Choosing your hosted desktop provider – the 3 key questions
Moving to hosted desktops is a key decision for any organisation. Done right, it should help you to achieve greater efficiency, productivity, security and sustainability now and for the long term. But done wrong, it could have productivity, downtime and associated financial implications in the short term. And done with the wrong provider, those implications could last for even longer.
So, let’s just briefly remind ourselves of the benefits the move should be looking to achieve. Then let’s consider how best to achieve them.
Moving to a hosted desktop environment should deliver significant cost-savings. You’ll no longer have the cost of your own server and data centre. You won’t have to pay the salaries of a large number of I.T. staff to operate, administer and maintain them. And you can scale up or down quickly and cost-effectively, so you never pay for equipment you don’t need or have to find large capital sums.
Remote working capabilities are another big plus. They make it as easy for employees to work out-of-the-office as in, always within the desktop environment they are used to.
Then there are the security benefits of moving to cloud-hosted virtual desktops. Few organisations can match the resources of the hosted desktop providers, which can afford to invest in leading-edge physical and cyber-security, and also to keep it right up to date.
Lastly, there are the ‘green’ benefits. It takes only one server and one set of back-office hardware to service numerous virtual desktops across multiple organisations. So, it automatically reduces the carbon footprint of every one of the businesses being served.
Now how do you choose a hosted desktop provider to ensure all the benefits are available to your business, with the greatest efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and the minimum chance of things going wrong?
Here are the three key questions you need to ask before you make your final choice.
1. It’s a question of reliability
The potential benefits of Desktop as a Service count for nothing if they’re not reliably available to your business.
So, the first question to ask your potential hosted desktop provider is: ‘What level of uptime do you guarantee?’
A good provider will guarantee near-perfect, 99.9% reliability. An even better provider will appreciate that, at the wrong time on the wrong day, that missing 0.01% could be a disaster for your business. So, your supplementary question should be about the small print of the provider’s Service Level Agreement. If it doesn’t offer financial compensation in the event of an outage, walk away.
2. It’s a question of security
Your data is one of your business’s most valuable assets, yet moving to a hosted desktop environment effectively means handing it over to an off-site third party.
So, the second question to ask is: ‘How do you ensure the maximum security of my data, at all times, against all threats?’
The three basic threats your data faces are loss, theft, and unauthorised access.
The threat of unauthorised access arises from the hosted desktop provider themselves. With data from many different companies hosted on their servers, they must ensure total confidentiality and privacy for each organisation. You need to know how they provide it, and you need to be satisfied with their answer.
Theft could be physical or virtual. Physical means your data being stolen from the data centre itself. That’s why data centre providers keep the location of their facilities secret and why the best ones provide high levels of physical security: from security personnel to locks, bolts and bars.
Virtual theft means your data being stolen by cybercriminals, such as hackers or other ‘bad actors’. This is probably the greatest risk of all. One of the key benefits of DaaS – remote working – also represents a major risk, which increases with every user who accesses the network. The best protection is multi-factor authentication. DaaS users should be required to verify their identity with more than just a password. Ideally, at least a unique username, a password, and a PIN texted to a phone should be required to gain access to any network, app or file.
Those security requirements are simply basic hygiene factors for any business entrusting its data to a virtual desktop provider. For those operating in the finance or healthcare sectors, for example, there may be even stricter industry security regulations. Your provider will need to know them, understand them and be able to comply with them.
3. It’s a question of performance
Finding the ideal provider is not only a question of whether they can deliver the benefits you’re looking for. It’s also a question of how efficiently and effectively.
So, your third and final question should be: how efficiently do you deliver your DaaS?
By moving your data from an onsite server to the cloud, you are putting real physical distance between your end-users and the apps, files and data they want to access. With high-performance, graphics-intensive applications such as CAD, this may be noticeable enough to affect productivity and user satisfaction. So if these kind of applications figure large in your day-to-day operations, you need to know your hosted desktop provider can minimise or eliminate lag time.
Similarly, how well provisioned will the virtual desktops be? A one-size-fits-all desktop may suit many of your end-users, but power-users will need more CPU and more memory, and your provider should have the flexibility to meet their requirements.
Get the answers you want to these three key questions, and you could soon have the hosted desktop you need.