We have entered the post-PC era, with the PC being just one of the many devices business users utilize for desktop purposes. Today’s business users are no longer chained to their desks. Instead, they rely on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to support their ever-increasing on-the-go needs that have become a staple within the enterprise.
However, in their native state, tablets and smartphones often lack an easy and secure integration into IT resources, such as file systems, databases, print and fax infrastructures. This not only increases security risks, but also worsens the user experience and overall productivity.
Taking a closer look at the shift in types of cloud computing environments and the limitations of traditional desktop virtualization, it is clear that an evolution to a better mobile solution must take place. By choosing a technology solution that meets an organization’s specific needs, mobile workers can have access to the technology resources needed to work smarter.
Options in the Cloud: Hybrid is the Future
Going to the cloud seems to be used synonymously with making things better. However, before you make the move, it is important to know exactly what you want to achieve so you can find the cloud that is right for you. There are three basic clouds to choose from:
- Making your own resources available via the Internet (the private cloud)
- Moving all of your applications and resources into the public cloud
- Combining the two by retaining some applications and data under lock and key, while using public cloud solutions for others (the hybrid cloud)
Depending on the company architecture, data and applications and the team’s productivity requirements, it is easy to determine which approach is right for you.
In a private cloud environment the data and applications are highly proprietary, making it appropriate for companies such as engineering or research firms. The main focus of the private cloud is to enable access from remote job sites or home offices in an efficient and secure way. In this scenario, tablets and smartphones are important as they enable team members to look up information on the go. However, they require at least a 22” inch screen for the company’s proprietary applications and an abundance of computing power to remain truly productive.
In a public cloud environment, access to information anytime and anywhere is essential to business. This approach requires enhanced security and high availability. Under all circumstances, the team must be able to work from their iPad just as well as from the HP TouchSmart. Employees never want to doubt if they have the right OS for an application they choose to use. There is no reason why getting something done at the Four Seasons’ pool should be different than getting something done from a desk.
Finally, there is the hybrid cloud environment. While some of the world’s best engineers are building anything a customer could possibly dream of in-house, there are also large sales and service team experts that need to work wherever and whenever the customer might need them. Much like the scenario of the private cloud, these organizations need proprietary applications for design and development. However, they also need the openness of the public cloud for service ticket, CRM and ERP and other systems for their mobile workforce. This is where a hybrid cloud has significant benefits.
Because of its flexibility, most organizations are now structured in this hybrid cloud environment. They need a cloud desktop solution that optimizes the desktop experience for each business process in any environment – both public and private. At the same time, users need to access their desktop securely from anywhere, any time, on any device.
Desktop Virtualization: Limitations for Mobile Devices
The cloud conversation naturally evolves to the discussion of desktop virtualization due to its ability to cater to a workforce outside of the office. For companies that rely on proprietary or computing intensive applications, desktop virtualization is a great way to provide secure, flexible access from almost any device, as long as it has a stable broadband connection to the virtual desktop.
Desktop virtualization works best on large screen devices with a mouse and keyboard. A thin client can be a cost effective and easy to manage device that connects from within the enterprise so that remote or mobile workers can use their own PC or laptop. With a secure VPN connection, the virtual desktop can be completely separated from the end point device. This eliminates security concerns and simplifies asset management.
At first glance, tablets seem to be an obvious device choice to connect to a virtual desktop for mobile workers. However, this is only the case as long as data is mostly consumed rather than created because connecting with a tablet makes the most sense for data for which no native or browser-based applications exist. Along similar lines, connecting to virtual desktops with a smartphone is technically possible from many devices, however the ergonomics make it mostly applicable only as an emergency solution.
With these limitations in mind, mobile business users need a better solution that delivers key desktop services such as printing, accessing databases, file management, PDF creation, editing or faxing to their device via the cloud, instead of trying to compress an entire Windows desktop to a smaller screen.
Taking Desktop Virtualization to the Next Level
Stepping in where desktop virtualization leaves off, cloud desktop services is the ideal solution to support the native applications on tablets and smartphones in a format that is also native to the device. Making the best use of the device’s capabilities, this approach overcomes the challenges of integration in the corporate IT. This is the only approach that meets the end users’ demand for applications that seamlessly integrate with mobile devices and corporate IT environments, allowing the business user to work smarter and be more productive.
While office applications such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, email and databases can be run natively on the popular mobile platforms such as iOS, Android and BlackBerry OS, users can also access them via a browser on any device. Because mobile OS platforms and devices provide specific ergonomics designed to make their particular form factor easiest to use, delivering desktop functionality via the cloud has proven to be the ideal solution in terms of functionality, user experience and security.
Regarding the issue of mobile device security, this can be achieved in several different ways. The weakest approach is to “sandbox” all enterprise activities within one application that then provides its own email, calendar, address book, etc. This makes the least use of the native capabilities of a device and does not allow for much flexibility on the user’s end.
The more progressive approach combines a mild level of device control, such as password policies, data encryption and the possibility to wipe parts of the data storage designated to enterprise data. This delivers a strong level of security and control while also giving the user what they need so that they do not have to work around corporate restrictions by using cloud services, such as Box.net or Google apps, spaces that the corporation has no control over at all.
Key to Working Smarter: A Solution for any Cloud, any Desktop
With the shift to the hybrid cloud environment, most companies will benefit from a combination of technologies that best meet their specific needs. It is clear that desktop virtualization is a great way to simplify IT infrastructure, while at the same time allowing modernization at a very low cost. For example by providing virtual desktops with Windows 7 to existing PCs that would otherwise have reached the end of their useful life. When it comes to tablets and smartphones, virtual desktops can be a bridge into the legacy Windows world.
However, only solutions that fully support the native applications on the device can ensure secure integration into enterprise resources, enable efficient, easy and productive desktop performance seamlessly integrate mobile employees into existing IT infrastructure and deliver the best experience on any device that is optimized for business users. With the correct approach, enterprises can simplify their workflows and access the resources needed to work with and adapt their ways to work smarter. They can in turn save time, reduce costs and most importantly, significantly affect their bottom line.