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Posts Tagged ‘Desktop as a service’


Standing Desks: Could They Improve Your Workplace?

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

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It’s been talked about everywhere from the New York Times to Men’s Health and Women’s Health: Sitting at a desk all day may be dangerously unhealthy.

Medical studies conducted around the world support the same conclusion: When a human body remains seated and inactive, it quickly enters its own “power-saving mode”—not unlike the computer you’re using right now. The internal processes that burn calories and break down fat slow to a crawl. Over a full workday, the body’s overall “fat burning” functions can shrink to as much as half the normal rate. That raises the long-term risks of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, while pressure points on the spine can lead to other issues—from poor posture to lingering back pain. Prolonged sitting may even slow chemical circulation in the brain, affecting mood.

In today’s breakneck pace of Bay Area business, how many of your employees stay seated in their cubicles from 9 to 5—or longer? Do they skip meals and work through what was once generally considered “lunch hour”—hardly even getting up to stretch their legs? Will their productivity eventually be threatened by what researchers have dubbed sitting disease?

There may be a simple solution.

Stand and Deliver

More and more office workers—including employees of Silicon Valley heavyweights Google and Facebook—are experiencing multiple health benefits from standing desks. A Canadian study of standing desk users published earlier this year in Preventative Medicine revealed:

  • An average physiological increase of 8 heartbeats per minute (even higher for a treadmill desk!)
  • Higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol—and less (“bad”) LDL.
  • Reduced fatigue, tension, confusion, and depression—with more energy and focus.

Best of Both Worlds?

A standing desk may take some getting used to. Some users report a physical “break-in” period—like the soreness from a new workout routine. While many come to prefer standing, doctors advise that only standing or sitting still both carry potential health risks, and recommend alternating between the two. That could mean using height-adjustable desks (an online search will display plenty on the market, at varying price points) or using one or more “community” standing workstations, which employees can try for themselves and use whenever they’d like a change of pace.

The good news here is that simple “toggling” between different onsite workstations is another perfect application for Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS). Instead of unplugging and re-plugging a laptop—or being left “anchored” by an immobile desktop PC—the user can simply log in from either endpoint, with full functionality (files, apps, email, conferencing, and more) hosted in the Cloud.

If your company has an in-house ergonomic specialist, run this idea by them… then talk with us about making it work.

Desktop-as-a-Service: Start with the Right Roadmap

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

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In this third installment of our blog series on Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) and Cloud-hosted virtual workspaces, we’d like to pass along a few pointers about when and how to plan a successful structured deployment within your organization. Everything starts with a plan.

When is it time to think about switching over to virtual desktops? First, assess the physical condition of your current IT infrastructure. Have your existing servers literally outgrown the confines of your cramped server room, making expansion near-impossible?

If the average age of your servers, desktops, and company-issued laptops is more than three years—long past their initial warranty—it’s probably a good time to consider switching to a DaaS environment over the mounting costs of maintaining all that depreciating hardware.

Adapting Your Software: Old and New

Your first step toward DaaS is a comprehensive inventory of all software currently used by every workgroup. Many “legacy” applications—where the original vendors are either out of business or no longer offer support—require extensive advance testing to determine if they’ll fully function on a modern DaaS platform.

Newer software may require some “gymnastics” when it comes to user license agreements. Copies licensed to one or more individual PC users may contain significant restrictions regarding installation on a multi-user Cloud environment. The penalties for license infractions—fines or back payments—can be rather stiff, so it pays to “do your homework” before committing to a DaaS switchover.

Test, Troubleshoot, Tweak

Migrating to the Cloud isn’t a one-size-fits-all, flick-of-the-switch affair. A successful company-wide deployment only comes after a period of in-depth pilot testing. Find a few volunteer “guinea pigs” from every workgroup to test-drive critical parts of their new DaaS experience. Are their everyday applications completely functional? Are subtle differences in the virtual interface more or less convenient? Is the available bandwidth sufficient, or causing annoying lag? Are remote users encountering common difficulties among their mobile devices? Now is the time to troubleshoot the earliest problems before the formal deployment “goes live.”

Preparing Your Workforce: Change Is Good

After completing necessary adjustments during the pilot phase, it’s time to set an official deployment date. Get your company ready for that day by setting aside time for a formal training program to get everyone acquainted with the new interface, changes in log-in procedures, and any differences in the support structure. You’ll probably notice that many employees are naturally wary of changes to their familiar work environment. Expect to offer plenty of patience and hand-holding before everyone “gets with the program.”

Our point today is that while much of a DaaS rollout can appear daunting, most of the initial headaches and growth pains can be prevented by strong advance planning and sticking to the roadmap along the way. For more ideas about DaaS, the Cloud, and other custom IT solutions for your company, contact us.

Hidden Costs of DaaS Service? Know What to Look For

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

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Back in July, we talked about the emergence of Cloud-based Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS). From overall cost to scalability, mobility, and security, more IT decision-makers are recognizing DaaS as simply a better alternative to traditional networks of standalone computers.

As with any other new technology, however, there can be a steep learning curve involved. While quite a few vendors are hopping on the bandwagon and offering contracted DaaS services like selling a new car or a cell phone, many just aren’t adept at explaining the contract’s fine print—or even the real meaning of the big print. Too many first-time customers are left to “learn the hard way” about sneaky fees.

Before locking your company into a DaaS commitment, here are a few major items to do your homework on:

Semi-Private Cloud or Public Cloud. A DaaS platform can be hosted on two types of Clouds. A semi-private Cloud divides operations between Cloud infrastructure hosted remotely and some server hardware installed at the client’s onsite data center. In many cases, the provider may bear the initial cost of designing and setting up the onsite equipment, but impose higher costs over the long term via monthly hardware rental fees.

Public Clouds are hosted entirely off-site and offer direct “turnkey” DaaS services without any onsite data center equipment. They are particularly effective at providing full desktop access for mobile workers, quick desktop setup of new or temporary employees, and hassle-free disaster recovery.

Licensing Fees. Third-party providers merely serve as “middlemen” for DaaS platform products from the big-name vendors, who pass along their costly licensing fees to their end customers. When that’s the case, ask what specific “value-adds” their service includes.

Service Tiers. Many providers divide their DaaS service into different levels along the lines of “standard,” “gold,” or “platinum.” Each offers progressively greater per-user bandwidth and storage capabilities. Make sure you choose the best package for your company, without any hidden fees for switching to a more appropriate tier—up or down.

Long-Term Commitment. The flexible, pay-as-you go nature of the Cloud has been a real advantage, especially for smaller businesses. Yet, as with cell phones, many vendors still try to lock customers into annual contracts. Avoid unfavorable contract terms if you can.

Minimum Number of Desktops. Some vendors require a minimum quantity of daily users in their service agreements—with harsh monthly penalties for dropping below that number. Don’t let this added expense hang over your business’s head if your workforce shrinks when times get tough.

As managed DaaS services become the new standard for businesses of all sizes, we expect it to become a customer-driven market. Know where you’ll find the best deal for both price and service. Need help? Just get in touch.

 

DaaS and the Virtual Workspace: The Next Big Thing?

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

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We’ve recently received quite a few questions regarding “virtual workspaces.” Particularly in light of the imminent release of the next version of Windows (which, as we’ve discussed, won’t come cheaply for enterprise users), will virtual workspaces be a cost-effective alternative to full computers on every desktop?

The original incarnation of virtual workspaces came in the form of Virtual Desktop Architecture (VDI), a self-contained, “on-premise” server responsible for delivering documents, software, and apps to multiple network users simultaneously. Over the past few years, the reputation of VDI has really taken a beating because, despite the projected bandwidth and storage capacities of that in-house VDI server, network performance invariably seems to fall a step behind—leaving end users frustrated with keystroke lag, poor video resolution, and other annoyances. In most IT circles, VDI is looked back upon as a “novelty”—a technology that never really proved ready for prime time.

Over the past couple of years alone, major advances in the power of Cloud computing have breathed new life into the virtual workspace concept—with far better results.

Through the “Desktop-as-a-Service” model (DaaS), business customers purchase a monthly subscription for Cloud-hosted virtual workstation emulation: software, storage, backup, and upgrades included.

What are the primary benefits of switching to a DaaS environment?

Cost. A monthly DaaS subscription delivers more long-term “bang for the buck” than a traditional PC network or on-premise VDI server. Cloud-hosted workspaces cut the expenses associated with regular hardware upgrades.

Expandability. The turnkey convenience of DaaS means onboarded employees can enjoy a fully functional desktop within only a few hours, without the prolonged hassles of additional software licenses and manually loading and configuring every program.

Mobility. DaaS is an ideal solution for telecommuting and other out-of-office applications. As many employees prefer to use their own personal laptops or tablets, a virtual DaaS environment allows full desktop access on any device, regardless of brand or operating system.

Security. “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Security breaches typically occur on the outer fringes of a network—hackers singling out an end user with inadequate protection or lax “security hygiene.” A DaaS environment centralizes network security at its core, and software patches and antivirus updates deployed from the Cloud protect the full network immediately (all computers and devices, everywhere).

Service. Onsite hardware requires onsite support, such as setup and maintenance. The first generation of VDI required hours upon hours of setting up the onsite servers, plus creating and tweaking the virtual interface for every customer. Because DaaS is hosted remotely, it can be deployed much more quickly, and service issues can be fixed in the fraction of the time of an onsite service call.

In the coming weeks, we’ll expand on the emerging viability of DaaS, and whether it may be the best solution for you.