Cost Savings with Virtual Computing
In an earlier post, I covered some of the ways that a virtual client computing model offers a more secure approach to enabling flexible and remote work environments, as opposed to moving laptops and other mobile devices full of valuable data outside the relative safety of the primary workplace.
A virtual client computing model offers more security due to two primary factors: 1) no sensitive data is stored on the employee’s device, so data stays secure even if the device is stolen or hacked; 2) device management activities with a strong impact on security, such as patching and updating software, are done centrally by professional IT staff.
This model also offers significant cost savings. Gartner estimates that the total cost of ownership (TCO) for a corporate laptop over four years is $3,200. However, by streamlining and virtualizing the computing environment, organizations can reduce expenditures on device procurement, software licensing, and IT and support overhead.
Lower Device Costs
For starters, delivering hosted applications / desktops via a clientless access solution means that any device with a modern browser can be used for work. There’s no need to invest in one or more costly “fat client” devices for each user. Lower-cost alternatives include Chromebooks, tablets, and smartphones, with or without docking stations. Similarly, by running fewer applications locally and opting instead to move most (or all!) data and applications to a central server, you can significantly extend the lifespan of existing devices.
You can, of course, use a conventional laptop (or even a desktop, for that matter) to connect to a virtual computing platform. Generally speaking, the only reason to do so is if you happen to have one on hand anyway, as these are relatively heavy and expensive devices compared to other options. Nonetheless, users who like to travel with their personal laptops will appreciate the convenience of being able to do company work on their own device without having to install additional software or sacrifice space on their hard drive.
Google Chromebooks are stripped down laptops running on Google’s Chrome operating system. Retail prices for Chromebooks start at $169, compared with an average price of $700 for a standard laptop running Windows (and that’s just acquisition cost). Chromebooks are also lighter and generally have better battery life than conventional laptops. The fact that Chromebooks don’t support Windows or Java-based applications is not a concern when they simply serve as terminals from which to connect to a virtual computing environment, where applications actually run. For many users, Chromebooks are an ideal choice for working with remote desktop solutions.
Tablets such as the iPad Pro or Samsung Galaxy Tab are popular laptop alternatives for many seasoned road warriors. The iPad Pro 12.9 display screen is just as large as screens on many compact laptops. It’s also performs admirably when connected to virtual computing resources. Price points for these tablets are generally midway between the cost of a stripped-down Chromebook and a conventional laptop and as such, still provide significant savings.
It’s even possible to access remote computing resources using a smartphone. While a basic RDP setup may not provide an optimal user experience on small touchscreens, most mobile RDP clients, as well as leading HTML5 RDP solutions, do a surprisingly good job of delivering intuitive touch-screen functionality, dynamic scaling (e.g., when users rotate the device from “portrait” to “landscape” orientation and vice versa) and smooth performance over mobile networks. You probably wouldn't want to do a lot of serious work on a typical 4 to 6-inch touchscreen– but for activities that don’t require high resolution graphics or heavy-duty typing, they work just fine.
An interesting option for addressing the issue of screen size is to use a smartphone with a docking station, such as the Samsung DeX. The docking station allows users to easily connect their Samsung phone to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. While DeX apps provide desktop-style functionality, they are unnecessary for remote computing applications.
iPhone users can similarly use AirPlay to connect to a monitor, Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. The phone needs no special apps or capabilities, since all computing is done by the desktop (or virtual machine) back in the office.
Lower Support Costs
Another benefit of centralizing application delivery is that it eliminates the need for IT staff to install, configure and update applications on each individual end user device. This significantly simplifies IT support: all support is on equipment physically at the company offices. Perhaps no less significant is the reduction in calls to the IT Help Desk. There are no issues with users forgetting to install an update on their laptop or phone or misconfiguring software on the end user device.
Last but not least, this approach simplifies adoption of BYOD (“bring your own device”) since it enables all users to work with standard applications, regardless of the platform or OS they use to connect to the virtual computing environment.
Companies are increasingly turning to remote desktops as the best way to support today’s work from anywhere employee – while benefitting from both improved security and substantial costs savings.
It’s possible to use any connected device – laptop, Chromebook, tablet, or smartphone – as a terminal for a remote desktop solution. For those looking for the lowest cost dedicated device for remote access, a Chromebook is probably the best bet. If the user already has a laptop or tablet anyway, those devices can be equally effective. A smartphone with an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse can also provide a comparable experience and, given the ubiquity of personal smartphones in today’s workforce, may be the most cost-effective option of them all.