Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Virtual desktop infrastructure is crucial for enabling on-demand remote resource access, and Perimeter 81 helps make this idea safer and faster than ever.

What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is an end user computing model enabling clients to connect remotely to their desktop operating system environment through a central server, which can host multiple of these desktops for many users at once. One of the many modes of desktop virtualization, VDI serves users with the desktop image over a network, which may be secured along with the various endpoints involved in the process: PCs, smartphones, tablets and thin client terminals.

A server hosting virtual desktops may be managed on-premises or in the cloud, and the most common type of VDI operating system available is Microsoft Windows, but there are options available via Linux and others. From their endpoint device, the user can operate and interact with their virtual desktop as if they were sitting at the PC, and accomplish tasks on their network even from very far away and without the required resources present locally. For this reason virtual desktops are vital for empowering remote work and productivity.

How Does a Virtual Desktop Work?

From the perspective of one using virtual desktop infrastructure, the experience is very similar to what they’d otherwise see on a PC: a virtual desktop screen presented on their chosen endpoint device. However, the experience also differs somewhat in its speed – given that hardware and other resources required by desktop operations are usually closer in proximity than they would be to a local PC. A server hosting VDI is closer to backend databases, memory repositories and storage, and more.

At the same time, interacting with the virtual desktop feels like using a local PC because the model is designed to reduce latency, compressing traffic to optimize the speed of inputs like a mouse click or typing on the keyboard. A big clue that tells the user they’re not in a local environment is how they access their virtual desktop environment – usually by manually logging on through their local PC – though it’s possible to spin up a virtual desktop upon logging into a device.

Another way that VDI works differently is that users may not be able to save changes as they would a normal PC, but this also depends. On a “persistent” VDI the user can make changes that will show up the next time they access the virtual desktop, but this is also more expensive and complicated to maintain. Companies using a “non-persistent” VDI avoid these management obstacles but also limit the utility of their virtual desktops by giving users a permanently reserved (and immutable) VDI resource each time they login.

No matter what kind of VDI deployment is in use, they do have some common characteristics:

  • Centralization: Virtual desktop infrastructure is always enabled by virtual machines on a centralized server, whether locally managed or in the cloud.
  • OS Image: VDI always includes an image of a specific operating system such as Windows – the most common OS to be virtualized.
  • Hosting: Because each desktop is host-based (through its server), many instances are stored and used at the same time.
  • Constant Connectivity: Endpoints are unable to display a virtual desktop if they aren’t connected to the central server, so users must remain connected at all times when taking advantage of VDI.
  • VDI Broker: An extra layer in the process involves what’s called a connection broker, which orchestrates the acquisition of a virtual desktop for each user when they connect, from the server’s available resources.
  • Hypervisor: The hypervisor is a tool that manages the various virtual machines on the host server, and ensures that desktops accessing them have the resources they require.

Why Do Organizations Need Virtual Desktops?

Virtual desktop interfaces are useful no matter the type of deployment an organization or individual uses. For example, a nonpersistent virtual desktop can be used to provide static, constant access to an unchanged desktop, while a persistent VDI grants access to a personal virtual computer that serves as a customizable workspace. This is beneficial for business of all kinds, especially as remote work becomes more popular. Mobile employees and contractors are able to efficiently access the resources they need to do their jobs, no matter where they are or what kind of hardware they’re using.

VDI is an enabler of remote office and mobile utility, because a virtual desktop is a purposeful stand-in for the “real thing”, regardless of the situation of the end user (or the endpoint). Employees who are always on the road can connect safely to their “home” PC and all the applications they normally use in their roles, and capably complete their work from afar. This type of on-demand remote office is crucial, because when employees are not equipped in this manner, distance, device, and other factors become an obstacle to success.

IT teams also love virtual desktop interfaces because they increase simplicity, integrate easily with existing cloud-based resources, and reduce costs in several ways. For one, it’s crucial to remember that because VDI processing needs are handled within the server, auxiliary (and often pricey hardware isn’t necessary. Another reason that VDI is a cost-reduction solution is that, like RDP, it can be accessed with a relatively basic client machine such as an old PC or tablet, and not an expensive laptop capable of running virtual applications locally.

Security of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Running a VDI is a safer way of accessing an operating system over running it locally, at the most basic level. This is because all resources are held on a secure server rather than a laptop, for example, which is much more mobile and therefore able to fall into the wrong hands, connect to unsafe Wi-Fi networks, and more. Even if a laptop that can connect to your company’s VDI is stolen, the thief isn’t able to access resources held in the server.

In the case of a managed VDI solution, the provider also adds a measure of security. With responsibility for patching and maintenance on this third-party (and its bigger pool of resources), companies can feel safer that there is only one set of hands on the controls, and not many. Liability for applying updates or changing configurations isn’t on them, and presents a more streamlined and less complicated way of doing things.

Though VDI is a simple way to manage multiple desktops for employees, it is also vulnerable to attacks and can be compromised if it isn’t done correctly. Some basic security tools go a long way to securing a virtual environment properly, however. With SSO enabled in the authentication phase, an extra layer of security is added between the user and their resources, while an integrated security solution will help to enable endpoint security and additional encryption efforts for traffic.

VIrtual Desktop Infrastructure FAQs

What is virtual desktop infrastructure?
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a desktop virtualization model that allows a user to access a traditional desktop OS interface which is hosted on a server in the cloud or locally, using a device of their choosing.
Can I use virtual desktop infrastructure on all operating systems?
Windows virtual desktops, Mac virtual desktops and Linux virtual desktops all exist and are easily accessible with the right setup. 
What do I need to run VDI?
To equip your organization with a safe and speedy virtual desktop environment, it’s necessary to get the following components: a local or cloud server, the virtualization platform, a protocol for connecting to the VDI like RDP, a session broker, and of course end user devices to display the virtual desktop itself. A single NaaS platform will do to secure your VDI, as it can contain many of the required tools in one unified product.
What are the benefits of virtual desktop infrastructure?
Virtual desktop infrastructure helps organizations grant their employees easier access to resources from anywhere and any device. Even a basic tablet can connect to a Windows virtual desktop server and interact with applications there, without the ability to run these applications locally. 

These virtual desktops can also be shared with other workers and hosted simultaneously, allowing for collaboration and IT cost savings, as admins won’t need to maintain more than one piece of hardware in order to serve the whole organization. VDI is also excellent for business continuity in the case of a disaster, and complements BYOD policies.
Is there an advantage to Windows virtual desktop over others?
While Windows is one of the most common virtual desktops, the one your organization chooses to implement depends on which OS is preferred. A Mac virtual desktop is also an option, as are Linux virtual desktops, but all will provide a similar experience except for nuances in UX between these systems themselves.
Desktop Virtualization vs Cloud Computing
Cloud computing is a broad idea that means the transition of bandwidth and computing concepts like storage or processing from on-premises servers to offsite servers hosted by a third party. Instead of accessing, maintaining, and configuring these services locally they’re consumed through the cloud and graphical user interfaces, one of which might enable the user to access and interact with a virtual desktop.
Virtual Desktop vs VPN
Yes, a virtual desktop is only the ability for a user to remotely access a traditional desktop OS from afar, and this access model itself is unprotected. Cloud VPN helps establish a tunnel in which traffic between clients and the servers where these virtual desktops reside.
Hosted Desktop vs Virtual Desktop
They are different in nature but ultimately accomplish something similar. While VDI virtualizes the desktops in a virtual environment via hypervisors running on the hosting server, Hosted Desktop Infrastructure is the idea that the server can run the desktop natively.
Desktop Virtualization vs Hardware Virtualization
Yes, desktop virtualization is a type of hardware virtualization. The latter refers to the creation of a virtual computer that has an OS and works the same way as a real, physical PC with the same software. 
Desktop Virtualization vs Terminal Services
Desktop virtualization is accomplished by Terminal Services, which is what some call Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services (RDS). RDS and desktop virtualization both allow the remote operation of a virtual desktop but RDS also allows one to control a real PC remotely. 

Protect Remote Resources with a Virtual Desktop

Perimeter 81’s cloud-friendly Network as a Service (NaaS) platform enables safe and speedy virtual desktop access from around the world.

Endpoint Encryption

Encryption protocols including IPSec, SSL and Wireguard establish a secure connection between users’ devices and network resources when connected to their virtual desktop, reducing the attack surface.

Enable Remote Work

Give full access to remote workstations to your employees who choose to work from home. Their ability to connect from anywhere and share data securely means they’re as productive as if they were at their desks.

Virtual Application Access

Our virtual desktop solution is cloud-friendly and cloud agnostic, meaning remote office workers can seamlessly connect to cloud resources they rely on: Salesforce, AWS, and others.

Benefits of Virtual Desktop Via NaaS

  1. Better network visibility
  2. Seamless integration with cloud products
  3. Secure, low-latency remote network access
  4. Instant onboarding
  5. Effortless scalability for growing networks

The Perimeter 81 VDI Solution’s 4 Primary Capabilities

Your Unified Network
One cloud-based platform to connect and secure your network resources, including access management, monitoring, and more.

Multi-Tenant Network
Segment your network and networks according to your security policies and users, including functions like virtual desktop.

Supplement VDI Security
Enable 2FA and single sign-on across mobile devices using iOS and Android, PC and Mac desktops and the web when using VDI.

Zero Trust Access
Reduce the attack surface and make your VDI a moving target, by implementing least-privilege access policies.

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What Our Virtual Desktop Solution Offers Organizations

Security on All Devices: BYOD policies multiply the number and variety of devices connecting to your network. Ensure only authorized devices connect to your virtual desktops with NaaS endpoint security.

Cloud Agnostic Integration: The ease with which our solution integrates into your virtual office, whether local or cloud-based, enables organizations to protect all their resources in unified fashion.

Superior Quality Assurance: Connecting to the virtual desktop through a diverse global server array helps the QA and marketing teams determine how best to target different markets, and how successful current efforts are.

Safe Remote Access: Automatic Wi-Fi security lets remote workers connect to sensitive resources from the public internet without fear of exposure, while encrypted tunnels shield data sharing from prying eyes.

Precise User Segmentation: Beyond the capabilities of traditional security solutions, the addition of granular policy-based permissioning helps organizations exercise greater control over those entering their virtual infrastructure.

IP Whitelisting: Explicitly define the IP addresses that are allowed to access the network, granting IT teams a stronger grip on security and also the ability to assign static IPs to automatically trusted sources of traffic.

The Perimeter 81 Virtual Desktop Service Includes:

  • One-click network deployment
  • User-friendly virtual desktop for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
  • 24/7 knowledgeable customer support
  • Unlimited bandwidth and data availability
  • Automatic Wi-Fi security
  • DNS Filtering
  • Comprehensive auditing and reporting capabilities
  • Multiple global private and public VPN gateways

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Simplify access to your virtual office today.