Hosted Virtual Desktop is one of the latest directions in desktop virtualization. Instead of more traditional approaches when you create virtual environments on your physical desktop or within virtual infrastructure deployed in your datacentre, Hosted Virtual Desktop offers you a refreshing alternative: host your virtual desktops in a secure cloud of a trusted provider. Today I'm going to review one of hosted virtual desktop solutions, the one provided by tuCloud.com.
Advantages of Hosted Virtual Desktops
- Universally and securely accessible – if you're familiar with RDP protocol, you can access your virtual desktop from practically any PC or thin client (you still need to provide network access from your intranet out to your HVD provider). Rest assured, all the RDP traffic between your client and your virtual desktop is encrypted. And if you can think of a better way to access your virtual desktops – tuCloud seem to be quite committed to providing exactly the solution you're looking for.
- Streamlined desktop provision – be it just one extra virtual desktop or 20 more, it is always easy to quickly add more virtual desktops to your infrastructure.
- Desktop environment consistency – tuCloud will take care of OS install and post-install configuration so all your new virtual desktops will look and behave the same – exact to the virtual hardware requirements you specify and complete with the desired software pre-installed and ready for you to use
Disadvantages of Hosted Virtual Desktops
- Full control of your desktop, but not the backend – in most HVD solutions, the whole idea of the solution is to hide the backend technology away from end users. For your IT department, this could be a problem – you don't get access to storage or network infrastructure behind your virtual desktops.
- File transfers security – although the RDP connection to your virtual desktop is encrypted, all the browser connections and any traffic exchanged by third party software will have to be secured individually. For browsing, HTTPS would be a good start. Although file transfer is a challenge, in tuCloud's case it's also an opportunity – for example, you can arrange for a universal access to a secure storage share in the cloud – all your desktops will have access to it.
- OS and software licensing – not every vendor supports licensing virtual desktops, although most of the big players are actively entering this field. tuCloud may take care of your Windows licensing for virtual desktops, but you will probably still need to manage licensing for other products of yours. For specialist software, there's still a chance that you won't be allowed to legally use within virtualized environments. If your company already has volume licensing with vendors like Microsoft, you're less than likely to get a chance to use it for your hosted virtual desktops.
- Lack of integration with your existing infrastructure – being a hosted solution, HVD infrastructure will mean that your desktops will be hosted on an external network. If you plan them to access your internal Exchange mail server, your Sharepoint sites or your storage, you will have to arrange for these services to be made available to external networks. If your desktop users transfer large (gigabytes) amounts of data from their desktops to your servers, this may also complicate things a bit. Still, this disadvantage of a hosted virtual desktop can be worked around and is rarely a show stopper.
tuCloud Hosted Virtual Desktops
I've used quite a few trial hosted virtual desktops offered by tuCloud, and can certainly recommend you the service – if anything, get a trial desktop to see for yourself how easily it will meet most of your desktop needs.
Here's what I really like about tuCloud:
- Easy and quick to access – like I said, it's just an RDP session away
- Fast response – the whole virtual display experience feels way too responsive for a cloud-hosted environment – it's only a bit slower than a similar virtual session on a system in my local network
- Native 64bit support – not that you would desperately need it, but the support is there. You only get 2Gb of RAM for your virtual desktop by default, but can probably arrange for larger memory if you want to
- Productivity software pre-installed – there's Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice, all protected by anti-virus
- Speedy network – great upload and download speed (10mbit symmetric in most cases)
- Audio support – hey, I can even listen to Internet radio! Flash is supported, but you'll want to be really close to the network hosting tuCloud environments to enjoy a smooth Youtube playback in your virtual desktop.
- Very quick provision time – there may be just a few minutes between you submitting a request and an email with your login details dropped into your mailbox. tuCloud talks about a few hours for each desktop to be on a safer side, but right now you can get your virtual desktop setup in a matter of minutes
Hosted Virtual Desktop: Give It a Try!
I think you should really consider HVD solution, no matter how small or large your virtual desktop interests are. tuCloud is a great starting point, and, incidentally, the first and only complete solutions provider of such a service so far! Visit their main page and get a trial desktop to see how far you can get.
Finally, if you have questions or ideas of things to try on a hosted virtual desktop – please leave a comment and I'll follow up.