The cloud is on the rise. Many organisations are therefore opting for a cloud-based digital workspace. Yet there are still good reasons to run applications – whether or not within one integrated digital workspace – on their own servers. What is best for your organisation: a cloud workspace or an alternative based on virtual (or remote) desktop? We explain the benefits of the two options and that there is a two-in-one solution: a cloud-based hybrid workspace, such as Workspace 365, into which you can integrate remote and virtual applications.
The meteoric rise of cloud and SaaS
Whereas computer viruses cause stagnation or decline, the new coronavirus caused an enormous digital boost. Organisations migrated to the cloud on a large scale and facilitated remote working, often by implementing a digital workspace such as Workspace 365.
Of course, the transition to the cloud was already in full swing before the corona crisis. As a parallel development, a rapidly growing number of applications is becoming available via the browser as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). A major advantage of SaaS is that the management, maintenance and updating of the software is no longer the organisation’s own responsibility, but is now taken care of by the SaaS provider. In addition, SaaS applications are more flexible, cost-efficient and usually) easier to use. No wonder then that, according to Gartner, the global SaaS market will grow to a staggering $145 billion by 2022.
The usefulness of remote and virtual desktops
As most organisations adopt a cloud- and SaaS-first strategy and more and more applications become available as SaaS, the question arises: are remote and virtual desktops still useful? As we will explain later, for many organisations it is unavoidable to use applications and tools that are not cloud-based.
Although the cloud in general – and SaaS software in its wake – continue to grow enormously, it is widely predicted that the end of the remote and virtual desktop is still a long way off. To understand this, we will first explain the basic concepts, the pros and cons and the applications of the cloud on the one hand and remote and virtual desktop on the other.
On cloud 9 with the cloud
Most organisations that are transforming to the cloud are over the moon about it. The cloud is the basis for remote working, more and accessible data and analytics, and faster deployment of applications and tools. As a result, the cloud not only boosts productivity, but also the potential for – and speed of – innovation.
From collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Asana via ERP systems like SAP S/4 HANA to the business applications within Office 365: the application landscape of companies is becoming more and more dominated by SaaS. This is also known as ‘SaaSification’.
The rise of the digital workspace has further boosted SaaS working, with employees having access to all their applications within a single browser window. A fully cloud-based digital workspace provides the optimal ease of use for users, while the IT department enjoys benefits such as easier management and lower costs.
Remote desktop: available remotely
Within the concept of remote desktop, it is possible to remotely access another computer. On the computer that acts as the host, you can store files and install software, which can be accessed from other devices called clients. Remote desktop is often used, for example, to retrieve data from a remote computer or by help desk staff who troubleshoot from a different location. Virtual desktop – which we will explain below – is sometimes also called remote desktop, as it involves the remote running of applications.
Remote desktop within Windows is based on the remote desktop protocol (RDP), which allows Windows to be used remotely on a device located elsewhere. Normally a user must use software for RDP clients, while on the other computer software for RDP servers must be running.
With Clientless RDP from Workspace 365, applications are available remotely without you having to install a client or log in first. In this way, remote applications can easily be added to the digital workspace or another portal such as your intranet.
Virtual desktop: software that runs elsewhere
Virtual desktop, or more precisely desktop virtualisation, makes use of virtualisation technology. This is software that simulates an environment or another technological source. In this way, for example, several operating systems or applications can run on one server, without actually having to be installed on a separate device.
In this context, we can distinguish between desktop virtualisation and application virtualisation. With desktop virtualisation, users have access to a desktop without having to install the relevant programmes and other applications, with multiple users having access to a virtual desktop that is fully controlled from a central system. Application virtualisation is all about application streaming: the applications are not installed on the workstation, but streamed from central servers. Clientless RDP is an example of application virtualisation.
Compared to the previous situation in which applications ran on every device, virtualisation has a number of advantages. For example, backing up is easier, you save time on maintenance and management, and IT costs are lower as a result of sharing resources. This is the foundation for the success of virtual workspace solutions such as Citrix Workspace, Azure Virtual Desktop (formerly Windows Virtual Desktop) and Amazon WorkSpaces.
VDI and DaaS
Two important concepts in this context are VDI and DaaS. VDI stands for virtual desktop infrastructure, which uses virtual machines to provide and manage virtual desktops. The desktop environments are hosted on a centralised server and deployed to end users on demand. A VDI solution that is cloud-based is called Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS).
Still working on remote or virtual desktop?
The cloud has some obvious advantages over a virtual desktop. For example, working with a virtual desktop can be quite inefficient and frustrating for users, while for the IT department it can be expensive, time-consuming and complicated. So why does virtualisation technology still play such a big part in the modern workspace?
There are five good reasons to continue using virtualisation technology.
No version available for the browser
Many legacy systems, i.e., information systems that are based on old-fashioned technologies but are crucial to business operations, do not have a version for Internet browsers. This usually concerns custom software such as custom ERPs.
Operating system does not support an application
If an operating system does not support a certain application, it can still be made available by application virtualisation.
The cloud version does not contain the right functionalities
It regularly happens that on-premise systems, running on their own servers, contain more functionality than the cloud version, for example because it is still under development.
Managing the transition to the cloud
Application virtualisation can ensure a smooth rollout of an application that part of a business uses on-premises, but is already available as a cloud version to others. With a digital workspace like Workspace 365, you can present both the cloud and non-cloud versions within the same digital workspace, but to different groups. This allows you to gradually move from on-prem to cloud with minimal disruption – and therefore maximum continuity and productivity – for employees.
Employees do not have access to apps
Suppose you have certain applications that must be run on-premises due to security and compliance requirements. If employees want to work remotely, you can choose to run the applications remotely on the basis of desktop virtualisation or application virtualisation.
Legacy: artefact from times gone by
Legacy systems are one of the main reasons for continuing to use virtualisation technology instead of SaaS. Software should drive your organisation forward, but legacy systems actually put the brakes on. So why don’t organisations get rid of their legacy software? It is often very expensive or complicated to switch to another system, among other things because a lot of knowledge about the organisation is embedded in the system and the system is tailored exactly to the company.
Continuing to use legacy systems, however, has the necessary disadvantages. This software is often not scalable, it is difficult to upgrade and (enormously) expensive to maintain. A hybrid digital workspace such as Workspace 365 can be an intermediate step towards a new system. The legacy software can be integrated with cloud-based apps and data within one environment.
Employees can continue to use their old, familiar system while they get used to the new workspace. As an organisation, you retain essential legacy software while implementing new technology that improves productivity and streamlines operations.
Workspace 365: hybrid digital workspace
Long story short: a cloud-based workspace is actually always best, but not always possible for the time being. A hybrid digital workspace such as Workspace 365 is the right solution. It allows you to combine cloud-based applications with applications based on virtualisation technology within a single environment, with or without local applications and data.
Workspace 365 enables the integration of Azure Virtual Desktop, Citrix Workspace, Nutanix Frame and legacy file servers or network drives, among others. Instead of a full remote desktop, you can also add a single remote or legacy application to the dashboard via Clientless RDP, which streams the Windows application in question into the browser.
The result is that employees always have one-click access to local, web or Windows applications, their file server and their cloud solution. So, they can work with all the applications, documents, contacts and information they need to do their jobs, all from a single interface. With just one login, because Workspace 365 supports single sign-on. Finally, it’s easy to secure the workspace with multi-factor authentication.
The result? With a hybrid digital workspace, you can improve the employee experience, increase productivity and gradually work towards a fully cloud-based workspace.
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