What Is VDI? Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Explained

what is VDI

As more organizations explore the need for long-term remote work solutions, virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI, has emerged as a secure and cost-effective strategy.

What is VDI technology? How does it work, and what are its benefits over physical IT infrastructure? Today we’ll dive in and learn more about the basics of virtual desktop infrastructure. 

What Is VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)?

The shift to remote working environments has necessitated developing safe and efficient remote technology solutions. Virtual desktop infrastructure technology has enabled workers to access computer networks remotely from almost any device, which is more important than ever in the post-COVID-19 era.

VDI technology creates virtual desktop environments via remote servers. Those virtual desktops are controlled through software that is hosted on virtual machines, or VMs. Centralized servers then deploy desktop environments to users on request, eliminating the need for individual, physical desktops.

Remote access technology is not new and has evolved (did you ever use a dial-up modem?). 

Client-VPN (virtual private network) applications were once commonplace for additional security. Companies now use virtual desktop infrastructure in place of VPN for convenience, but VPN can still be used for added safety, especially for industries handling sensitive information.  

As bandwidth has increased and internet connection has become more accessible, so has the ease of working remotely. As the demand for faster, cheaper and safer technology grew, so did the applications to accommodate that demand. The increasing focus on digital transformation and digital workspaces drove innovations that morphed into VDI, making remote access even easier.

How Does VDI Work? 

A hypervisor is a software that creates and runs virtual machines. In virtual desktop infrastructure, the hypervisor’s host machine separates servers it controls into virtual machines, or VMs. 

These VMs host virtual desktops, which users can access remotely from any device (like desktops, laptops or mobile devices) or location. The host server handles all processing, not the remote device, conserving bandwidth and decreasing lag time.

Connection to a virtual desktop is made through a connection broker. This software gateway acts as a middleman between the server and the user.

How Are VDI and Desktop Virtualization Different?

Aren’t VDI and virtual desktops the same thing? No. VDI enables a user to log in to an environment hosted on a central server. Desktop virtualization means that a user accesses a specific computer; usually the one sitting on their desk back in the office. 

VDI is a type of desktop virtualization. But with VDI, users log into centrally sourced software on a server, enabling new users to access resources without a dedicated desktop machine. This reduces overhead and maintenance, especially for employees or contractors who may never physically work in an office environment. 

Persistent Vs. Non-Persistent VDI

VDIs can be persistent or non-persistent. Here’s the difference:

  • Persistent VDI simulates a physical desktop. Persistent VDI enables users to customize their virtual desktop and retain changes at the end of a session. This method benefits workers who do more complex tasks since personalization allows tailoring settings to their individual needs.
  • Non-persistent VDI does not allow users to personalize and save their virtual environments. Businesses often use non-persistent VDI with task-based or kiosk workers who do repetitive or straightforward tasks that don’t require a customized environment. This method is less expensive and easier to maintain.

7 Benefits of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

1. Easy Remote Access

The main feature of virtual desktop infrastructure technology is that it enables workers to access applications and files remotely from any location. Whether an employee or contractor works remotely full time or only periodically, easy remote access expands their ability to perform regardless of where they are.

2. Flexibility 

Whether employees work via desktop, laptop, tablets or other mobile devices, VDI offers them the freedom to work where and when they want to.

3. Improved Security

Never worry about data loss again. Virtual desktop infrastructure plays a vital role in security by protecting sensitive data from hardware theft and breaches. Data and applications are stored on the server, safeguarding them even if equipment is lost or stolen.

4. Cost Savings

Hardware requirements are much lower with VDI since servers handle processing needs. Older equipment, tablets and thin clients can be used for VDI access, eliminating the need for expensive hardware upgrades.

5. Centralization 

Since the VDI environment is centrally controlled, software updates are easy. Change configurations, apply software patches and configure virtual desktops within VDI’s centralized format. 

6. Scalability 

Is your company going through a growth spurt? VDI scales applications to accommodate any size team, quickly and easily.  

7. Easy Setups 

Desktop provisioning is easy with virtual desktop infrastructure. Individual systems don’t need to be configured manually, saving time and effort. Virtual desktops are set up quickly, as settings can be mirrored from a desktop image.

What are the Use Cases for VDI? 

VDI is a useful technology for many types of workers and industries, including:  

  • Remote and mobile employees
  • Contractors 
  • Kiosk, task and shift workers
  • Field technicians
  • Medical professionals
  • Sales
  • Education 
  • Healthcare organizations

How to Implement VDI and Set Up a Digital Workplace

There are a few things to consider when setting up a digital workplace: 

Know what systems you need: Understand your requirements to avoid under- or over-provisioning your network capacity.

Know what your users need: Would it be better to set up a persistent or non-persistent VDI? Provisioning can vary depending on the level of desktop customizations required.

Maintain security: Provisioning and onboarding new users is usually done routinely. But what happens when employees leave or are terminated? Make sure you have steps in place to suspend access and credentials when necessary to prevent cyberattacks and data theft.

Test, test, test: Before engaging your VDI, be sure to run a pilot test deployment to ensure resources are sufficient.

Is your helpdesk support sufficient? Do you have systems in place to manage your virtual desktop infrastructure implementation and long-term support your users need? If not, consider partnering with a managed services provider like Helixstorm. Helixstorm can help your business manage VDI and digital workspaces, so you don’t have to. 

Contact us today to learn how our managed IT support services can help support your remote work strategy.