VDI: Secure Access for Remote Workers and Learners

Now, more than ever, today’s organizations need to support remote workers and learners. While some organizations and schools are planning for return to work and school, others may have found that productivity gains—along with the lower costs achieved through less real estate and a smaller IT footprint—justify making some combination of traditional and remote work and learning environments a permanent option.

Indeed, buildings with thousands of employees and students crammed together may soon be a thing of the past. Consider these examples:

  • The insurance company, Nationwide, announced a permanent transition to a hybrid work model with four corporate hubs and the majority of employees continuing to work from home.
  • About 90 percent of Morgan Stanley’s employees have already been working from home. Its CEO has hinted that the bank would need “much less real estate” in the future.
  • At Microsoft, employees can work from home until October. But its broader shift to “remote everything” likely means that they will incorporate some work-from-home flexibility in the future.

The growing appetite for apps

At the same time, organizations are deploying more and more apps. One survey found that companies with 2,000 or more employees are deploying 163 apps on average, increasing the number of deployed apps by 68 percent over the past four years.

SaaS-based Microsoft Office 365 and Google G-Suite for Education are two of the more popular apps in use today. But remotely and securely connecting to line-of-business apps—ERP, HR, finance/accounting, legal, clinical, and others—installed on machines remains a challenge.

While a virtual private network (VPN) may be viable in some circumstances, securing and maintaining a VPN brings challenges: data in flight is secured, but data can also be moved off the client device without knowledge of the IT team. In addition, processing is done on the client device, making performance dependent on the Internet connection and device—which is not ideal for data-intensive workloads.

Why a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)?

A virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) overcomes these limitations because it hosts virtualized desktop environments on a central server. It essentially sends only a “snapshot” of the desktop environment to PCs, tablets, thin clients, and other endpoint devices. Data remains secure on the server.

While patching and updating numerous virtual machines can pose a challenge, VDI uses many fewer resources. For example, a single machine can serve 10-30 users, reducing IT hardware resource costs. In addition, employees and students can effectively use “any old device,” saving organizations from continually purchasing new devices or refreshing with inexpensive Chromebooks.

Performance is also typically much faster in a VDI environment. Workloads are provisioned and compartmentalized by user and processing is done centrally, on the server, rather than on the client device.

Because data is secured and processed at the server, it never flows to the endpoint device. Data also doesn’t flow from the device back to the server, protecting users’ personal use of devices.

With VDI, employees and learners can securely and consistently access their desktop applications with any device from anywhere in the world, even on the public WiFi, making them much more productive.

Use cases: Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)

While a virtual desktop infrastructure is not right for every situation, there are situations that make a VDI an excellent alternative:

  • Data-intensive workloads – VDI is ideal for environments that require massive processing power, such as such as healthcare imaging, video, CAD, graphics, analytics, and others.
  • Remote work/learning – Because VDI environments can be centrally deployed and managed, it’s easy to scale up devices for remote workers and learners as quickly as you need them.
  • BYOD – A virtual desktop infrastructure is also ideal for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environments because it essentially “neutralizes” device type and location, enabling remote access for users.
  • Limited tasks – Organizations with many workers or learners performing a limited number of tasks—for example, healthcare workers, teachers, students, call center employees, etc.—may also be good candidates for virtual application delivery through VDI brokers without the need for full desktops.

Example:  Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop

I mentioned earlier that a VDI uses many fewer resources than a 1:1 environment. Here’s an example:

Consider that each VDI session has 2 virtual CPUs (vCPUs) and 4 GB RAM. In a 1:1 environment, then, 10 users would require 20 vCPUs and 40 GB RAM.

But with Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), for example, you’ll use considerably less than half the resources of a 1:1 environment—and enjoy considerable savings. It would take just 4 vCPUs and 16 GB RAM to support 20 users.

Cisco: Fast and secure VDI environments

Another option that allows users to access their applications, data, and virtual desktops any time and with any device is by deploying VDI solutions on Cisco Unified Computing System (Cisco UCS®) converged infrastructure solutions and Cisco HyperFlex™ hyperconverged systems. Cisco adds network performance-based routing for faster and more secure transmissions between the endpoints and the virtual desktop environment running in the data center.

Cisco also uses a Zero Trust model to keep these environments secure. For example, Cisco protects your intellectual property by keeping the data, virtual desktops, and applications in your secure and centralized data center and adds extra authentications through Cisco Duo.

Logicalis: Your VDI remote work expert

Whether you need a VPN or VDI or another solution, Logicalis’ engineering professionals possess extensive knowledge on many technologies and will work closely with you to recommend, design, and implement the solution you need to easily secure and manage remote workers and learners.

Logicalis partners with Cisco, Microsoft, VMware, Citrix, and other industry leaders to ensure a secure and consistent VDI solution that enables your remote workforce or student body to be productive. And, based on analyst and customer feedback, Logicalis has been named a Leader in the 2019 IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Network Consulting Services Vendor Assessment.

Learn more about our VDI and networking solutions or schedule a complimentary workshop with our networking subject matter experts.  

Dwight Goble is a Senior Solutions Architect for Logicalis, helping customers understand how private, public and hybrid cloud models and their associated technologies can provide the perfect environment for a variety of enterprise needs.