I remember my first day at my first real job. I talked to HR, took a quick building tour, and inherited The Behemoth, a hulking dinosaur of a computer. Rebooting The Behemoth took 10 minutes, and opening Excel took 5 minutes when it didn’t crash completely.
We’ve all suffered with the really, really, ridiculously old office computer. Technology gets obsolete fast, but we don’t expect to upgrade our computers as often as our phones.
For a lot of offices, replacing the Behemoths of the office isn’t cost effective when you can just deal with the issues and reload it every 6 months. But you don’t have to trash the golden oldies every year or suffer with super slow equipment.
Virtual desktops are a way to keep using old computers and make them a lot less frustrating to use.
What Is a Virtual Desktop Environment
With a virtual desktop environment, your servers run your programs instead of each individual computer. You still use your computer to do your work, but the server spreads its computing power across each computer.
You log into your physical machine, using your computer, monitor, mouse, and keyboard like normal, but what you work from is actually a virtual desktop loaded from the server. It’s a cool way to keep every computer consistent and fix problems quickly.
Microsoft Desktop Virtualization has a great video about their virtual desktop software that explains the concept well.
Why Go Virtual
Say everyone in your office uses the same programs. IT sets up the group of programs in the image, or virtual desktop, and then applies the image to all desktops.
Need to upgrade Adobe Reader? Upgrade once and apply to everyone easily instead of hoping everyone will update their own applications. Have to get rid of a virus? Reload all machines at once without disrupting the workday.
This is great for old equipment. Your 5-year-old laptop with Windows 7 doesn’t run as efficiently anymore, but you can run Windows 10 with Microsoft Office 365 on your server and it feels no different from running it on a new laptop.
You can also customize your group of apps for each user or team. Graphic designers can get access to the Adobe Creative Suite without slowing down Customer Service’s computers with programs they don’t use.
Disadvantages of Virtual Desktops
Your server powers all your desktops, so you need to invest in server hardware, storage, network equipment, and redundancy.
If the server loading your desktop images goes down, it could affect the virtual desktop environment for everyone.
That’s why it’s important to have redundant servers you can rely on. If the main server goes down, swap over to the backup server so everyone can continue working normally.
Comparing Virtual & Remote Desktops
Remote desktops are different from virtual desktops because your applications run directly on the server. Instead of creating an image and cloning it to each computer, you connect to the terminal server and run the application on the server.
Remote desktops can be simpler to set up for IT, but they do have some challenges for users. Most applications work on remote desktops, but a few programs still aren’t compatible. Customizing desktops for different users or departments can also be a challenge.
Virtual desktop environments and remote desktops are both viable options for lots of companies. They can be a great way to get new life out of your old computers with an investment in servers to do all the hard computing for them.
Do you use virtual desktops? Love them or hate them, let us know in the comments.