As time and technology advance, more companies are offering remote positions for employees to work from home or on the road as their primary workplace. Some are even building completely de-centralized workforces with no real main office. There are many things to consider when doing this, and one of the most important is how these users will work. Before diving into such an environment, remote work planning as well as support planning is crucial.
Remote Work Security Options
It is important when offering the flexibility to work on the go to also maintain a level of security. Some companies will purchase computers or mobile devices like in a traditional office and set them up with software and security controls pre-configured. This option offers wanted security, but does require the cost and energy to purchase, configure, and maintain that hardware.
Some apply more of a bring your own device methodology, where they supply access to tools and software that users can run from their own device. This method allows the user more flexibility in deciding what type of device they prefer to use and offers some cost savings to the company, but it does limit control and security options to protect company data.
Another option is to use a virtual desktop infrastructure or VDI. In this method, the end-user connects to a central infrastructure and logs into a virtual PC. It maintains flexibility, because the only requirement is a device that is capable of connecting and logging into the virtual infrastructure. It also allows for security as none of the company-owned data or software is actually stored on the end user’s device.
The biggest drawback to VDI in the past has been cost. Building out VDI is a significant investment in servers, internet connectivity, and support. To support large numbers of end-users requires powerful servers, skilled IT professionals to properly build and maintain them, and enough internet bandwidth to support the number of connections for each external user.
VDI with Azure
Microsoft recently launched a cloud-based VDI within Azure. This makes VDI much more accessible to companies in the small to medium business market. With Azure hosting and maintaining the environment in the cloud, the administration of the environment becomes much simpler. A basic workstation image can be created and managed, and the environment can be scaled as needed when adding new end-users. Security and controls are maintained without the large hardware expense and setup time. Reliability is improved by not being limited to whatever internet providers are available. It can even be a viable option for traditional offices.
Many VDI implementations employ the use of thin clients, which are basic minicomputers that have just enough power to be able to connect to the virtual desktop. This can save on hardware costs and reduce downtime due to hardware failure. Since nothing significant is stored locally, a failed device can simply be replaced, and the end-user can log back into their existing workspace on their virtual desktop.
Coupling this with offerings like Office 365 and other cloud available software creates an adaptive and easy to maintain option for a lot of companies that maintain older hardware to save on costs. The same goes for newly forming companies looking to hit the ground running with a solid infrastructure.
A remote workforce has always had its challenges, but I believe with options like cloud VDI and other emerging technologies, the barrier to entry for a true enterprise-level infrastructure is becoming less of a challenge. I can see many businesses, especially in the SMB market, moving in this direction in the future.
Have any questions about remote work planning or what Azure can do for your business? Please contact us at any time!