Allowing employees to use their own devices for work (BYOD) and even to work from home (WFH) is not new. But until COVID-19, working from home was the exception. Now, in many organizations large and small, it has become the rule. Close to 80% of organizations surveyed by 451 Research implemented or expanded universal work-from-home policies as a result of the pandemic, and 67% expect those policies to remain in place either permanently or for the long-term.
The benefits of the flexibility that BYOD and WFH provide – for employees and their organizations – are clear. Many people are happier. Many organizations are more profitable. But there are challenges, too.
IT challenges of a distributed workforce
With a distributed workforce, employees may be working from a desktop at home, a laptop in the coffee shop, or a smartphone in the airport. That’s not in itself problematic, and companies have been dealing with BYOD (typically, the use of a smartphone to access company email) for over a decade. But the increasing prevalence of work-from-home poses new challenges – primarily associated with ensuring that employees have secure access to company applications and data, without overworking IT or overextending their budget.
Those challenges include:
- IT has much less control over device and network security. When most employees work from the office, the physical perimeter (of the office) and the logical perimeter (of the network) are the same, and under complete control of the organization. Even with BYOD, access to your most sensitive applications and data can be limited to when employees are physically on premises. With WFH, you have no control over the physical perimeter and limited control over the logical perimeter, as people connect via home or public WiFi networks.
- IT has much less control over application and data availability and security. If an employee loses a device, or if a device becomes corrupted, any data stored on that device is gone, or even worse, it has fallen into the wrong hands. Traditional solutions for ensuring the availability and security of applications and data don’t work when your applications and data are distributed across the remote workforce and all their devices.
- Previous solutions for remote workers are hard-pressed to deliver high performance at scale. When remote work was the exception rather than the rule, many organizations managed application availability and data security with solutions like virtual private networks (VPNs). But many organizations have found it difficult to ensure high VPN performance (e.g., speed) at the scale of an entire remote workforce.
- Managing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) requires different skillsets than managing physical infrastructure. IT teams used to managing desktops and network infrastructure at corporate sites have a particular set of skills. Managing virtual desktop infrastructure requires a different set of skills and understanding – including how applications may work differently in virtualized environments.
- It’s vastly more difficult to ensure compliance with such regulations as PCI-DSS and HIPAA when employees and their devices are distributed. The security of the locations where personal data (such as health and financial information) is stored is a big part of regulatory compliance. The laptop on an employee’s dining table, with applications and data stored locally, is definitely not compliant. With people who need access to sensitive data working from home, ensuring the security and confidentiality of that data is much more difficult than when they’re only accessing those databases from a secured office, on a secured device and network controlled by IT.
How Desktop-as-a-Service solves the IT challenges of a distributed workforce
Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) is a cloud-based solution for deploying virtual desktops to end-users. The virtual desktop infrastructure is hosted by a third-party cloud provider like Otava who handles the deployment, management, and maintenance from their data center. Virtual desktops can be deployed to any location and various types of end-user devices.
There has been a huge uptick in adoption of Desktop-as-a-Service solutions since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Andrew Hewitt, an analyst at Forrester Research, expects that growth to continue. “The majority of organizations are going to invest in DaaS over the next year,” he said.
DaaS solves many of the IT challenges of a distributed workforce:
- Because DaaS keeps applications and data in the cloud, security is not nearly as dependent on employees, their devices or their networks. Desktop-as-a-Service enables you to protect corporate assets from employee-sourced vulnerabilities. So even if an employee’s child drops the laptop in the pool, or they leave it on the counter at the coffee shop, or they use their last name and birthday as the WiFi password, your applications and data remain secure.
- IT can ensure availability and security with cloud backup and disaster recovery.When your data and applications are in the cloud rather than on employees’ devices or networks, you have greater flexibility to ensure recoverability in the event of a disaster. And it’s easy to revoke access to data and applications when an employee leaves.
- As a cloud-based solution, Desktop-as-a-Service is built to deliver low latency performance at scale. Keep employees happy with low latency performance. With DaaS, employees get the same high speed they’re used to in the office, and you get the flexibility to scale CPUs and storage on demand – without any additional capital expense.
- As a managed service, DaaS turns physical or virtual infrastructure capital expenses into operating expenses and takes the burden off your IT team. Desktop as a Service is a cost-effective solution for businesses seeking the advantages of a virtual desktop environment without the onsite infrastructure costs. In addition, DaaS takes the administrative burden off your IT team, with 100:1 efficiency managing master images, and dramatically reduced time to spin up new desktops.
- DaaS can be set up to ensure sensitive data never leaves the organization’s logical perimeter. With Desktop-as-a-Service you have control and assurance that the data is always protected in compliance with regulations. A DaaS provider with compliant cloud solutions gives you peace of mind that your business is adhering to the required regulations without incurring the costs of training in-house employees to implement or maintain the infrastructure necessary for that compliance.
Making work-from-home work for you
If you’re considering implementing a Desktop-as-a-Service solution to better manage a distributed workforce, finding the right provider will require some due diligence. Questions to ask potential providers include:
- What backup and recovery options do you include in your DaaS offering?
- Will your DaaS solution work with the other virtual infrastructure solutions I have in place?
- What are your security practices?
- What sort of monitoring solutions are included in the DaaS offering?
- Are your data centers compliant with ISO and HIPAA?
Otava provides Desktop-as-a-Service and a range of other secure, compliant cloud-based solutions that allow you to focus on your business – to navigate the WFH world, and whatever comes next. Get in touch with an Otava rep to talk DaaS today.