Virtual desktop technology has been known to bring huge benefits to companies. But are these technologies right for the SMB? The answer is yes, especially for those companies interested in centralizing control over data for security reasons or those looking to provide more centralized access to high-end desktop applications. Small financial services companies, such as hedge funds or boutique brokerage houses, are very interested in the technology as a way to keep their extremely confidential and proprietary data off laptops, which have a nasty habit of getting lost or stolen (the U.S. Transportation Security Administration reports that more than 12,000 laptops are lost each week at U.S. airports).
Of course, cost is a consideration in any new technology deployment, especially for SMBs, where a mistake can be especially painful. In general, some cost savings are possible with VDI if companies consider deploying thin client devices on desktops as opposed to full-blown PCs on desks. Thin client devices can range from $200 to $300 each. However, back-end costs for VDI server infrastructure, licensing and other costs could outweigh these desktop device savings. (Plus, the hardware savings of thin clients is constantly eroding as more low-end PCs emerge at the sub-$350 price point).
Where the payback comes from virtual desktops is in the administrative and maintenance costs. Providers of VDI technology say their systems can save between 30% and 50% of the current cost for IT administrators to manage, patch, upgrade and support employees' PCs in a client/server environment. By some estimates, this could cut the annual per-desktop support cost from around $530 to $376--a savings which can add up for the larger the organization.
Another consideration around virtual desktops is that not every employee sits at a desk all day. This issue can be addressed by client-side virtualization technologies. Client-side offerings basically allow a laptop to have multiple personalities--the natively installed OS, plus a company-owned virtual image with more stringent access rights and controls.
Virtual Computer is one such company.
Hosted desktops, or desktops-as-a-service (DaaS), will be the biggest and most interesting opportunity for SMBs rethinking their desktop deployments with virtualization. In this kind of model, cloud service providers and carriers do all the heavy lifting of installing the back-end infrastructure to support VDI, and customers access the virtual desktop images as a monthly service.
DaaS has many upsides for SMBs. Not only can they move to lower-cost hardware, such as netbooks, to access the cloud-based desktop images, but maintenance and management of the images is completely in the hands of the provider, allowing SMBs to spend money and time on things more central to their business--not on buying and maintaining new computers.
As diverse as the SMB computing landscape is, desktop virtualization won't work for all small firms. But SMBs should at least explore some options that may complement or enhance their IT management and security operations as they look toward their next company-wide PC upgrade.
Want to know more about the outstanding features of desktop virtualization technology? Download Citrix XenDesktop brochure now to discover.