The benefits to reading this guide
You’ll gain a better understanding of what hosted desktops are and how they can help your business become more secure, save money and give you an edge against your competition.
Watch our brief overview of hosted desktops
What are Hosted Desktops?
The Technical Answer
A Hosted Desktop is a virtualisation technique that provides a secure and familiar Microsoft Windows environment with the ability to remotely connect to a server that hosts the operating system, applications, data and other system configurations.
The Non-Technical Answer
This means that any internet-enabled device can access powerful software without actually running any of it locally.
A hosted desktop is often referred to as Desktop as a Service (DaaS). Much like the name suggests, it is a virtual desktop that’s hosted in the cloud. In essence, a server stores all operating systems, files, emails and applications in specialist data centres, which can then be accessed through the internet on any device, from anywhere... Providing the user isn't using dial-up still.
To the user, a hosted virtual desktop looks no different to a traditional, non-hosted desktop. The difference is where the data and apps are stored. Whilst a traditional desktop accesses and stores data, apps and email on the actual device; a hosted desktop accesses and stores everything in the secure data centre it's connected to. Hardware becomes a shell for the hosted desktop, which can be constantly updated, scaled as required and kept at bank-grade level security – a very different reality from your traditional desktop which is susceptible to common malfunctions and can be affected by environmental disasters.
Your Hosted Desktop can be set up in a few ways. Some large companies decide to build and manage it all themselves using their own infrastructure. Other companies decide to have a separate IT company set it up on public cloud infrastructure like AWS or Azure.
Another option is to have a Managed Service Provider (MSP), like Atlas Cloud, who often takes care of the building and management and hosts your data in a private cloud. All options are equally viable if you want a standardised, more secure solution for internal and remote working.
Remote Desktops Vs Hosted Desktops
Though the two are similar, there are some notable differences regarding use and security:
Using a remote desktop will only allow access to local files and applications via an off-site device using a VPN or a remote access application. Compared to Hosted Desktops, this is an outdated technology; it’s not designed for a flexible workspace and it will experience the same issues as a physical desktop such as malfunctions or office disasters – for instance, a power outage in the office would stop you from working at home. It’s also prone to poor performance issues.
Hosted Desktops work by remotely hosting your files and application the safety of a data centre environment and accessing this through any device with a network connection. Due to the nature of the cloud, your data is not reliant on a specific device, meaning if one device malfunctions, you can simply pick up where you left on any other device.
Who should use a Hosted Desktop?
A transition from a traditional desktop to a Hosted Desktop is a relevant change for any business that is looking to become more agile or secure. By choosing the right managed service provider, you can gain a competitive edge in your market space. Based on current business needs, and, of course, cost, you can determine whether a Hosted Desktop solution is the right set up for your business.
Typical number of users for this solution range from 50-1000 because of how cost-effective it can be for a business of this size. One-man-bands or companies with an employee number lower than 50 can still redeem the benefits of a Hosted Desktop – including the security and agility aspects mentioned before – but sometimes it’s better to wait for a clear opportunity to invest in Hosted Desktops.
Dealing with Scalability
Through our experience, we’ve found that businesses with high turnover of staff, have multiple offices or ones that require strict security regulations, need a secure environment like the cloud to operate from. Typically, industries like recruitment, finance, legal and construction are the ones that benefit from migrating to the cloud the most. This is usually down to the scaling ability, remote working capabilities and – based on how Atlas Cloud operates – the exceptional security systems put in place.
Is a Hosted Desktop what you need?
Some businesses find that Hosted Desktops don’t work for them, and some find that it doesn’t suit all employee needs – and this is absolutely fine. It’s common that not all employees have a need for their applications to be in the cloud, but rather have all email in the cloud so communication within the business is never an issue. It’s entirely up to the decision-maker as to how much data, if any, goes into the cloud.
Opportunities to migrate to the cloud often appear as transitional periods within the business: an office move, mergers and acquisitions, upcoming audits that require a security update. These moments present a chance to update legacy hardware systems to a more modern, more reliable one.
An office move, for example, is a great time to move your data, files and applications into the cloud because of the physical transitional period. It’s a fresh start, and from the closing business hours on Friday to opening the new office doors on Monday, you’re fully enabled by the cloud with minimal downtime.
Why should my company adopt Hosted Desktops?
(for the right size business)
Cloud computing is not a “cheaper” solution for your IT. It is, however, a more cost-effective solution for your budget. With this type of set up, you pay on a per user per month basis instead of spending a large portion of your budget on a server, plus the upkeep and hardware refreshments every 3-5 years. Generally, bigger businesses will see dramatic changes immediately in their IT spend, but it may take some time for start-ups and small businesses to notice the cost-effectiveness.
Improved Data Security
Look for MSPs that have specific security accreditations like ISO 27001, BS 10012, Cyber Essentials and GDPR. These accreditations will all vouch for the MSP’s ability to handle high-level security so you know when you migrate all data, apps and files, that they’re safe in the cloud environment. For instance, Atlas Cloud’s data centres are ISO 27001 accredited which proves our diligence in controlling information risk management processes.
Storage and Data Movement
With a hosted desktop, no information is stored on a local device which means you have the ability to regulate the controls on each PC. One particular control is disabling the print screen action to stop the movement of data to external parties from internal sources. You can also stop the movement of data by restricting USB access to all PCs. It means personal data for staff and customers is protected. Extra security features can be added to your email rules so attachments of a certain size, file type or containing a specific word(s) will need to be approved before the email is sent.
All patching for hosted desktops is done remotely, including the testing with the updated patch with your business-critical applications. Usually, this is done in-house and would need to be carried out on each individual PC.
Office rent – the price of this is increasing and businesses will be fighting to get bigger spaces while growing. Make the point that if they implemented a remote working policy that they could keep a smaller space and have people work from home most of the time and only come in for important meetings etc. This will also help cut commuting time (which could be spent working) and will also benefit the company by not having to pay the expenses of people making the commute.
A Hosted Desktop solution would combat the rising price renting office spaces. Naturally, as business grow, they move into bigger spaces. However, by adopting a remote working policy, employees can work from home, replacing the need to spend large sums of money on rent. Those same people who can work from home will also stop expensing their travel, resulting in another cost-saving for the books.
You can also save money on energy bills by using Thin Client devices (such as a 10ZiG or RX-HDX) and by moving to the cloud, you have no need for an on-site server, meaning no air-conditioning unit in the server room.
Working on different devices: You can work from any device with an internet connection, including desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The biggest concerns we get are around mobile phones. While you can access your entire Windows desktop on any smartphone, we’d suggest using this as a last resort. The cloud is able to and will run on smartphones, but its small screen isn’t ideal specifically for detailed or graphically-intense applications.
Remote working / working on-the-go: You can do both of these things with the cloud provided you have an internet connection. Wi-Fi on trains can sometimes be patchy but you can connect on a low bandwidth and our systems will run just as smoothly. You can even connect to your 3G or 4G network. Issues arise when you lose signal, for instance, when you go through a tunnel. You will lose connection momentarily if you have chosen to work from 3G or 4G connectivity, but this will not affect the state of your work and you will be able to continue once connection has been restored.
When is the right time to adopt Hosted Desktops?
There’s never really a “right time” to invest in Hosted Desktops, but predictions have been made for increases in cloud-based IT investments. According to Forbes’ “Four Trends in Cloud Computing CIOs Should Prepare for in 2019” article, cloud-based IT will reach “60% of all IT infrastructure and 60-70% of all software, services and technology spending by 2020.”
Investment in IT infrastructure is increasing year on year. Predictions have been made by Gartner stating almost a third of key enterprise IT spending is to be cloud-based by 2022. It may not be a pressing issue to migrate your business’ systems to the cloud now, but it could become one in the future as your competitors begin to adopt the cloud or your legacy hardware reaches end of life.
Ideal Times To Adopt The Cloud
Moving Or Opening New Offices
Office moves or office openings are a particularly good time to make the move to the cloud because of the nature of the transitional period. You can move office on a Friday and by Monday, your systems are migrated and you can continue to work seamlessly, without so much as a hiccup in productivity.
Mergers Or Acquisitions
Mergers and acquisitions are made simpler by using a single platform for all to work from. The main reasons mergers fall through are due to people and technology. Moving to the cloud handles the technology issues you will come across because all data, applications and files will be centralised.
Security and Compliance Pressures
A need for security accreditations can be a problem for some businesses who are more exposed through their IT and choosing a well accredited MSP can give you the protection you need to pass security audits. For instance, Atlas Cloud is ISO 27001 accredited which alleviates a lot of problems for our customers when it comes to their security audits as their IT system is 27001 compliant.
Rapid Business Expansion
With a Hosted Desktop solution, staff can work from their own devices so you don’t need invest in hardware for every new member of staff. If your business is rapidly expanding, then a cloud setup may just be the perfect solution for you if you’re looking to save money on hardware.
How do I select the right Hosted Desktop provider?
As a provider of Hosted Desktops, we design, build and maintain cloud environments for all of our customers. We want our customers to know that we’re right for them, so we make sure that they’re armed with the right information to make an appropriate decision. Moving to a full cloud set up is a big decision and investment, so you need to ask yourself the following questions to understand what you require from an IT provider. There is no one-size-fits-all model for businesses to adopt Hosted Desktops since each set up should be a bespoke design to fit the needs of the business and its users.
What is important to you?
Make a list of everything you require from your Managed Service Provider.
If security is the most important aspect for you, take a look at the accreditations they hold. Common industry accreditations are ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials.
If you need round-the-clock support, ask if they provide it. Judging by their SLAs, you’ll be able to determine if their support team can handle your queries in a timely manner.
Generally, Managed Services Providers located in London run higher operating costs to provide a service. The nature of the cloud means your IT support can be remote. For example, Atlas Cloud is based in Newcastle and we have customers based in London, Nottingham, Sheffield, and Cheshire, all using hosted desktops so we can help them from our HQ.
Whatever is top of the list should inform the decision you make based on importance – but don’t think this means you have to settle for average for the other items on your list.
If you need to test specific applications in the cloud that are important to your business, ask to investigate their usability and to be shown a proof of concept in a demo environment.
Knowing how to scale business IT up and down as necessary is an important part of any MSPs job. Since Hosted Desktops are our core competency we are able to do this seamlessly. It’s particularly important if you have a fluctuating employee rate to make sure your IT provider can handle the constant scaling.