Security, accessibility, productivity. These are all very real challenges that many businesses face when enabling extraordinary levels of remote working. These concerns have inevitably escalated throughout the coronavirus crisis. Before the pandemic outbreak, 64.5% of companies offered remote working for employees – a figure which has almost certainly skyrocketed as offices, shops and other physical workplaces are forced to close to protect their staff.
An overnight transformation
With many heavily office-based organisations having to overhaul their working practices almost overnight, adjusting to this new sense of normal has been an extremely difficult time for some. So much so that many business leaders soon found themselves ill-equipped with the technology to enable remote working at scale.
This a particular challenge for jobs that require graphically-intensive applications and sophisticated hardware to match. Without the correct setup in place, such programmes are likely to lag when running on hardware that is ultimately not fit for purpose. For many remote workers operating on personal devices, this can cause immediate frustration, affect motivation and drive down performance.
Access to this level of hardware would normally require staff to be in the office to run applications – a crucial barrier when required to complete the same tasks remotely. That said, with the right technology workers can remove these hardware complexities with ease. We’re seeing business leaders rapidly adopt new solutions as a result to bridge this gap quickly amidst tight IT budgets. One technology now throwing them a vital lifeline is virtualisation.
Recreate the office virtually
Before we delve into its possibilities, let’s first go back to the basics of virtualisation. The process simply works by creating virtual versions of a hardware platform or operating system. This allows multiple virtual machines to be hosted on alternative devices, with each machine running different operating systems or applications.
Virtualisation can be a powerful tool for alleviating some of the intricacy involved with remote working. For example, managing graphics within a virtual hosted environment means that end users can operate the most demanding software on any device and from any location, needing only an Internet connection. Better still, access to cloud hosted versions of on-premise applications can help businesses to recreate the notions of office working and instil a sense of familiarity for staff amidst the chaos.
For those running on-premise applications, switching to virtual workspaces through technology such as Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops can make the successful shift towards Desktop-as-a-Service and make the most of the available remote hardware. This approach can be used across all devices, allowing users to maximise their outputs and decision makers to minimise investments at a critical time through company wide BYOD strategies. These workspaces also break down location barriers, so that organisations can offer their employees a smarter, high-performance working space – even if they are using an older, personal device.
A fast solution to secure remote working
With accessibility covered, businesses should rightfully turn attention to the security of their remote operations and the data that is accessed by staff working from home and on personal devices via cloud hosted desktops. With virtualisation, security patches can be applied to all users at once, removing the reliance on individual users to perform updates which could have potentially resulted in loss of data or compromise. This is particularly reassuring when there is limited access to internal technical support.
Making the switch to a secure hosted desktop is also relatively fast and simple to deploy, which is crucial for businesses that need to enable remote working immediately. Employees can also use their own device if needed, as all of the processing power comes from a cloud-based data centre. Again, this fulfils the need for fast performance on even the most basic laptop or computer.
More often than not, on-premise applications can also be incorporated within the hosted desktop environment, hassle free. Application-as-a-Service can allow companies to move their legacy applications off-premise and into a more accessible and secure cloud hosted environment. This can be reassuring to both business and employees as installing, maintaining and updating applications is a hefty task as it is. In these times, this is an area of their infrastructure that IT managers would struggle to complete on all devices in use among remote workers. By using virtualisation, cloud applications allow full access to the latest versions.
Despite the harsh learning curve for many, the future of working practices post-crisis looks promising. According to some, the coronavirus outbreak will increase the speed of work evolution and rebuild multiple industries. Virtualisation is already proving itself a worthy companion for any business having to make the quick change to home working during such difficult times. Ultimately, it is this simulation of business-critical applications that is keeping many employees productive and working worlds turning.
As we look ahead to a very different future and many industries strive to emerge stronger, we will almost certainly see virtualisation take its place as a fundamental asset in the modern working toolkit.
Pete Watson is CEO at Atlas Cloud