Five minutes with: GCI's Technical Director, Neil Clegg
With the demand for remote working at an all-time high, it is natural for companies to have concerns over how to implement the correct strategy and technology. GCI's Technical Director, Neil Clegg, debunks some DaaS assumptions and explains why employers should explore the idea of Desktop Virtualisation more closely.
22 November 2016
As a leading Converged ICT Services provider, at GCI we support both our employees’ and clients’ flexible working needs. We see increasing numbers of our customers deciding to meet their employees’ need or desire to work remotely – whether it’s from home, an alternative branch or a client’s site. In order to do this they must ensure that “business as usual” occurs whether their member of staff is sitting at their usual desk or halfway across the globe. But what are their concerns and assumptions, and are they valid or just myths?
MYTH: Desktop as a Service is not secure
There is simply no reason why your remote desktop shouldn’t be as rigidly protected as the one in your office. In fact, there are many security benefits to desktop virtualisation. All data is stored securely within the datacentre environment rather than on client devices and then backed up safely - vital for businesses holding sensitive customer information. Access can be immediately revoked if the employee leaves the company.
For a truly secure DaaS provision, it is crucial that each customer has a dedicated virtual server environment rather than being on shared servers with other customers where there is a far higher risk of the transference of malware, whether by accident or on purpose. Each of our customers have a dedicated server environment within VMware, offering them not only peace of mind regarding their security, but a workspace that they are able to customise. GCI's Desktop as a Service solutions are also stored on our cutting-edge Cloud platform, which conforms to ISO 27001 and 9001 standards for Cloud hosting.
MYTH: Implementing and managing desktop virtualisation is expensive
Actually, this could be true if you choose the wrong provider. Pick one that includes setup and migration or you could experience high hidden costs. Scalability is also important, and you need to select a plan that allows you to add extra devices with minimal hassle. At GCI we work with industry-leading technology providers Citrix, who are the perfect partners when it comes to Desktop Virtualisation and, thanks to our longstanding Gold Solution Partnership and Citrix Service Provider accreditations, we have access to exclusive customer discounts. We also ensure we provide fixed-price Service Delivery, which includes setup and migration. Plans are also highly-scalable, with support for a wide array of devices including PCs, laptops, mobile phones and tablets and the ability to easily add extra applications as and when required. There are also other savings involved with virtualisation; for the employer, reduced overheads such as office space and electricity costs are always helpful.
MYTH: Desktop virtualisation relies on a strong internet connection
You can’t deny that without resilient connectivity, remote working would be very difficult - if not impossible! However, in our experience it’s rare that a customer or employee can’t access their virtual desktop due to poor connectivity, and with many public places and public transport companies offering Wi-Fi, it’s even easy to connect when you’re not at home or at a traditional place of work. In fact, an Office of National Statistics (ONS) 2016 report also states that 75% of adults have used the internet "on the go" using a mobile phone or smartphone, portable computer or handheld device.
In addition to the hosted desktop, GCI’s Silver and Gold DaaS tiers include the full Microsoft Office 365 suite, enabling the use of Office applications offline – ideal for those who spend a lot of time travelling. Great connectivity therefore isn’t as vital as it used to be, and it seems that worrying about it is becoming a thing of the past.
MYTH: Productivity falls when employees work outside of the office
VERDICT: FALSE (MOSTLY)It’s a fair concern for employers to have; once their staff are out of the office the visibility of their work is lost. True, there may be a few rotten apples who will take advantage of the fact that they are not monitored and could spend all day on social media, watching daytime TV or even moonlighting, but the truth is that these are people who will use their time unproductively whether in the office or out of it. In our years of experience, these people are in a minority; in fact, Forbes have reported that 91% of remote workers believe they “get more work done when working remotely,” and Inc Magazine suggests that remote workers are almost twice as likely to work beyond 40 hours a week and are 20% more productive when they get given creative projects remotely.
A decision to allow any member of your workforce to work remotely is not always an easy one, and indeed some job roles are more suited to virtualisation than others. Ultimately, it is down to the employer to decide what will work best in their business. At GCI, we not only offer these solutions but practice what we preach, and use Citrix XenApp to enable our staff to work from home or any other location with an internet connection. It’s a mutually-beneficial situation; we obviously expect our employees to perform to their highest standard no matter their location, and by being trusted to work from home they feel that they aren’t being micromanaged. In return they are still enthusiastic and productive when not working in an office environment. The commute time (and often stress!) is also eliminated, which is always a win-win situation.
MYTH: Multiple devices are a nightmare to manage
VERDICT: FALSEIt’s understandable that this can be daunting, particularly in larger organisations where one person could have multiple devices. However, a good majority of office workers can use Zero (or ultrathin) client devices, which have no local storage and require less software to be installed on the device. This means that they require minimal setup and are therefore quicker to deploy and easier to manage, making them low cost to replace. There are further cost savings here – research by Gartner states that 80% of total IT costs occur after the initial purchase, as many don’t factor in the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) when purchasing PCs, including support and maintenance charges.
GCI's DaaS solutions are offered via Citrix's industry-leading software XenApp, and are ideal for those that want the advantages a virtual desktop infrastructure offers but find in-house deployment costs prohibitive. With exclusive discounts for our DaaS customers via the CSP programme billed on an affordable per month, per user basis - and with our 24/7 Service Desk provision included as standard - it makes the decision to empower your mobile workforce an easy and affordable one.