What is a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)?

Virtual desktop infrastructure delivers a level of security and ease of management that would otherwise be inefficient and impractical.

The principle behind VDI is simple: laptops, desktops and thin clients load their operating system from a remote server, instead of from their local hard disk. This may seem a formidable challenge, but an operating system comprises of data – and, like any form of data, can be loaded over a network or even the Internet.

The operating system loads as a virtual machine. Unlike a ‘real’ machine, each time the virtual machine boots, it can be loaded as ‘clean’ – and, when it closes down, anything other than the data you’ve been working on is discarded. The data itself can be stored separately on the server. This type of virtual machine is known as ‘non-persistent’. This is most often used where workers perform a limited set of tasks and where there’s no need to customise their desktops.

Non-persistent VDIs work well in many instances, but for an environment which operates more like the kind of PC and laptop most people are used to, a persistent VDI works best. This allows users to customise their desktop (within limits set by administrators) so when they return to the same machine, everything is as it was. As far as the user is concerned, a virtual laptop or desktop works in the same way as a physical one.

The virtual machines are kept on servers. These can be on the same network or can even be accessed over the Internet. When a local machine is turned on, it connects to the server via a software gateway – which then securely allows the virtual machine to load.

This might sound like a complex way to go about things, and for a single computer it is. But for organisations with dozens, hundreds or thousands of PCs, it’s actually far simpler than managing all of those computers, dotted around the country or even the world.

Importantly, IT teams can manage any number of virtual machines with greater ease than physical ones – making configuration changes and updates far, far easier and much quicker to roll out.

Data is kept securely and only accessed when needed – it lives on the server and not on the local device, or ‘endpoint’. Employees can load their virtual machine from any other machine, so they can work anywhere in the world – or be back up and running nearly instantly if their machine dies or is stolen.

VDIs save money, too – because virtual desktops can run on less powerful devices, so hardware can be kept in service for much, much longer.

VDIs can work for almost any kind of organisation. Obviously, it’s a real benefit where there is a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, because the corporate desktop can be loaded onto a personal machine securely, without affecting any personal files or applications. It’s also great for remote workers – these days, many people work at home, or remotely for some if not all of the time.

But while the principle is simple, the technological hurdles to make this happen can be anything but. This is where VXL Software’s suite of homeworking and VDI software comes into play. Products like CloudDesktop On the Go, Fusion UEM and Fusion SecureDesktop make deploying and managing a VDI straightforward. To find out which of these provides the best VDI for your needs, simply contact us.

Get in touch to find out how your organisation can benefit from a virtual desktop infrastructure.