to implement, and potentially host, the mobile VDI environment.
Whether using an outside provider or setting up the configuration, hosting, deployment and maintenance themselves, companies are taking advantage of the power that mobile access to legacy systems gives their employees. More than ever, employees need not be tied to a desk (or a desktop).