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Digital Workspace End-User Computing
4 minute read

What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)?

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a technology solution that gives remote users a virtual desktop experience on any type of endpoint device.

In This Article

The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the responses to curb its spread have disrupted business and workforce processes across the globe. Businesses that will survive and thrive are those that adapt to these disruptions and still retain their competitive edge.

Most organizations are dealing with the challenges of this period by transitioning to a work-from-home model. As such, IT leaders need to look for the right tools and solutions to enable a seamless transition to this model. 

A virtual desktop is one such tool.

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What is a virtual desktop and how does it work?

A virtual desktop describes a system of applications and virtual machines that allow remote users to access applications, services, data and operating systems virtually on any type of endpoint device.

Some of the major virtual desktop vendors include:

These providers offer products and services to help businesses deploy, optimize, manage and secure virtual desktops. Essentially, these virtual desktop providers use virtualization software to abstract the operating system from the underlying hardware of the computing device. Instead of running on the endpoint’s hardware, the operating system, applications and data run on a virtual machine that is hosted and run on-premises or in the cloud.

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What is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)?

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is the technology that facilitates this abstraction. It allows server operating systems or desktop workstations to run on virtual machines (hosted on hypervisors) on on-premises servers. Users experience the host machine’s OS and applications on their endpoints just as if they were hosted and running locally.

VDI can be enabled via persistent or non-persistent desktop technology.

Persistent desktops

Also known as a dedicated desktop, persistent desktop technology is a host-based virtual machine that creates and keeps a unique operating system image for individual users. Each time users log in, they are assigned the same virtual machine, which allows for personalization. During each session, all their files, shortcuts, customizations, applications, workloads and user-defined settings are saved — even when they log off. However, this approach requires a lot more storage, computing power, backup, IT infrastructure and administrative resources than a non-persistent desktop.

Non-persistent desktops

Also known as stateless desktops, a non-persistent desktop does not maintain a unique system image file for individual users. When users log in, they get a generic virtual desktop from a shared system image. The desktop reverts to its default state at the end of each session. As such, non-persistent desktops require less storage and resources than persistent desktops.

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Benefits of virtual desktop and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)

Virtual desktops look and feel like physical workstations. They are preconfigured images of applications and operating systems where the actual desktop environment is abstracted from the device used to access it.

Often, users enjoy a better user experience on virtual desktops than they do on physical workstations because storage and compute power are readily available and not tied to the limitations of the endpoint’s capabilities. The UX is also the same; employees are presented with the same interface every time — regardless of the device they use to log in.

Several other advantages to using a virtual desktop environment include:

Security

One of the biggest benefits of virtual desktop technology is the isolation and security it provides. The data on a virtual desktop isn’t stored in the endpoint machine as it lives in the cloud or on a centralized corporate server. This mitigates the security risk if an employee’s endpoint device is misplaced or stolen. 

Flexibility

Virtual desktops provide a clear advantage to organizations with a flexible workforce. Apart from allowing employees to use their own devices, virtual desktops enable IT administrators to easily provision and maintain IT resources. Also, there’s no need to purchase and distribute expensive physical machines to part-time or contract employees.

Ease of management

Virtual desktops reduce the hassle of troubleshooting and maintaining physical computing systems. Your IT department can easily deploy and manage many virtual desktops from a centrally located data center. Maintenance and upgrades can be speedily executed all at once thus eliminating the need to install and configure apps, patches and upgrades on individual machines.

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Understanding virtual desktop

Virtual desktops are a great way to increase employees’ engagement and productivity by enabling greater security, flexibility, ease of access and user mobility of desktop environments. While VDI is a robust solution for enabling desktop virtualization, it is by no means the only one. 

Get in touch with our experts to understand your options for supporting remote workers by requesting a desktop virtualization briefing