Desktop virtualisation - the future for end-user business computing?

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desktop virtualisation.jpgMore companies are now considering desktop virtualisation strategies just as an increasing number of employees within large organisations are demanding a more flexible work environment. In South Africa we are faced with additional challenges, including increased congestion on our roads, the introduction of road toll fees and high fuel prices, all of which make commuting to central office hubs time consuming and expensive, Alan Low of Purchasing Index (PI) tells SmartProcurement.

These challenges have forced many organisations to consider the benefits of desktop virtualisation strategies. What does desktop virtualisation mean?

"Desktop virtualisation, as a concept, separates a personal computer desktop environment from a physical machine using the client-server model of computing" (Wikipedia). This means that employees can access applications, programs, and data from personal computers working in remote locations. Two large financial services companies who recently participated in PI's PC benchmark report, are in the process of implementing a desktop virtualisation strategy - allowing more of their employees to work from home, or from satellite offices.

Goldman Sachs estimates that the global virtual desktop market will increase from $450-million to over $2.4-billion by 2013, based on current growth forecasts.

But why should companies consider desktop virtualisation? What additional benefits are there for considering this approach?

From interviews conducted with clients and research conducted by PI, the following are examples of the benefits companies could realise by considering such strategies:
• Reduction in carbon footprint/emissions - by offering staff the opportunity to work from home, or from branches close to where they live.
• Productivity - less time spent travelling can result in greater staff productivity.
• Reduction in costs - through extended lifecycle of PC equipment, reduction in electricity and administration costs. Not to mention that virtualisation offers organisations the opportunity to rationalise internal IT infrastructure - fewer servers being required, less staff to manage them, etc.
• Increased staff retention rates - A flexible working environment helps organisations lower overall staff turnover rates.
• Reduction in office space - following a virtualisation strategy allows companies to reduce office space, offering a 'hot seat' environment for employees to use available desks/space as and when required.

What about bring-your-own-device (BYOD)?

Alan Low - Latest.jpgAberdeen estimates that 75% of companies globally have BYOD policies in place. In South Africa, many organisations still have firm policies in place restricting the use of such devices within the work environment. PI believes this trend is going to build momentum and advises organisations to consider how they can incorporate BYOD policies into their end-user computing strategies. The following are some of the key points that organisations need to consider when looking at BYOD policies:
• Management of devices - organisations need to ensure that any personal computing devices are password protected and can be wiped remotely of any sensitive data.
• Compatibility - ensure that custom corporate applications are compatible with various operating systems. Many companies in South Africa who are implementing BYOD, have initially focussed on (1) providing this as a service to a limited number of users and (2) restricting use to devices that run a Windows operating system (OS). There have been concerns raised by many organisations around the security risks inherent still in Android and other OS platforms.
• Management practises - have detailed policies that enforce what employees can use their mobile devices for and which applications they can run. Evolving environments mean IT should specify both the OS and version levels allowed, and define a procedure for testing and certifying new devices, platforms and releases.

PI believes there to be significant benefits in considering desktop virtualisation strategies, especially for businesses with dispersed workforces. As workforces and end user requirements change over time South African organisations need to start contemplating how desktop virtualisation and BYOD strategies will play an integral part in providing employees with a flexible and cost effective alternative to traditional computing models.

For more information contact Alan Low of Purchasing Index at Alan@pricetrak.co.za

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