What Is VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)? A Complete Guide

A recent study found that 70% of early-stage startups are hybrid or fully-remote businesses. 

The shift to virtual work environments appears to be on an upward trajectory for 2022 and onward. Has your business fully prepared for this new landscape? If not, now is the time!

Managers across the globe must find ways to secure their digital work environments. Savvy business leaders are searching for tools to balance managing these environments without spending a fortune. 

VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) offers that solution at an affordable price. Continue reading below to understand VDI and its many benefits. 

What Is VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)?

Virtual desktop infrastructure enables users to securely access company apps, files, and services from any device. VDI makes this possible by hosting a desktop operating system on a centralized server. 

The digital workspace demands that employees have access to company apps from various locations and devices. Many businesses responded by handing out laptops and tablets, but those hardware devices are susceptible to leaking sensitive data. 

Plus, the cost of dishing out a device to every employee adds up quickly. 

VDI is a secure and convenient solution. Users can access VDI through a portal on their device and enter into the familiar look and feel of a traditional workstation.

Users have access to the apps they need to complete their work. Once they’re done, they exit the VDI and return to their normal device. 

This means that you can benefit from the widespread availability of personal smart devices without purchasing them – and while keeping your data secure.

Believe it or not, VDIs have been around since the early 2000s. VMware launched a product that started on shaky ground. At the time, the costs were as much as $100 to license each device.    

Since then, VDIs have grown exponentially, and the cost to operate them has gone way down. 

How Does VDI Work? 

Understanding virtual desktop infrastructure requires us to get a few terms under our belt. 

Part of what allows VDI to work are processes called virtualization and virtual machines (VM). Virtualization simulates computer hardware through a virtual representation.

A virtual machine is an independent software container. Each VM has its own operating system. Multiple virtual machines can run on a single device. 

With that out of the way, here’s a quick rundown as to how VDIs work: 

  • A virtual desktop exists within virtual machines
  • Virtual machines run on a central server 
  • Devices are constantly connected to the central server
  • Software connects the user to a virtual desktop from the resource pool

Persistent or Non-Persistent VDI 

This virtual desktop infrastructure guide wouldn’t be complete without going over the two types of VDI: persistent and non-persistent. The needs of your organization will determine which is best for you. 

Persistent VDI assigns a user with a single virtual desktop when they first log in. Each time they access the VDI they are assigned to the same virtual desktop. All of the changes they make will remain in the virtual operating system for their next use. 

Persistent VDI allows users to personalize their apps, settings, and workflow. It’s the best option for fast-paced digital environments where users benefit from customization. 

Another benefit is that users pick up where they left off with persistent VDI. This option comes closest to interacting with a physical desktop. 

Non-Persistent VDI assigns users to the same virtual desktop or a randomized pick. All changes made are reverted on each use. 

Non-persistent VDI reduces the customizability options to 0 for users. However, IT managers will benefit from a data center that is simpler to manage. Compliance monitoring is easier without customization too. 

If one-time access is needed, then non-persistent VDI is the way to go. Users who do not require saving their work will have a streamlined working environment. 

Who Uses VDI?

VDI benefits a growing number of businesses. VDIs can be used in different ways to meet the nature of your product or service. While all businesses could benefit from virtual infrastructure, some are getting started sooner than others.

With the shift into a digital landscape, these groups are poised to continue to take advantage of VDIs:

  • Remote and hybrid employees
  • Kiosk/task workers 
  • Sales and marketing departments
  • Medical professionals 
  • Educators 

The Benefits of VDI 

Location flexibility is a standout benefit for the capabilities of VDI. With workers all over the place, VDI enables productivity from anywhere. As long as the user has a device connected to the internet, they also have access to their workstation. 

Workflow consistency is another consideration when choosing VDIs for your workplace. No matter the device or the location, users enjoy a consistent experience. This can make transitioning between the home and office more comfortable – not to mention more productive. 

Security in a virtual desktop environment is a major improvement to relying on traditional methods. Data protection improves because company data stays on the server, not on hardware devices. This reduces the risk if employees misplace their phones or laptops.

Cost savings stem from all the virtual processing that goes on in a VDI. IT managers can say goodbye to relying on fancy hardware. This opens the door to buying more affordable technology since the processing power is done virtually rather than on the device. 

Effective management can be executed with greater ease and precision. Administrators can focus their infrastructure monitoring efforts on the centralized server rather than individual devices. For example, when an update runs on the server, all devices receive the update. 

Employee satisfaction is another consideration to make. Persistent VDI gives employees all the personalization of a work desktop with the added comfort of using their own device. Non-persistent VDI benefits employees with an efficient and consistent workspace that does not require setup time. 

Cybersecurity in 2022 

Ongoing trends make cybersecurity more important now than ever. Some of the trends heating things up for security experts are the increase in remote working, the need to secure mobile devices, concern over data breaches, and the growing prevalence of ransomware. 

One growing trend is the popularity of DRAAS (disaster recovery as a service). Companies are backing up their data on remote cloud storage. This can work in combination with a VDI, but it is not a substitute. 

When it comes to remote working, VDIs reduce threats by keeping company data separate from hardware devices. With employees having the flexibility to move around during their workday, their devices travel with them. Keeping company data far away from personal smartphones is crucial. 

Ransomware and data breaches result in millions of dollars lost and permanent damage to a company’s reputation. VDIs allocate resources to a centralized database that is simpler to protect. 

VDI Limitations 

The greatest limitation to VDIs is that they need to be executed and managed properly.

Data from the virtual OS must be managed and kept updated. A multi-step authentication program is important for users to gain access to their virtual desktops. Data needs to be encrypted as it passes from user device to database. 

There is still a need for continuing application performance management to ensure each app functions at its best. 

These limitations are not meant to scare anyone off from using VDIs as a powerful tool. Managers who plan their implementation carefully stand to gain massive benefits.

With the right virtual desktop infrastructure tips, you will be well on your way!

On the other hand, leaping into virtual infrastructure can be dangerous if done haphazardly. 

Requirements 

Understanding the requirements will help you build or transition into a VDI. Multiple technologies come together to make it work. 

A computing device with an internet connection is the first and easiest requirement. This can be physical hardware or a virtual machine. 

A hypervisor is another requirement. This can get a bit complicated, but their function is to host the virtual machines.

Storage resources are needed to hold all of the data. Storage is expensive, but managers can calculate costs by determining how much storage they will need ahead of time. 

The good news is there are more storage options now than ever! Cloud storage is a good option to have encryption built in. 

Other VDI Use Cases 

If confidential data is a large part of your business, then consider optimizing to a VDI. Financial companies, for example, should seek the most secure environment possible to prevent data breaches. 

BYOD (bring your own device) work environments are a natural fit for VDI. Cybersecurity normally is a risk in this situation, but as we discussed earlier, VDI reduces risk by keeping company data separated. The virtual desktop eliminates the need for administrators to configure employee devices.

Military and businesses that abide by strict regulations should consider using a VDI. Streamlining your data to a central point makes it easier to ensure governmental agencies that your data is secure.

Get Started With a VDI 

Consider integrating your workspace with VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure). While there are requirements to getting started, the benefits to security and ease of use cannot be overstated. 

Especially with growing concern over ransomware and data breaches. It’s more important now than ever before to set up precision management for your digital landscape.  

Ready to get started? Contact NETdepot to find out about their VDI program that allows you to pay as you go! 

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