We’re living in an interesting time from a technology perspective - where staff are beginning to demand more and more the functionality they consume at home, whilst in the office. As the generation y population join the workforce after being exposed to technology for most of their lives, it creates an interesting intersection in how we can get the best out of our workers. It’s unusual for gen-y citizens not to be connected. They are either online via TXTing, social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo, Twitter or at the end of a broadband connection. How can businesses take advantage of technology to increase productivity and profitability, while at the same time protect company assets/IP and allow consumer choice of devices, hardware, operating systems and connectivity options?
The answer isn’t clear cut, and there are trade-offs with these options. If a business has invested wisely in the backend infrastructure, then serving up applications can be delivered in a variety of ways: e.g.:
1. Virtual Desktops - Client-hosted desktop virtualization creates a separate OS environment on the desktop, allowing non-compatible legacy or line-of-business applications to operate within their native environment on top of a more current operating system, or enabling two IT environments (for example, personal and corporate) to run concurrently on the same physical device. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is a desktop delivery model, which allows client desktop workloads (operating system, application, user data) to be hosted and executed on servers in the data centre. Users can communicate with their virtual desktops through a client device that supports remote desktop protocols such as RDP.
Key benefits include:
- Offers improved flexibility and desktop location independence, enhancing work scenarios such as work from home and hot-desking
- Facilitates improved business continuity through data centralization
- Provides integrated management of physical, virtual and session-based desktops, including non-Microsoft infrastructure
2. Virtual Applications - transforms applications into centrally-managed virtual services that are never installed and don’t conflict with other applications.
Key benefits include:
- Streams applications on-demand over the internet or via the corporate network to desktops, Terminal servers and laptops
- Automates and simplifies the application management lifecycle by significantly reducing regression and application interoperability testing
- Accelerates OS and application deployments by reducing the image footprint
- Reduces the end user impacts associated with application upgrades/patching and terminations. No reboots required; no waiting for applications to install; and no need to uninstall when retiring an application
- Enables controlled application use when users are completely disconnected
3. Delivering applications via a web browser
Key benefits include:
- Minimal software installation if any or via plug-ins/controls
- Minimal client upgrades required as updates are typically applied to backend applications/servers & services
- A wide selection of devices that have browsers - fat clients, thin clients, PDAs, mobile devices
Traditional IT delivers line of business applications on a company supplied piece of hardware, standardised OS and applications for a specific range of desktops, laptops and terminal services devices. With the introduction of netbooks and cheaper notebooks, as well as our evolving work /lifestyle patterns – there are some interesting dynamics to consider.
I travel a bit for work, and have my own set of favourite/useful applications, as well as a desire to have access to my own personal documents, files, web favourites and email whenever I need them. I’m not keen to carry more than one device, so my question is – should employers offer the choice of allowing staff to supply their own device which can be used for accessing the corporate network and resources via wired, wireless, VPN , Direct Access technologies?
There are clearly things to consider:
- Industry Standards /Cross Platform
- Potential financing options of acquisition of device – should the company offer something to help?
- Security of personal and corporate data – how do you separate, keep it safe, ensure it’s accessible to others as well as backed up etc
- Reliability, performance, manageability – ensuring the device you have allows you to perform the required tasks/duties your employer needs and expects
- Support, Warranty costs – If your device fails, how do you deal with this, and whose responsibility is it?
- Virtualised Desktop/Applications – is this infrastructure there, fault tolerant and available when it’s needed?
All of the above (plus the many that I’ve missed out) is addressable with the technologies we have available today – Should we be exploring this as a viable option for tech savvy employees? I’m not sold either way, however in my opinion this is definitely something I think IT departments will continue to receive feedback about for some time. The days of traditional IT being a NO shop, with answers like “this is the only approved corporate standard device available” will be short lived – We need to move with the times and enable the business, whilst at the same time empowering the individual with choices. We are living in the digital decade, the cultural change is happening right in front of us.