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The world has changed. Cybersecurity is a bigger risk than ever before and data breaches are reaching all-time highs. Compliance requirements are becoming more rigorous, forcing highly regulated industries to make major changes to the way they handle sensitive data (stringent security is no longer an option, it’s now a critical business practice).
And while cyber risk and compliance are forcing organizations to batten down the hatches, the world’s workforce is becoming more broad both in geography and technology. Working from an office is quickly giving way to contractor workforces and employees spread across the country (or world). According to a 2017 workforce report, contractors make up 21-40% of the workforce at 34% of organizations surveyed. Even an organization’s full-time employees aren’t necessarily in the office any more. The practice of regularly working at home has grown by 103% since 2005 among people who aren’t self-employed and 68% of young job seekers say a company would be more attractive if the employee has the option to work remotely. The BYOD (bring your own device) trend has also firmly taken hold, with workers regularly checking email or doing work from their personal devices and nearly 75% of organizations already adopting or planning to adopt a BYOD practice.
What we’re left with is a world where the need for security has taken center stage while workforce trends have simultaneous made security and control inherently more difficult. The working world has shifted, and organizations that can’t figure out how to accommodate these competing demands will suffer increasingly catastrophic breaches or lose out on the best rising talent.
One of the best ways to adapt to this new business world is to implement virtual desktops. These secure environments enable heightened user controls, keep sensitive data off endpoints and support BYOD and work at home desires without compromising securing or access to business critical applications and data.
While virtual desktops aren’t an ideal solution for every organization, there are a few hallmarks that signal it might be time to consider untethering and modernizing your approach to the desktop.
IT teams have bigger things to worry about than provisioning new computers for individual employees and when an urgent patch or upgrade is needed it can be time consuming to touch every device. In the worst cases, IT teams are pulled away from more business-critical and innovative functions to perform these rout tasks. If that’s the case with your team, virtual desktops can ease this burden.
While in-house VDI is notoriously time and resource intensive, implementing virtual desktops through a desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) model lifts the maintenance burden. Golden images are created with pre-set user controls, making it fast and simple to get a new employee or contractor exactly the right amount of access. Patching and updates are pushed in batch and ready the next time a user logs into their desktop environment. Best of all, the DaaS provider handles infrastructure and other backend needs, freeing up your IT team to focus on more important tasks.
Any organization that handles payment card data, personally identifiable information (PII) or personal health information (PHI) needs to be particularly concerned with who is accessing that data and how it’s being handled (you may even be subject to PCI and/or HIPAA HITECH compliance standards). Adopting virtual desktops allows organizations to easily lock down functions and access based on user level.
A major source of data breaches is unauthorized access or disclosure of sensitive data – often the result of a lost or stolen device or data mishandling (like emailing or sharing files via an insecure avenue). With virtual desktops, data is never stored on the local device, meaning device loss or theft is no longer a security and compliance concern. Additionally, tight user controls are easy to implement and update. With this approach, companies can choose to disable risky functions such as copy/paste, printing, access to unauthorized websites or applications, USB access and the ability to save to outside locations – all without touching each individual device.
Virtual desktops can also make it easier to meet compliance standards. User actions and endpoint security are two of the most time consuming aspects of performing a compliance audit. A verified compliant virtual desktop solution makes completing those aspects of compliance audits much easier.
Addressing security and IT support is understandably easier when all your employees (and their computers) are in one place. But once contractors or work at home employees start making up a significant portion of your workforce, handling these key initiatives becomes considerably harder.
Having your staff and contractors work within a virtual desktop environment is almost the equivalent of having those computers in-house. IT teams don’t need access to the device to troubleshoot or update required applications. The organization can also be sure that the required level of security and compliance as well as up-to-date antimalware, anitvirus and firewalls are in place at all times, regardless of endpoint device.
Along the lines of provisioning desktops and supporting remote employees, handing physical hardware can be a major pain point for IT teams. Maintaining device update schedules and making the investment in sufficiently powerful and efficient computers can be a fairly substantial line item. When supporting remote workers, shipping and regaining control of devices is a major headache (and potential money drain) for organizations. If a laptop is damaged during shipping or is never returned, the organization is out a fairly valuable asset. When this process starts taking away from more important IT responsibilities, it becomes a problem that needs addressing.
Modern organizations are addressing this issue by adopting thin client solutions or re-provisioning older devices with modern virtual desktops. Virtual desktops allow organizations to extend the life of company-owned computers because the machine becomes a shell for the virtual desktop that supports the necessary modern operating system and applications. Instead of shipping powerful and expensive computers, employees to can access their work desktop from their personal device (or a much more affordable company-supplied endpoint device). The virtual desktop ensures that the work environment is completely and securely walled off from the employee’s personal environment, retaining the same level of security as a work-issued device.
If any of these issues are recurring themes within your organization or have been causing headaches, it’s a strong indicator that your organization is caught in the midst of the on-going culture shift and it’s time to evolve. Virtual desktops are the answer to the morphing business landscape and can help organizations meet employee demands while protecting the company’s need for security and productivity.
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