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What does IT need to know about VDI web browsers?

End users can easily access their virtual desktops and applications through any supported HTML5 web browser. Learn about the pros and cons of using VDI and web browsers together.

IT pros should consider a variety of different factors when choosing a browser for VDI deployments.

Most major VDI vendors now allow users to access their virtual desktops through a web browser, rather than a dedicated client. This gives end users a great deal of flexibility by allowing them to access their desktops through any supported HTML5 browser, such as Chrome or Firefox, regardless of the device or OS.

As long as the device can run the supported browser, users can access their virtual desktops. This eliminates the need to download, install, configure or maintain special software. VDI web browser-based access makes it easier to connect to multiple virtual desktop environments from a single device without having to juggle numerous client applications.

Administrators also benefit because they don’t have to support and manage VDI client applications across various platforms. Browser-based access eliminates the need for deploying, configuring and updating multiple client applications on top of having to manage the VDI environment.

Challenges of web browsers for VDI

Despite the advantages that VDI web browser clients can offer, they also come with several challenges. Browsers might not support all the features available in the client software, such as device redirection. Browser-based access also tends to operate at the lowest performance possible in order to accommodate all environments. Additionally, VDI vendors often support only specific HTML5 browsers running on specific OSes.

Browsers do not perform as well as client applications that are built and optimized for a specific platform. In addition, not all browsers adhere to the HTML5 standard in the same way, which can result in some web browsers rendering virtual desktops less accurately or efficiently than others.

Web browsers receive regular updates just like any other application. In some cases, these updates can affect desktop delivery, leaving organizations to wait for VDI vendors to update products to address these issues.

Implementing VDI web browser support also requires administrators to set up the environment necessary to deliver these desktops. For example, to provide VMware users with browser-based access, administrators must install the HTML Access software on a View Connection Server computer, open the required ports, and install an HTML Access component on the remote desktop virtual machines.

In most cases an organization should stick with the client applications where they’re most practical and use browser-based access to supplement the desktop service. That way, users have complete flexibility to access their desktops when and how they need to, while ensuring the best possible user experience. If, however, users are best served by the browser-based approach, then IT should certainly make that a priority.

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