Virtualization: The Road To Productivity And Security Through Enhanced User Experience

by Walter Banks, CIO, Gainesville Regional Utilities

The fast-paced and ever-changing landscape of today’s tech-driven world demands more accessibility to data from remote locations. The question is how does IT meet that demand while simultaneously providing secure and efficient service environments? The bottom-line is if the user experience isn’t easy to navigate, it’s useless. 

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) or Desktop as a Service (DaaS) focuses on creating a consistent user experience, and bolsters the organization’s security and productivity from inside the office and remotely, from an internet connection. 

There are several ways to provide VDI environments to masses of available devices and users. Remote desktop, virtual application and managed VDI services all fall under the category of DaaS. The concept of delivering the user experience along with secure access to network drives, email, and other cloud-based, shared resources truly changes IT’s ability to provide great customer service. 

Using handheld devices with applications that virtually connect to enterprise systems allows us to pay by credit without displaying our credit card, make complex data driven decisions, which normally require accessing large amounts of secure data, or share a discussion with multiple team members while viewing presentation documents, regardless of the applications installed on a user’s device. 

As consumers continue to use multiple devices to access information on the go, the challenge becomes ensuring a consistent experience. No one appreciates when content is unavailable due to device limitations or OS incompatibility, so providing easy access regardless of device, OS or network connection is vital. 

Think of the different devices that have emerged with the availability of affordable network, or internet access, bandwidth from iPads to iPhones, compact Ultrabooks, Android devices and Microsoft tablet and phone devices. 

This is where virtualization or DaaS comes in. Virtualization provides the speed, agility and interactivity users demand over limited bandwidth. And the experience can remain uninterrupted as applications and information from enterprise systems are presented securely and have a consistent look and feel. 

As devices have got smaller, the level of interactivity with data used in real-time decision making has become more frequent. The terms VDI and DaaS describe the flexibility we can provide in the form of virtual applications, which allow functionality such as searching or data entry to react similarly from any device. We can deliver full desktop mirroring, with every detail down to the desktop wallpaper, even to the smallest device. In other words, virtualization allows the user experience to become a repeatable service. 

In the past, IT departments have attempted to provide this service through shared drives and applications, mainly through Virtual Private Network (VPN) access. VPN access is effective; however, it can at times be extremely complicated or inflexible. Still VPN access was generally secure. The user experience relied heavily on the device used to access the network or session. 

Today, improvements in networking and broadband access, VDI and terminal service session or web-based access technologies have shifted the focus to user experience. IT departments are able to remove the impact of user variables and control them on the “back-end” as infrastructure. Because of our ability to control infrastructure, the user experience can be standardized and reproduced due to it’s existence in data centers. 

Virtualization, through its focus on user experience supports two important goals at an organizational level: security and productivity. 

Supplying data, as infrastructure in the data center supports overall network security and relies less on the accessing device. As devices get smaller, they are increasingly more affected by the environment. If the device is lost or stolen, the exposure of restricted data is minimized. Additionally, securing the environment with added layers of access protection through the use of built-in security tools, session filters and virus protections allows access to systems, applications and data that would normally not be granted. 

Increasing the availability and efficiency of data directly supports organizational productivity. Through virtualization, computing power is no longer limited by usual components, such as processor power or memory of a device. It is presented as a session based on shared resources within the virtual cloud. VDI allows most devices with a network connection the access to a predefined “experience” that is housed in a public or private cloud space, in the data center. Increased memory or processor needs of an end user are then easily met with a simple logout-login or reboot. 

The combination of security and efficiency provided by VDI or DaaS supports day-to-day organizational operations whenever and wherever the end user is. Employees can be productive on airplanes, from home, on trips, in the field or virtually anywhere else. 

For those in IT, meeting the expectations of users create business opportunities and happy customers. As the business world’s pace continues to increase, virtual desktop technologies and virtualized applications allow us to keep up with the ever-changing landscape.