Recently the US Navy announced that they would start a 7,500 seat virtual desktop deployment next month as a way to lower IT and maintenance costs.
The implementation leverages zero client laptops connected to desktop images streamed from regional data centres. The advantage of this type of deployment is not just the savings from lower priced hardware, but administrative costs and extra staffing required to maintain them. But there is a bigger advantage for governments who want to follow in these footsteps.
The enhanced security benefits, on top of the ease of administering these types of systems is a critical driving force behind the adoption of virtual desktop deployments in government. Firstly, because the new laptops have no operating system, the need to update, upgrade and manage content is practically eliminated. Additionally, without USB ports or CD drives, the risk of data loss is reduced significantly, and because the operating systems are hosted centrally, in the even of theft the risk of personal data loss is less than with traditional devices.
On the administration side, since images can be standardized depending on job functions, the complexity of managing applications is reduced. The images can be deployed across multiple platforms including smartphones and tablets, or more notably on home computers using secured authentication controls. IT and Security departments also control the applications that are available to end users, making systems more efficient and eliminating the risk of unsupported and potentially harmful applications being installed by end users.
From a content management perspective, government adoption of virtual desktop models would provide more stringent controls over data usage as data would only be accessible during the remote session, not on the systems themselves. This is key since the number one risk of sensitive data leakage is caused by theft of computer systems. By keeping data centrally located, there is no risk of files being copied locally for offline editing or viewing, and the need for large hard drive storage is no longer required. For industries such as the government, where data must be controlled under strict regulations, the ability to eliminate the risk of data leakage is a key benefit of implementing this type of cloud-based model.
While virtual desktop models are still in early phases of adoption, and there are still barriers to full implementation, it’s promising to see government agencies recognize the benefits that these types of models provide. Not just from a cost savings perspective, but as a way to introduce new security models and flexibility in end user experiences.