What is desktop virtualization?

Desktop virtualization is technology that lets users simulate a workstation load to access a desktop from a connected device. It separates the desktop environment and its applications from the physical client device used to access it. Desktop virtualization is a key element of digital workspaces and depends on application virtualization.

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How does desktop virtualization work?

Desktop virtualization can be achieved in a variety of ways, but the two most important types are based on whether the operating system instance is local or remote.

Local desktop virtualization means the operating system runs on a client device using hardware virtualization, and all processing and workloads occur on local hardware. This type of desktop virtualization works well when users do not need a continuous network connection and can meet application computing requirements with local system resources. However, because this requires processing to be done locally you cannot use local desktop virtualization to share VMs or resources across a network to thin clients or mobile devices.

Remote desktop virtualization is a common use of virtualization that operates in a server computing environment. This allows users to run operating systems and applications from a server inside a datacenter while all user interactions take place on a client device such as a laptop, thin client, or smartphone. This type of virtualization gives IT more centralized control over applications and desktops, and can maximize an organization’s investment in hardware through remote access to shared computing resources.

What is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)?

A popular type of desktop virtualization is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). VDI is a variant of the client-server model of desktop virtualization, which uses host-based virtual machines (VMs) to deliver persistent and nonpersistent virtual desktops to all kinds of connected devices. With a persistent virtual desktop, each user has a unique desktop image they can customize with apps and data, knowing it will be saved for future use. A nonpersistent virtual desktop infrastructure allows users to access a virtual desktop from an identical pool when they need it; once the user logs out of a nonpersistent VDI, it reverts to its unaltered state. Some of the advantages of virtual desktop infrastructure are improved security and centralized desktop management across an organization.

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What are the top desktop virtualization benefits?

Virtual desktops offer significant advantages over physical desktop machines.

Desktop virtualization offers security

Desktop virtualization software provides IT admins centralized security control over which users can access which data and applications. If someone’s permissions change because they leave the company, desktop virtualization makes it easy for IT to quickly remove that user’s access to their persistent virtual desktop and all its data—instead of having to manually uninstall everything from the user device. And because all company data lives inside the datacenter rather than on each machine, a lost or stolen device does not post the same data risk. If someone steals a laptop using desktop virtualization, there is no company data on the actual machine and hence less risk of a breach.

Remote work is streamlined with desktop virtualization software

Desktop virtualization helps IT admins support remote workers by giving IT central control over how desktops are virtually deployed across an organization’s devices. Rather than manually setting up a new desktop for each user, desktop virtualization allows IT to simply deploy a ready-to-go virtual desktop to that user’s device. The user can interact with the operating system and applications on that desktop from any location and the employee experience will be the same as if they were working locally. Once the user is finished using this virtual desktop, they can log off and return that desktop image to the shared pool.

Improved resource management

Another one of the desktop virtualization benefits is that it helps IT departments get the most out of their hardware investments by consolidating most of their computing in a datacenter. Desktop virtualization then allows organizations to issue lower-cost computers and devices to end users because most of the intensive computing work takes place in the data center. By minimizing how much computing is needed at the endpoint devices for end users, IT departments can save money by buying less costly machines.

Citrix solutions for desktop virtualization

Citrix offers some of the industry’s most comprehensive desktop virtualization solutions. With Citrix DaaS (formerly Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops service), users get secure access to all the apps and data they need, from any device and location—all while simplifying IT.

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