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Virtual Desktop

August 8, 2012

What is a virtual desktop?

So you’ve found yourself asking, “what is a virtual desktop?” Well let me clear that up for you with this short post that explains the basics of what a virtual desktop actually is. And don’t worry about having technical jargon thrown at you left, right and centre because this post is for those who have little technical knowledge when it comes to virtual desktops. Virtual desktops are not to be confused with hosted desktops, but fortunately for you we have covered that already in another post.

So what is a virtual desktop?
Think of your PC or Mac; it has enough computing resources in order to run that single machine, that single installation of an operating system (Windows 7), with one hard drive to use as storage and all your applications are installed on that single machine. This is how it has always been since the dawn of personal computing, one operating system tied down to one machine with enough hardware to run that one operating system.

Welcome to the Winception

Before you Google “Winception” I should tell you that I coined the term based on the incredibly confusing movie, “Inception.”

So let’s journey into the Winception. The operating system is completely reliant on its hardware. Bearing that in mind, what if you were to have an installation of Windows 7 within an installation of Windows? A separate fresh copy that has a fresh storage location and no applications you have installed previously, seemingly a brand new computer. This fresh copy is what is known as a virtual desktop and I will explain why.

Because the virtual desktop relies on the main operating system in order to utilize the hardware of the machine and the main operating system relies on the hardware to function, we call this new installation a ‘virtual desktop’ because it does not have the physical reliance as much as the main operating system does.

Learn to share

Now we have the hardware of the machine and two installations of operating systems that both need to use a certain amount of the hardware. Now say we gave each installation an equal 50-50 share of the hardware, the performance of each installation is going to be decreased right? So the only logical way to have two operating systems that have great performance is to increase the hardware capacity to support the operating systems.

Why would I want a virtual desktop?

Let me provide a scenario to use an example.

Your company hires a new employee that will do all his work on a laptop but on his first day there had been a mix up and he will now have to wait a week to get his new laptop for work. In the mean time he uses a spare laptop that is of low performance to say the least. This leaves a sour taste in the excited mouth of the new employee.

But what if your company had its own virtual desktops with everything he needs already installed and access to the company’s storage? He could then bring in any device of his choice, connect to the network and run his virtual desktop from his device. He would then have everything he needs straight away without having to wait a week or work on a frustrating old laptop.

How can I run a virtual desktop?

A couple of ways to do this is by buying a computer that has the hardware capacity to support virtual desktops, upgrade your existing computer or utilize the cloud by placing these virtual desktops on servers that have massive amounts of hardware capacity. Utilizing the cloud allows your whole company to enjoy the benefits of virtual desktops from anywhere, at anytime and from any device.

And that brings us to the end of ‘What is a virtual desktop?’ I hope you now have a better understanding of what a virtual desktop is but if you still have questions un-answered then feel free to ask me anything, no matter how technical I will be more than happy to answer.

Benjamin Linden

Benjamin Linden

System engineer at 404 who is incredibly passionate about cloud technology. Primarily interested in VDI, hosted VDI, SaaS and the consumerisation of IT. I write to help businesses make educated decision's when considering a cloud based solution.

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