Virtual desktops are great in general. They allow you to access a wealth of applications without taxing the CPU of whatever device you’re working on. That translates into better working flexibility and money saved on energy bills. But that’s familiar ground. What’s a more developing issue is the growing flexibility of cloud computing systems. Specifically a cause for concern is the new User Installed Applications function that’s becoming available on virtual desktops.
Both Citrix Systems and Ceedo are now offering this as part of the package, and that’s an appealing thing for employers in some ways. Around 40% of employees working with computers take devices into consideration when they’re looking for jobs. That means if you can appeal to them with the option to personalise their desktop experience, as well as use a device from home, you might attract better talent. But this level of user interaction isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially when you’re talking about a cloud infrastructure.
When you think about it, the problems with having users install apps directly into their virtual desktop are instantly recognisable. First up, any opening up of the system to outside interference brings with it a greater threat of malware. Currently there’s a lot said about the safety and reliability of virtual desktops, reassuring companies that it’s OK to have a whole office running off one server. User installation could effectively salt the well – you can’t guarantee anymore that you’ve got a safe hub, and that means you need more backups to run safely.
Something else that’s good about virtual desktops is that it streamlines IT management. This makes it much easier to make sure there aren’t untenable CPU demands being made on the system, and that changes can be made universally instead of going from terminal to terminal. But if everyone in a busy office can install applications that make demands on the CPU without some kind of gatekeeper, you’ll find balancing CPU demands much harder.
In addition to all of this, you could come under fire for legal reasons. Companies have to make sure that they obtain the proper licenses for any application they’re using. This helps system integrity as well as keeping you on the right side of the law. Companies are no less responsible if an employee has brought their device from home and installed the application themselves. It’s still the company that’s in trouble.
The message is pretty clear. The user installed applications system is on its way, so it’s up to companies to make rules clear to employees, and enforce them, if they don’t want the system to be compromised as a result. Basically, don’t let users play around with the virtual desktop on their own and you should be OK.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Thanks to Lee Phillips for this post. Lee is a virtual desktop expert from the UK and contributes to a number of technology blogs.