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Azure Virtual Desktops: the workspace you’ve been looking for?

The deployment of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI, technology was already on the rise before the emergence of the Covid19 pandemic. However, the immediate need to deliver remote working across entire organisations, and now the longer-term adoption of hybrid working models, has elevated interest in the technology from businesses of all sizes.

This makes a great deal of sense, too, given that VDI solutions are a ready-made platform for the safe and secure distribution of apps and data to users working outside of the normal office setting.

In search of a solution to an urgent need, many organisations turned to VDI deployments last March to help overcome the challenges of an immediate switch to remote working. The change in outlook that followed was something that surprised even the biggest names in IT.

Microsoft recently announced several changes and enhancements to its existing VDI platform, including a name change from Windows Virtual Desktop to Azure Virtual Desktop. Discussing the changes, Microsoft’s General Manager for Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) Kam VedBrat even admitted that the service had initially been intended to cater for the largest organisations, and that these changes were in response to the changing role this technology has to play in the enablement of hybrid and remote working for a variety of businesses.

The developing position of this technology does beg some important questions. What exactly is the role that VDI has to play moving forward, and what challenges does it help organisations to overcome?

An introduction to VDI

First things first, let’s clarify exactly what we mean when we talk about a VDI solution.

A VDI solution is a platform for the hosting and distribution of virtual desktops across multiple end points. Just as you’d log in to your own work device to access its localised desktop, the central hub from which you access the files, applications, and tools you need, a VDI rolls up a virtualised version of this and hosts it in a central location.

The user can then sign in and access their complete desktop from any device, breaking the traditional ties between hardware and the desktop environment and enabling secure access to everything they need to perform their role.

The role of VDI in the hybrid working world

There are several reasons why VDI is a good fit for hybrid working, and the centralised nature of its management and deployment is one of the biggest.

With virtualised versions of your desktops hosted from a central location, you have greater control over the data your users access. Individual end user devices present an additional security risk for any organisation, especially when those users are working from home or on the move. With VDI, you can implement appropriate policies around user access, and add in additional protections as part of your virtual environment to guard against potential threats that emerge from each device.

The deployment and management of applications is also enhanced, as new updates or additional software only need to be implemented centrally, as opposed to individual roll out at the hardware level.

Crucially, there’s also significant benefits for end users, with a greater level of flexibility around how, and where, they work. By enabling secure access to a virtual desktop environment, users can easily access everything that they need from anywhere, provided they have a suitable internet connection. All they need to do is sign in via a device of their choice, load up their remote desktop, and everything they need is available to them with no need for any of the applications or data to be stored locally on that device. The experience is also rendered to the type of device being used, avoiding a literal desktop being delivered to a smartphone for example.

This allows for a greater freedom of device choice, and also helps support a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, reducing the costs associated with device provision for the organisation and allowing each user to use the hardware best aligned to their preferred working style.

A new era for Azure Virtual Desktop

We’ve already mentioned the recent changes announced by Microsoft to its renamed Azure Virtual Desktop platform, and these tweaks are driven by a desire to better support the hybrid working strategies that are emerging, as highlighted above.

Aside from the name change, a new QuickStart feature has been created to help more organisations deploy VDI environments at speed. Using the power of Azure DevOps, QuickStart simplifies and automates AVD distribution to deliver an operational VDI environment in just a matter of clicks. This gives organisations exploring these solutions for the first time a much faster route to the outcomes they seek, with an opportunity to test and refine as they go.

There’s also a new level of support for Azure Active Directory allowing users with existing credentials to sign into the virtual machine supporting their desktop environment from any device without the need for any alternative login details.

Discover VDI for yourself

It’s clear that VDI solutions such as Azure Virtual Desktop will increasingly feature in modern workplace strategy and in the technology stack deployed to support it.

To learn more about the benefits of adopting a VDI solution, explore how it could benefit your business, or get further details on Azure Virtual Desktop, simply get in touch with the team.