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Why End-User Computing Needs a Refresh

Note: the following article first appeared as a contributed article in the publication Sand Hill on June 21, 2018.


End-user computing (EUC) is experiencing a major shift in where people work, and the devices they use to do their job. A global survey just released shows that no less than 70% of respondents are working away from the office at least once a week, and 53% work remotely at least half time.

This shift from the traditional office and desktop work environment is disrupting not only how we think about our workday but what we expect from our organizations in terms of providing the device and application tools we need to fulfill our professional responsibilities.

Added to these stunning numbers of people working remotely are two other drivers changing how organizations deliver end-user computing.  First is the proliferation of devices we use, and second is the user’s expectation that any device they use should deliver a consistent profile that is their own, fully populated with all the necessary applications.

Bringing EUC up to User Expectations

A widely reported statistic is that there will be over 50 billion connected devices by 2020. This anticipated proliferation of devices demands an innovative approach to managing, securing and delivering these endpoints and the applications that will run on them – to satisfy user expectations.

How can we make this happen? Here are some approaches that work:

  • Embrace New Workspace Models. With literally billions of devices on their way, we need a new approach to managing endpoints. Adding teams of people to handle these large estates of endpoints is not economically viable for any organization. Consider a new model such as Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) to deliver the EUC experience via the cloud. A good DaaS example is Amazon WorkSpaces which enables organizations to provision virtual, cloud-based Microsoft Windows desktops for their users, giving them application access from any supported device. The pay-as-you go model lets organizations pay either monthly or hourly for the WorkSpaces they require.

Besides the user benefits and cost containment, a significant aspect is organizations are starting to realize they must have a highly flexible, nimble vision of delivering desktops to users now and in the future. Emerging models like DaaS present one attractive option for providing virtual desktops that are price-attractive and fulfill user demands.

The DaaS market is already seeing a number of players besides Amazon: VMware Horizon Air, Citrix XenDesktop, Cisco, and others. No doubt more players will enter as organizations see the service model as a compelling solution for delivering users what they need, regardless of device.

  • Move from a Hardware to Software Mindset. Not only do your users expect all of the applications they need to be available on the device of their choosing, they expect any legacy hardware platform they may use to be equally proficient at running modern applications. But there is a major problem with the legacy hardware approach, and that is, it takes a boatload of money. The cost of a laptop or PC refresh can effectively be out of reach when a large estate of endpoints is in play.

An economically attractive and disruptive alternative to a hardware expenditure is the new wave of software-defined endpoint technology. Using a well-designed software approach enables any x86 device to be repurposed and transformed into a managed endpoint, and extends the useful life of existing assets. In a matter of minutes, organizations can convert any x86 device to a new OS, and fully replace aging and less secure operating systems with a hardened OS that connects the user to VDI solutions that can be more efficiently maintained.

  • Improve Security on all Devices. We can all agree that giving employees the option to use a variety of devices helps productivity as we have enabled them to work any time and place. But this ability to choose devices, and ready access to an organization’s systems and data, poses a serious threat as ‘rogue’ endpoint devices outside of the confines of the secure corporate networks are a sterling invitation for cyber-attacks. Without management connectivity, these devices are without policy and controls.  They are off the grid, so to speak, and are not accessible for patching and updating.

Verizon’s report on mobile security reveals organizations are aware of device threats but doing less than needed to improve security. Scarily, according to the survey, 32% admitted to sacrificing mobile security to improve business performance. At the same time, 93% of organizations agreed that mobile devices present a serious and growing threat, and 79% of the organizations fear that employee misuse, either accidentally or intentionally, is a significant concern.

The survey also indicates few organizations have implemented a strategy to mitigate device risk. Where do you start?  A reliable and secure option is to move the employee’s workload to the data center using virtualization, and then remediate the employee devices’ operating system.  By deploying a hardened Linux OS that is limited to remoting desktops and applications, you have implemented the best possible scenario for secure employee productivity.  A properly designed device OS is resistant to viruses and malware, and is secured by an obfuscated read-only file system that employs methods like Secure Boot to insure the operating system is safe to load.

  • Make Windows 10 more User Friendly. Windows for Desktops has become the operating system everyone loves to hate, and Windows 10, with its frequent and massively large updates, is no exception. In fact, Windows 10 seems to be defining a new level of frustration for IT organizations and their end users.  Nevertheless, with a large number of user applications still relying on a desktop operating system, and with support for Windows 7 ending in a little over two years, deploying Windows 10 has become a necessary evil.

Fortunately, moving to Windows 10 does not have to be complicated and expensive.  By virtualizing the Windows 10 desktop experience, we can make the migration as painless as possible.  Plus, by adopting a virtualized desktop approach, we provide the average worker, who uses many devices, access in a way that does not sacrifice productivity, and helps to take some of the burden off IT.

Refreshing EUC: The Benefits are Limitless

With more than 50 billion connected devices heading our way against a backdrop of user devices and escalating security threats, it’s time to refresh our thinking about end-user computing.  We need to embrace the new workspace delivery models that allow our valued associates to be more productive.

Over all of this, you need a unified management solution that can help streamline operations as the endpoint estate continues to grow.  With robust unified management, tens of thousands of devices can be managed through a single console, extending the life of costly laptops and desktop systems, while ensuring consistent updates and a tight security posture.

A unified solution that is device and hardware agnostic, that can apply policy control and mitigate risk, will benefit all users and add business value.  Refreshing your approach to end user computing will give your organization a stronger foundation from which to manage the next information technology challenge!

Jeff Kalberg

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