August 31, 2014

Virtual Desktops: A Key Component of BYOD Success

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At Carousel we get a lot of questions from customers about the BYOD (bring your own device) trend.  One topic that comes up over and over is how to securely enable employees to interact with the corporate network from any device while allowing them to be as productive as possible.  In this regard, Virtual Desktop, or VDI, is a powerful solution – albeit one that is part of a  comprehensive, holistic solution and does not exist in a vacuum.  We had a chance to catch up with Phil Magnuszewski, the Director of Cloud and Virtualization Solutions at Carousel, to discuss how VDI empowers mobile workers that now utilize multiple devices, and how VDI relates to other components of a comprehensive BYOD and mobility strategy.

Enabling Multiple Virtual Desktop Endpoints Per User

As we’ve discussed on this blog in the past, deploying VDI for users is a project that must be well planned for and effectively executed.  We won’t go into too much detail here, but defining “desktop use cases” for employees is a critical first step in order to determine which users will be transitioned to Virtual Desktops and in what order.  It is also important to define and deploy the necessary enhancements to the network infrastructure required to support the increased load generated by VDI.

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Once this is completed and your virtual desktop infrastructure is in place, you will be ready to capitalize on one of the great benefits of VDI – extending it to mobile BYOD devices like tablets and smartphones.   Magnuszewski says, “This is the easy part.  Users can download a VMware or Citrix app from the Apple App Store or the Android Marketplace and install it in minutes.  Configuring the back end with server details is straightforward and when complete the apps will connect with a secure SSL connection and users are up and running.”  According to Magnuszewski, “Upon accessing the network with their mobile device, users will be presented with the exact work environment they would see on their desktop computer in the office.  No need to learn new navigation, install apps, or get up to speed on new operating environments.  There is no more effective way to get users up and productive on their mobile devices.”

Virtual Desktops:  A Key Component of a Holistic Solution for BYOD

While VDI is an ideal solution for enabling employees to effectively utilize their mobile device on the network, a BYOD and mobility strategy should be thought of in a holistic manner in which VDI is one important piece.  In order to plan effectively from a wider, systems perspective, other components of a holistic solution include:

Mobile Device Management (MDM)

In order to maximize network security, especially in a BYOD environment, smartphones and tablets should be configured with software and settings (independent of VDI) to reflect the corporate security policy and that’s where Mobile Device Management comes into play.

Modern smartphones and tablets come with the capacity to remotely deploy security layers and connections on employee devices without having to possess or own the technology.  This provides companies with a unique opportunity to on-board their employees, install all necessary technology and authentication and integrate corporate policy directly onto the device remotely and confidently.

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When a network user attempts to connect a new smartphone or tablet to the network for the first time, the system will recognize the device and user and redirect the device to download and install all necessary security protocols and applications the corporation has defined.  This includes things like mandatory passwords, sleep settings, unsuccessful login protocols, mobile VPNs, VDI apps, etc.  Another benefit of this on-boarding process is it allows the company to push training and policy information to the end user as their devices are configured.  This security layer is independent of the VDI solution that allows the user to access their work environment and be as productive as possible while ensuring that their mobile devices are adhering to corporate security and access policies.

Mobile Device Access Control

The next layer of network control related to consumer devices allows for more refined, centralized administrative and content-related management of all network users and devices.  Referred to as Mobile Device Access Control, these solutions provide insight into which user, using which device at what location is accessing what applications on the network.  This technology allows the IT team to define rules and access control around each of these potential variables.  For example, “User A accessing the network from Branch office X on his tablet is provided with Internet access and these five network resources and applications, but these websites are restricted, and these three applications cannot be accessed by a tablet.”

This level of granularity provides the IT team with the control necessary to minimize exposure and the capability to manage consumer devices with the same level of confidence they were used to when every device was owned by the company and connecting via ethernet.

Wireless Network Infrastructure

The BYOD trend continues to stress wireless networks in businesses.  With the additional burden of multiple devices per user, VDI support for those devices, VoIP, Video and streaming media, it is important to take the time to assess the capacity of your wireless network infrastructure and plan for growth.

By thinking about a mobility and BYOD strategy in a holistic, systems-wide manner businesses can not only enable employees to be as productive as possible on multiple devices via Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, but ensure the security of the network and provide for business continuity with Mobile Device Management and Mobile Device Access Controls.  To discuss your mobility and BYOD plans in more detail with our experts, contact Carousel today.

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