The hybrid workplace is here to stay. A recent McKinsey survey found that 86% of organizations expect remote work to increase (53%) or remain unchanged (33%). For companies large and small, this evolution requires investments in technologies that facilitate seamless collaboration, productivity, and security—which is where virtual desktops come into play. While the terms virtual desktop and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) are familiar, it’s helpful to consider them again in the context of the rise of the hybrid workforce. What is VDI, and how can Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop help your organization enable, secure, and optimize its hybrid work model?
TMI on VDI
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) software allows you to configure and manage virtual desktops hosted on-premises—or in the cloud. The desktops run on virtual machines located on servers in a data center (such as Cloud at Work’s) instead of the actual desktop/laptop hardware. A “virtual image” of the user’s desktop is sent over the network to the remote user, allowing them to access the desktop image as if it were rendered locally. Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop is perhaps the most commonly used VDI.
Here’s a simple way to think about VDI. Think about your computer or laptop at your home or work. It has your operating system (like Windows), files, and applications (like Word, Excel, etc.) stored in it, right? Now, imagine if, instead of being tied to just one physical device, you could access your entire computer – with all its files and applications – from anywhere, on any device. That’s essentially what Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop does.
Azure Virtual Desktop creates a version of your computer that lives in Microsoft’s secure cloud instead of on a physical device. You can access it through the internet on any device, including a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This means, for example, you could start a report on your computer at work, continue working on it from your home computer, and even make final edits from your tablet while on the move. Your work is always there, updated, and saved, regardless of your device. Essentially, when you’re using VDI, your devices function as a keyboard and screen—the cloud is doing the heavy lifting.
Furthermore, because the virtual desktop is hosted in the cloud, it is protected by robust security measures. The organization’s data remains safe even if your laptop or phone is lost or stolen.
It Matters Where Your Data Lives
Employee workstations, with corporate programs and data held locally, pose an enormous security risk to your organization. VDI mitigates those risks in several ways by centralizing data and programs in a controlled environment.
- Data Security
With VDI, data is stored centrally in secure data centers instead of being held locally on individual workstations. This reduces the risk of data breaches since sensitive information is not directly accessible from the endpoint devices. Even if a device is lost, stolen, or compromised, the data remains secure since it is not stored on the physical device.
- Enhanced Access Controls
VDI allows for centralized access control and user authentication. Your IT administrators can define strict access policies, implement multi-factor authentication, and enforce granular permissions to ensure only authorized users can access the virtual desktop environment. This helps mitigate the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive data.
- Reduced Malware Exposure
Since the virtual desktops are hosted in a centralized environment, your employees interact with the desktop through remote protocols or thin clients. This reduces the risk of malware infections on individual workstations. Even if a user accidentally encounters malware while browsing the internet or opening suspicious files, the impact is limited to the virtual desktop session, and the underlying infrastructure remains protected.
- Centralized Management and Control
VDI enables centralized management and control of the virtual desktop infrastructure. IT administrators (or your cloud services provider) can easily enforce security policies, apply software updates, and simultaneously deploy security patches across all virtual desktops. This ensures consistency and reduces the chances of security vulnerabilities caused by inconsistent configurations.
- Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
Azure Virtual Desktop provides built-in backup and disaster recovery mechanisms. Your MSP or cloud services provider performs regular backups of the virtual desktops and associated data, ensuring that your critical information is protected and can be restored in the event of hardware failure, natural disasters, or other unforeseen circumstances.
- Minimized Insider Threats
Not all threats are external. VDI helps mitigate insider threats by providing enhanced monitoring and auditing capabilities. You can track user activity, monitor access to sensitive data, and enforce data loss prevention (DLP) measures. In the event of suspicious or unauthorized behavior, administrators can quickly revoke access or take appropriate action to prevent data breaches or misuse.
In short, VDI provides a more secure environment for your organization’s data and programs by centralizing them, enabling stricter access controls, reducing exposure to malware, and facilitating centralized management and monitoring. These factors combine to improve security, data protection, and risk mitigation.
The hybrid work model is gaining steam, and technologies like Microsoft Virtual Desktop accelerate this transformation by enabling flexibility, facilitating collaboration, and boosting security. As your business adapts to the changing work models, the role of such technology becomes even more critical. Learn more about Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop solutions by contacting a member of our cloud services team.