Desktop Virtualization 101: A Primer for Growing Businesses

As your company grows, its technology needs increase. While maintaining an office network of five to fifteen computers may be as simple as calling your local computer company for help as needed, the process becomes far more complex – and costly – as your company grows.

The Old Way of Adding Computers to a Network

For a small company, adding a new employee and equipping him or her with a computer is relatively straightforward. It typically involves buying a new PC, installing software, setting it up on the network, adding the user’s credentials to the network, and configuring security. While this may cost close to a thousand dollars or more and take up the bulk of a business day, it’s generally acceptable on a small scale.

However, you wouldn’t necessarily want to approach a large scale deployment in the same manner. Enter desktop virtualization, a process that slashes hardware costs, IT costs, and time while also delivering other advantages.

The New Way of Adding Computers to a Network

Desktop virtualization represents an evolution in computer networking. Instead of buying fully equipped desktop computers complete with operating systems and hard disk drives, desktop virtualization involves using “thin” client computers that connect to “virtual” desktops. Thin clients are typically bare-bones systems; thus, they’re far less expensive than standalone PCs.

However, performance doesn’t necessarily have to suffer because these thin clients access virtual machines that get their strength from pooled network resources. Using desktop virtualization software such as VMware, IT professionals create master virtual machines containing the desired operating system, software, security settings, network storage settings, and more. The IT department uses these virtual masters to quickly clone copies as needed. Instead of taking all day to set up a new computer, it takes just minutes. Depending on how the desktop virtualization is set up, virtual desktops may connect to virtual private servers as well.

Since the virtual desktop image is stored at the company’s data center along with any data generated, desktop virtualization also solves issues surrounding data security. For example, if a computer crashes, gets stolen, or is otherwise destroyed, the data remains safe and sound at the company’s data center. As far as the individual user is concerned, the user can access the virtual desktop on a temporary computer or a newly provisioned computer. This allows users to quickly resume work in the same virtual environment despite a hardware failure or event.

While it may make sense to move to virtual private servers or desktop virtualization, there are other considerations involved. For example, each virtual machine may be allotted a specific amount of shared network storage space. Since it’s so easy to create virtual machines, you may find that your storage is not being used efficiently or your capacity isn’t sufficient. As part of your preliminary assessment, make sure to consider your company’s storage needs.

Desktop virtualization has been widely embraced by enterprise organizations due to its significant cost advantages and other benefits. Smaller businesses are starting to recognize the advantages as well. Virtualization vendors now offer virtualization solutions specifically for small and medium-sized businesses, making virtualization a viable option for smaller businesses.