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Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is the hosting of desktop environments on a central server. It is a form of desktop virtualization, as the specific desktop images run within virtual machines (VMs) and are delivered to end clients over a network. Those endpoints may be PCs or other devices, like tablets or thin client terminals.
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In modern digital workspaces where numerous apps must be accessed on demand, VDI software facilitates secure and convenient remote access to help boost employee productivity. It also enables a consistent experience across multiple devices. In all VDI deployments, the following characteristics apply:
Under persistent VDI, a user always logs into the same desktop image, with all changes to applications and data retained for full personalization. In contrast, nonpersistent VDI doesn’t save any changes.
Persistent VDI works as follows:
In contrast, nonpersistent VDI works as follows:
A nonpersistent VDI implementation is well-suited for one-off access to a desktop, since it streamlines device management for kiosk and task workers who don’t need to save anything. Persistent VDI, on the other hand, is best for users that need to interact with virtual desktops exactly as they would with their physical counterparts.
VDI is an important technology for many types of workers across numerous industries. Remote employees, hybrid workers, contractors, kiosk and task workers, field technicians, medical professionals, teachers and many others regularly rely on VDI to access a reliable virtual desktop from one or more locations. Thanks to the versatility of VDI across its different deployment types, this virtualization technology can work equally well as a way for users to have access to standard, nonpersistent desktops or to turn their virtual desktop into a highly personalized digital workspace.
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VDI supports enhanced user mobility and remote access, as a standardized desktop can be reached from almost any approved and compatible endpoint in any location. For workers who are frequently on the go and need to pull up a virtual desktop containing a full range of virtual apps and data, VDI is like having an office available on-demand. In that regard, it fits right into digital workspace workflows that already feature regular consumption of cloud, web, and mobile apps across multiple contexts—especially if it’s persistent VDI.
VDI software can also be a strong cost-saving measure for IT. Because the lion’s share of processing in VDI is server-based, relatively expensive or cutting-edge hardware is not needed. VDI access can instead take place from an inexpensive thin client, which might be an old PC that has been repurposed for the task and thereby had its lifespan extended. This saves IT the need to make as many new purchases or major adjustments to budget.
VDI offers security improvements compared with running everything locally. All data from a VDI connection lives on the server, not the device. So, if an endpoint is ever stolen, there’s nothing to exfiltrate from its local storage. In addition, the VDI environment is fully and centrally controlled from a datacenter.
Administrators can apply software patches and updates, change configurations, and enforce policies for all virtual desktops across the deployment. In this way, VDI software allows for fine-tuned control and secure isolation of OS images from a central server, which is a less complicated setup than managing laptops running OS locally.
While there are many benefits to virtual desktop infrastructure, security cannot be taken for granted with VDI. The OS images have to be properly managed and updated, and end client authentication must be rigorous. Digital workspace solutions can help in this regard via SSO, improved endpoint security, and encryption for data in transit.
Performance is another key consideration with VDI. When it first became widely available in the mid 2000s, typical performance for VDI lagged behind that of a local OS. Over time, this gap has closed significantly, but users might still feel they’re not always getting the best possible experience. Occasional performance-tuning and reviews of the VDI deployment are advisable to make sure that solvable technical problems are addressed.
Assuming all supporting infrastructure is functioning as intended, a user who remotely accesses a VDI solution from their endpoint can interact with applications and data as if they were running locally. This setup lets users safely access everything they need from virtually any device, without requiring specific hardware.
Augmented by solutions for convenient single sign-on (SSO) and secure remote access, virtual desktops can also be run and managed alongside the growing spectrum of cloud, web, and mobile apps that are integral to modern workflows. Employees get a unified experience that enables greater productivity, while IT avoids silos and mitigates the risk of unauthorized logins.
In other words, VDI in the context of a digital workspace platform contributes to a superior working environment without compromising on security. A reliable, economical VDI solution helps scale key applications and services to today’s increasingly mobile and remote teams. As part of the digital workspace experience, it delivers a consistent experience across devices including PCs, tablets, smartphones, and thin clients, giving employees and contractors a high degree of freedom in how they work.
Citrix offers a diverse portfolio of desktop virtualization solutions serving organizations of all types and sizes. Citrix DaaS (formerly Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops service) makes VDI intuitive and affordable and ensures that users have access to the apps they need to remain productive within today’s digital workspaces.