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What is a Remote Desktop?

Learn how remote desktop works and how it enables organizations to adopt a work-from-home model, improve employee productivity, strengthen security and easily maintain IT infrastructure.

July 21, 2021 5 minute read

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, most business-related computing tasks were performed within office walls. This is changing. Companies are increasingly adopting a hybrid work model and using remote desktop to recreate an in-office working experience for their workforce at home.

Essentially, remote desktop enables users in one location to access a computer or server domiciled in a different geographical location via a networked connection. Also known as a virtual desktop, this kind of computing enables remote work by making corporate applications on in-office computer systems accessible to employees anywhere.

Unlike remote access, remote desktop allows several users to use their personal logins to simultaneously access a centralized server. This enables employees to access unique user profiles, workloads and applications from corporate servers via remote sessions on their local machine.

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How does remote desktop work?

There are two major components of any remote desktop setup. The first is the protocol that defines data transmission and graphical components and enables information to move from one computer system to the next. Some of these protocols include:

  • Independent Computing Architecture (ICA)
  • Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) from Microsoft
  • Remote framebuffer (RFB)

The second component is the application that leverages the above protocols to create a connection with the host computer system. Your IT team installs this application on both the host server or computer as well as the end user’s machine. 

Some of the more popular remote desktop applications include:

  • XenApp (using ICA)
  • Remote Desktop Connection (using RDP)
  • Virtual Network Computing (using RFB)

How do you choose a remote desktop solution? This will depend on several factors, including the specific business use case, existing architecture, number of remote connections required and budgetary considerations.

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Benefits of remote desktop

Remote desktop access is indispensable to businesses looking to adapt to the supply chain and workforce disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizations today have to simultaneously manage remote and in-office work. As such, they need to create work-from-home (WFH) policies and establish processes and workflows for employees to effectively do their work, regardless of geographical location. They also require solutions that enable employees to securely access company servers anytime — and anywhere — to seamlessly perform their assigned duties.

With remote desktop, users (regardless of geographical location) can securely access all applications and data within the corporate network with minimal or zero impact on processing speed or compute power.

This mitigates cybersecurity vulnerabilities since all work and operations are still performed within the network. No data needs to leave the corporate network. Also, any bandwidth lags are a result of limitations of the remote user’s workstation and internet connection.

There are a wide array of benefits when implementing remote desktop, and here we will dive into three of the most important.

1. Employee productivity improvements

Virtually every organization has shifted to a remote work setup, at least at some level, to confront the challenges caused by the pandemic. Incorporating remote desktop enables employees to safely connect to corporate servers and work from their location of choice. This improves employee flexibility and positively influences workforce productivity and job satisfaction.

2. Redundant event logging

Remote desktop solutions also have an important security feature. They can log all activities within the network, ranging from individual user authentication to video sessions. These logs provide key details about (1) who accessed the network, (2) what they were doing, (3) when it happened, (4) from where, and (5) how they connected. This promotes network security and facilitates easy auditing for industries that have to comply with strict regulatory guidelines.

3. Easier maintenance of IT infrastructure

Remote desktop eliminates the need for IT support specialists and system administrators to physically access end-user machines to perform support tasks. Instead, they can remotely connect to end-user machines to: 

  • Install, uninstall and update software.
  • Monitor, troubleshoot and resolve issues.
  • Configure settings.
  • Perform other sysadmin tasks.

Remote desktop can essentially deploy a fully virtual enterprise desktop experience to users without the need to manually install business applications on client machines. Also, they no longer need to deal with the hassle of monitoring and troubleshooting business applications across users’ local machines. This reduces the cost and hassle of IT maintenance.

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Leveraging remote desktop for your enterprise

Remote work is the future of work. And remote desktop is the linchpin technology that will enable it. Combined, this approach gives employees the control and flexibility to work whenever and wherever, increasing productivity, job satisfaction and overall freedom.

As more and more businesses migrate to a remote work setup, it’s essential for business leaders to look for secure solutions that can deliver remote desktop capabilities at an enterprise level. Cloud computing solutions are a viable alternative to remote desktop software. However, for organizations that lack a robust cloud architecture or have use cases where it’s expensive or unfeasible to migrate applications and workloads to the cloud, remote desktop remains the best solution.

To explore remote desktop as a solution for your organization, check out our Remote Workforce Briefing. 

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