The Revival of Hosted Desktop


By SpiderGuest

General
26 April 2010

The technology and the principal of ‘Hosted Desktops’ has actually been around for decades under different guises such as Citrix and Microsoft Terminal Services. As early as the 1960s many large companies invested in centralised mainframe servers which could be connected to by many dumb terminals (very cheap low powered computers). Although these super-powered mainframes were extremely expensive, they could power tens if not hundreds of terminals, which was fantastically cost effective with the economies of scale and it could all be centrally managed and secured. Up until the late 1980s this WAS the way to do computing and IBM was the standard bearer with over 90% market share. Personal Computers had been around since the late seventies but they were big, extremely expensive and not particularly reliable… so why did it all change?…

As technology improved, computer components became smaller, lighter, faster and cheaper, the PC became affordable and transportable, with a recorded 150 million Personal Computers world-wide by 1993. Before long there was one in every home and they quickly became recreational for learning and gaming. The consequence of this however is that they left ‘connectivity’ behind, the PCs could run their own software with pretty interfaces at top performance, better than what the mainframe could pump through to the ‘dumb terminals’. Mainframes were costly and bulky, there was no chance of having one of these at home or even in a small business so PCs were the new answer to business computing. As well as personal computers, the software industry rocketed, every computer needed the latest software and consequently the demand for IT support went through the roof. These were exciting times, by the end of 80s businesses and consumers could buy PCs running window, portable Laptops and Apple Macs and by the late 90s the internet boomed, giving us dial-up access to email and yahoo. There was new technology for business and new business in technology, everybody had more choice, was more mobile and more productive, exciting times indeed, but they were also very expensive times and had we lost something along the way?…

As a business owner I liked the centralised server, knowing that all the processing was taking place on these powerful mainframes, that all the business information was safe and secure on those servers and not sitting on laptops and home computers all over the world. These centralised servers were expensive but the maintenance costs were predictable, the ‘dumb terminals’ were reliable, didn’t need any setup or maintenance and they lasted forever because all the processing happened on the server. As a business owner my IT was a utility that serviced my business, I could have experts looking after the server and the rest was simple administration…

Over the last decade we have seen immense advancements in internet technology, broadband is more prevalent, faster and more flexible than ever before. With cable, ADSL, Public Wireless and 3G we’re always connected, at speeds that are more than capable of delivering high performance connectivity to centralised servers half way across the world. So has this development had an impact on all these problems we’ve seen with the emergence of personal (de-centralised) computing?…

The answer is yes, in at least two ways. The emergence of broadband has had technology innovators clambering over themselves to take the onus away from software and information running on the PC. Probably the most obvious development is web based software, sometimes described as Software as a Service or Cloud Computing. The aim here is to drive the software from centralised web servers, delivering it securely over the internet to users via a simple web browser. This fantastic way of delivering applications is not without its drawbacks, not least because it is an entirely different way of working than what most people are used to. However I’m not going in to that here, I’m more interested in the other development which is the ‘Hosted Desktop’. Now this technology is not new as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, but where previously it was a nice to have alternative to VPN when you were out the office and a handy administrative tool for an IT professional, now it can be the basis of your entire IT Infrastructure – If you want a picture painted based on a real life scenario check out my other post: The business case for Hosted Desktop.

There are many reasons to opt for a hosted Desktop architecture which I’ll cover in more detail in my next post but for a taster here’s a preview:

1.) Save money because there is no need for
     a. Onsite servers
     b. IT Support contracts
     c. Redundant hardware
     d. Backup systems
     e. Anti-virus
2.) Monthly licensing for all your IT
3.) Scalable per/user pricing
4.) Predictable budgeting for your business IT and support
5.) Increased security on your data
6.) In-build Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

For more information on the Hosted Desktop services SpiderGroup provide take a look at our website on:

Hosted Desktop – Access your Office Anywhere

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