Kirill Kedrinski - Fotolia


Why VDI is perfect for managing remote employees

Organizations trying to support remote employees should look to VDI, which puts users in a controlled environment and makes it easier to provide support, manage licenses and ensure security.

There are many good use cases for VDI, but perhaps none is more compelling than work-from-home companies managing remote employees.

Over the last several years, it has become increasingly common for organizations to allow employees to work from home on at least a part-time basis. Working from home has been technologically feasible for decades, but doing so presents a number of challenges that VDI can solve effectively. Whatever the frequency, IT can use virtual desktops to keep work-from-home employees in a controlled environment.

Managing remote employees' software licenses

One of the problems that often plagues organizations that allow users to work from home is software licensing. Suppose for a moment that a user works from home with his personal PC and needs a particular application do his job. IT has to license that app, regardless of where it is installed. This requirement increases the organization's cost because the user requires a copy of the app on his home computer and another copy on his work computer.

Additionally, licensing applications on users' home computers complicates license tracking and compliance. IT needs to be able to prove that any apps installed on users' home computers are properly licensed. In the event of a software audit, the organization must also be able to differentiate between software owned by the organization and software owned by the individual users.

VDI solves licensing issues by keeping the licensed software within an organization's own data center. VDI eliminates the requirement for licensing and tracking remotely installed applications.

Boost work-from-home security

Security is one of the biggest challenges that work-from-home companies run into, and it's yet another area that VDI can address. If a user is working from home on a personal PC, there are no guarantees the computer adheres to the company's security policy. Admins should be cognizant of the fact that the user's PC is possibly running an outdated operating system (OS) or infested with malware.

Without VDI, the help desk has no direct knowledge of users' home PCs.

Some organizations attempt to combat user-owned device problems without VDI by performing health checks on remote PCs. For example, the Windows OS has long had the ability to assess the health of remote systems, and either grant or deny access based on its evaluation. In some cases, it is even possible for Windows to take automatic corrective action. For example, if the remote machine's firewall is disabled, Windows can turn it back on.

There are several problems with these types of remote health checks. They are difficult to configure and may not be completely comprehensive. Furthermore, if a user's PC fails a health check and the user is locked out, then the health check creates a support issue and impacts productivity.

VDI allows the user to remotely connect to a corporate desktop that IT preconfigures to meet all of the organization's security requirements. Device-level security becomes less important because the user's personal PC essentially becomes a thin client device. All of the user's activities take place within a virtual machine in the organization's own data center. If the user somehow manages to infect the virtual desktop's OS with malware, it isn't a huge problem because virtual desktops are typically nonpersistent, which means they reset to a pristine state at the end of each session.

Cut down on technical support time

Another issue work-from-home organizations deal with is technical support.

Without VDI, the help desk has no direct knowledge of users' home PCs. The help desk staff does not know what OS a PC is running, its configuration or what other software is installed. Support issues such as login resets and software problems often take longer to address simply because the help desk staff has to gather a wealth of information from the PC before diagnosing and correcting the problem. More importantly, if the help desk staff somehow damages the user's OS, personal applications or data while correcting the problem, then there are potential legal consequences.

Using VDI reduces major support issues and speeds up help desk resolution because IT already has on hand the information about remote users' virtual desktop systems. Admittedly, technical support issues can and sometimes do occur with remote desktop users. However, these support issues are almost always related to connectivity or performance, and are generally predictable and simple to resolve.

VDI makes it much easier to support work-from-home employees, because it puts users within a standardized environment. Although a remote desktop user's device still plays a role in the process, its role is far less significant than it otherwise would be. This makes it much easier for work-from-home organizations to secure, license and support the environment in which its users work.

Next Steps

How VDI addresses mobile and remote working

How to provide remote IT support

New mobile client makes remote access easier

Dig Deeper on Virtual and remote desktop strategies

Enterprise Desktop
Cloud Computing