What is Desktop Virtualization?

Desktop virtualization is a computer process where individual workstations use a central desktop stored on a separate server. This server may have multiple desktop systems for different types of workers, such as a marketing department having a different desktop than tech support, but it doesn’t have individual desktops for each worker. The user can access the desktops anywhere she goes—as long as they workstation she uses to log in is compatible with the client, she can use their desktop anywhere.

With a desktop virtualization process, a central system stores all of the system’s information. This central server contains the hosted operating system and configuration information. If the server hosts multiple desktops, it has a different configuration setup or operating system installed for each one.

Generally, these desktops are very basic. They contain little by way of extra programming or personalized features. Many remote desktop systems allow individuals to save their personal settings on the server along with their desktop. These individual configuration files are usually very basic as well; the majority of systems try to keep desktops as similar as possible.

Saving configuration settings is just the tip of what the server does in a typical desktop virtualization process. They also allow the saving of documents and web histories. This will keep all of the information generated by a workforce in a single, central, location. With the exception of the client side system that allows a person to access the desktops, everything is done completely on the desktop server.

The desktop virtualization client is a piece of software that allows a workstation to talk to the desktop server. These clients are typically very small and will easily fit on removable storage devices. Since it is software that allows the systems to communicate, the hardware compatibility of the two systems is rarely an issue. The virtual desktop uses the hardware settings of the server and simply displays the desktop on the local machine. In addition, since the client is so small, it is often very easy to use it on a computer anywhere there is an Internet connection.

Desktop virtualization has a lot of benefits for an organization—centralized storage, easy upgrades and remote access, just to name a few—but there are several drawbacks. One of the largest problems is their dependency on high-speed Internet systems. Without a high-speed connection, users have significant lag times and the system soon falls apart. In addition, security problems affect every connected system, not just a single person’s machine.