Day: September 1, 2016

The Benefits of Hosted Desktops for Colleges

Did you know that hosted desktops for colleges can decrease IT costs and increase the manageability, accessibility, flexibility, and security of their IT?

Hosted desktops are Windows desktop operating systems (usually Windows 7 or 8.1) that are installed and maintained on the servers of an IT hosting company. Users can easily access a hosted desktop via the Internet from a computer, tablet, smartphone, or thin client.

As with locally-installed Windows desktop OSes, you can use hosted desktops to install and run any Windows-compatible application. In most cases, each user is assigned to a specific hosted desktop, and this desktop retains all of the user’s files, applications, and settings, even after he or she logs out.

Is it worth the investment?

Usually, you pay the hosting company a monthly, per-user fee for your hosted desktop.

Some hosting companies also include IT management and support services with their hosted desktops. The support services include 24/7 technical support, security and performance monitoring, malware scanning, patch management and managed data backups.

Take note that the hosting company will continually update all of the software on your hosted desktops for you, including the OS and all of the PC applications.

For growing businesses with a primary focus on growth, using hosted desktops is definitely an advantage.

Most colleges use hosted desktops in the following ways:

  • Faculty and staff use them as their primary work desktop.
  • They use them instead of locally-installed operating systems in computer labs.
  • Hosted desktops provide students with access to certain applications that they need to be able to complete their coursework. Especially applications that they might not be able to afford on their own, such as the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, the Microsoft Office suite, and STEM applications like MATLAB and SPSS.

What are the main benefits of hosted desktops for colleges?

  1. They can decrease your IT costs

With hosted desktops, colleges don’t have to purchase any expensive onsite IT hosting hardware such as servers or storage arrays, and they don’t have to hire any additional IT personnel to manage them.

Hosted desktops are easily accessible from low-cost devices such as refurbished PCs or thin clients. They require less maintenance (since they don’t have hard drives or locally-installed operating systems) and are much more energy efficient than standard PCs.

In addition, users can securely access them from their personal devices. This means that the college doesn’t need to spend money on student devices. As an effect, colleges reduce their spending on computer labs.

  1. They are easy to manage

Hosted desktops are relatively easy to monitor, protect, update, troubleshoot, and back up. This is because they’re software-defined assets and are centralized onto a relatively small number of interconnected servers.

In addition, some hosting providers will handle many IT management and support tasks of the hosted desktops themselves.

  1. Easily accessible from anywhere, with any device 

Where there is an internet connection, you can access hosted desktops with any device. Whether you’re using a laptop, desktop, tablet, or a mobile phone.

This allows faculty and staff to access their work-related files and applications no matter where they are. It also allows students to access important resources no matter where they are. Whether they’re in class, at a computer lab, in their dorm room, or somewhere off campus.

  1. Easy to deploy, expand, and downsize 

You can quickly and easily add any amount of desktops, processing power, and storage capacity to your hosted desktop deployment at any time.

Downsizing or decommissioning your deployment is easy. But, the best thing about it is that you no longer have to deal with a pile of useless, expensive hardware.

The flexibility of this service makes it easier for colleges to adjust their IT as courses, faculty, and students change from one semester to the next.

  1. They are highly secure

Hosted desktops are highly secure. The data remains on the hosting provider’s servers at all times. The centralization of this data makes it easier to protect and prevents data loss from occurring. 

Plus, malware infections are easier to isolate and remove from hosted desktops than they are physical PCs.

To sign up for hosted desktops, colleges should contact their preferred IT hosting provider.

Decrease Downtime with the Cloud

One of the main benefits of cloud computing is that it’s more reliable than traditional in-house, onsite IT—reliable meaning that it is more consistently available and experiences less downtime and data loss. This is mainly because cloud providers can afford to implement more advanced reliability-assurance measures.

The main benefit of increased reliability, meanwhile, is that it helps you to prevent extremely expensive and disruptive downtime and data loss incidents.

Downtime is when an IT asset (such as a PC, storage drive, server, router, or application) or service (such as a cloud-hosted application) isn’t working correctly and cannot be accessed or used. Data loss, as you would expect, is when data is permanently lost, as when a storage drive that is not backed up fails or is infected with a cryptovirus.

Downtime and Data Loss Cost

cloud downtime cost

Downtime can result in lost productivity, lost sales, and lost customers. It can be especially expensive and disruptive if the asset or service is relied upon by many employees or customers, such as a CRM, PoS system, or e-commerce system.

Data loss can be expensive and disruptive, too, depending on what type of data is involved. Data that can be expensive to lose includes:

  • Internal documentation (training manuals, policies and procedures, etc.)
  • Sales and marketing documents
  • Financial records
  • Customer records
  • IT settings files
  • IT logs
  • Product designs/blueprints
  • Internally-developed code

Consequences of data loss include wasting all the time and effort that went into the creation of the data, investing more time and effort in recreating the data, productivity loss as a result of employees not having all of the data necessary to do their jobs, upset and/or lost customers due to the delays or inconveniences caused by the data loss, and lawsuits, fines, and/or criminal prosecution for the loss of sensitive data such as financial records, customers’ personal information, and healthcare patient records.

According to recent studies, downtime costs businesses an average of $7,900 per minute, or more than $450,000 per hour, and costs all businesses in North America $700 billion every year. Data loss, meanwhile, is estimated to cost US businesses $18.2 billion per year, and enterprises around the world $1.7 trillion per year.

How to Prevent Downtime

maintain cloud uptime

There are two main ways to prevent downtime and data loss.

One is to purchase IT assets and services that have a reputation for being reliable. To find out if an IT asset or services is reliable or not, you can try asking around, searching the web, and/or thinking about which assets or services that you’ve found to be the most reliable in the past (perhaps you’ve purchased many Dell PCs and found them to be more reliable than other PC brands, for example).

You will want to do more to protect yourself from downtime and data loss than just purchasing reliable IT assets and services, however, since even the most reliable assets and services can fail sometimes or be affected by forces outside of their control (for example, even a perfectly-reliable Dell PC can be stolen, accidentally dropped, or destroyed in a flood or fire).

The other main way to prevent downtime and data loss is to make all of the important aspects of your IT redundant—ensuring that there is at least one extra unit of each important aspect of your IT than is necessary for your IT to function normally. Some examples of redundancies include:

  • Backing up your data
  • Purchasing spare hardware (including PCs, keyboards, mice, monitors, routers, switches, servers, and storage devices), and either keeping them close at hand so you can quickly replace failed hardware with them, or integrating them into a fault-tolerant architecture so that IT workloads are automatically transferred to them after the other hardware fails
  • Signing up for and maintaining Internet access with two or more Internet service providers (ISPs) at the same time
  • Signing up for electrical power from two or more different power companies at the same time
  • Purchasing, installing, and maintaining uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) and diesel backup generators

These redundancies ensure that even if an important component of your IT fails, you will be able quickly to replace it with an identical component, minimizing your downtime; or your IT will be able to switch over to the backup component immediately and automatically, which will prevent downtime altogether.

How the Cloud Decreases Downtime

cloud uptime statistics

Now, as we mentioned at the top, the main reason that cloud computing is more reliable than in-house, onsite IT is that cloud providers can afford to implement more advanced reliability-assurance measures.

And the reasons that this is that case include:

  • That they can host the solutions of multiple customers on shared, singular units of hardware, with shared redundancies
  • That because IT hosting involves a lot of automation and doesn’t require a lot of direct human intervention, they can host, maintain, and support the IT solutions of hundreds or thousands of businesses with a relatively small staff
  • Because of their IT specialization and economies of scale
  • Because they can get discounts on hardware, software, bandwidth, and electrical power because they buy in bulk.

As a result, cloud providers can afford to purchase advanced, custom-built, highly-reliable IT hardware and software, and make all of the most important aspects of their IT at least N+1 redundant, while still providing hosted IT solutions at a lower cost than it would take businesses to install and maintain them onsite.