The shift to working from home was made very suddenly and without the needed lead time to figure out what the best solution should have been. This high speed, poorly planned shift resulted in rushed laptop and Chromebook purchases and a support nightmare for both schools and businesses that seems never to end.
It was thought, with little foundation, that this shift would be over in weeks, and people would go back to working in offices and going to school. That now appears significantly over-optimistic. For many (if not most), working from home will likely continue until at least until the end of the year and probably well into 2021.
Figuring out how to manage large numbers of remote employees and students wasn’t well understood at the start of this. Still, as IT shops gain experience, they are increasingly gravitating to Cloud solutions to contain support costs and keep people functioning.
Anecdotally, I hear that there is a significant number of benefits for those firms that have partially or entirely shifted to Cloud-based desktop solutions. Let’s talk about a few of them this week.
Vastly Easier Focused Remote Management
Most sites I’ve heard complaints from were not well set up for remote management. And with people, including support staff, shifted to working from home having to deal with on-premise support has become problematic. But Cloud services are designed to be remotely administered, and Cloud services tend to keep support staff on site. This structure allows the day to day connectivity and base-level support to be shifted to the Cloud service while the remote IT staff can focus on problems that are specific to the business.
This separation of duties allowing IT to better focus on the needs of the business rather than the plumbing that surrounds the employee is particularly helpful with large numbers of employees working from home. Diagnosing connectivity issues and recovering hardware that has been broken or compromised by malware can be shifted to the hardware manufacturer as well if the Windows instance is hosted in the Cloud.
Potentially More Secure
VPNs were initially widely used to connect workers into company resources. However, VPNs are inherently ussecure given you are providing a tunnel through the company’s firewall for users that often have not been adequately identified and may be operating from unsecure locations using unsecure Wi-Fi access points. With the Cloud, you can selectively give access to what is specifically needed by the employee, you don’t need VPNs, and given the data largely remains in the Cloud, it is potentially better protected.
Depending on the virtual desktop solution, and the available bandwidth at the employees’ location. Employees can use their hardware if they have it and, if they don’t, provisioning can be done with low cost connected PCs relying on the flexible performance most mature virtual cloud desktop solutions can provide.
This flexibility is a significant advantage. Schools that had already deployed a Cloud solution, for instance, were vastly more capable of making a fast pivot than those that had not.
And given many schools are finding that going back to school was a bad idea they are having to again shift to a remote learning program, but teachers don’t want to become IT, people. Programs like Lenovo’s LanSchool showcased considerable advantages to a Cloud-based solution in terms of being able to pivot from classroom learning to a remote program while allowing the teachers to remain teachers.
This flexibility has extended to those who have used business solutions like Workspot, which provide cloud desktop capability. By the way, a recent gaming update from NVIDIA using GeForce Now is a decent showcase for how much performance can be achieved in the Cloud and an interesting way to provide entertainment capability to limited function hardware like Chromebooks.
Complexity is the enemy of IT, and what shifting to work from home did for many was significantly increase desktop support complexity. Shifting to a Cloud desktop solution appears to have more than mitigated that problem for many. Schools in particular, where resources remain very short, have benefited from IT administrators that had proactively moved to Cloud solutions for students that, due to health or physical reasons, couldn’t come to school before the Pandemic.
These needs for both work and education have significantly accelerated Cloud implementations and, I expect, based on the benefits being reported, that acceleration will remain even after the Pandemic is over. We were on a fast path to the Cloud this decade, primarily due to costs and economies of scale, moving to the Cloud for desktop support. Still, the Pandemic appears to have massively accelerated that effort.