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Updated Mar 06, 2024

What Is Workspace Virtualization (And Does Your Business Need It?)

Workspace virtualization is the technical capacity to support remote work. Does your business need a workspace virtualization plan?

Sara Angeles
Sara Angeles, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
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Workspace virtualization is a necessity in today’s modern working world, where remote and hybrid work arrangements are the norm. For employees, workspace virtualization means the same experience no matter what device or location they sign in from, and for IT managers, it means streamlined tracking and management of employee devices. But does your small business need a workspace virtualization strategy? And if so, how should you go about implementing one? Read on to learn more. 

What is workspace virtualization?

Workspace virtualization refers to the process of creating a virtual desktop for users so they can log in on any device and from any location and still have the same experience. This is useful for remote and hybrid workers, helping them stay productive by providing a single, expected user experience no matter when or where they sign in to work. 

One example is desktop virtualization, in which a user’s full Windows workstation can be run from the data center, rather than from a single PC. Such is the case at a hospital or clinic, where a doctor can receive a patient’s record in their office, close their session and resume it from a tablet in an exam room. [Read related article: Virtualization vs. Cloud Computing: What’s the Difference?]

Similarly, workspace virtualization can extend beyond desktops to all the devices that a small business uses. It can apply to tools such as virtual private networks (VPNs), chat applications like Slack, email applications like Microsoft Outlook, and more. Virtualization provides one consistent experience for employees and IT managers so they can get the job done more efficiently.

TipTip
With workspace virtualization, a business can host everything an employee needs for their work in a data center. This allows an employee to log in and access their desktop environment, along with all data and applications, from any physical device.

What are the benefits of workspace virtualization?

Workspace virtualization offers several benefits, such as greater IT efficiency, reduced costs and a better employee experience. 

Greater IT efficiency

Workspace virtualization provides greater efficiency for IT administrators because it streamlines the management of devices while meeting employee expectations.

“Workspace virtualization centrally manages the key elements of a user’s computing experience,” said Sean Donahue, lead account director at Ivanti, an IT solutions provider. It ensures that users have the right mix of IT services based on key elements, such as their location and devices, he said.

It also simplifies IT management for all users so IT personnel don’t have to tend to individual machines. “By centrally managing the personalization, data and settings separately from the underlying operating systems, devices and delivery platforms, IT is able to reduce the complexity often associated with managing users,” Donahue said.

Workspace virtualization can have a major impact when it comes to changing operating systems (OSs). For instance, with Microsoft ending support for Windows XP, companies that have workspace virtualization in place have likely already migrated successfully, Donahue said. “That’s because one of the largest challenges of a migration is restoring a user’s personalization and settings, which, in many cases, must be manually reconfigured when changing OS or devices.” 

However, with workspace virtualization, when a user logs in to a new device or updated OS, all of their settings and customizations will be applied automatically, Donahue noted. “To a user, the migration is seamless, and because of that, the barrage of service-desk calls often associated with a major migration project [is] extremely limited because the experience is familiar and users can continue working as usual.” 

The same holds true for other infrastructure changes, thus making the process much faster and more cost-effective, Donahue said.

Did You Know?Did you know
Workspace virtualization allows IT personnel to test out system changes or updates on a test virtual machine before rolling it out to the wider company. After confirming an update doesn’t break anything, IT personnel can roll out the change to employee virtual machines easily without any employee interaction.

Reduced costs

Workspace virtualization can also lower IT costs for small businesses. It offers not only a platform for centralized management of many resources, but also standardization of equipment and services. This results in reduced IT personnel overhead, as they no longer have to support as many desktop or laptop machines, which can be taxing on a small IT staff.

Workspace virtualization also lets businesses have a mobile and agile workforce, which can reduce the cost of office space.

Better employee experience

Workspace virtualization also benefits small businesses because it improves employees’ satisfaction with the company’s technology, including the devices themselves and the benefits of anytime, anywhere access. If a user prefers one experience on their system at the office, for example, and they’ve customized it accordingly, workspace virtualization means they can access that same experience on their devices at home without having to manually customize it all over again.

How does a business know if it needs workspace virtualization?

Although workspace virtualization offers many benefits to small businesses, it’s not the right solution for every company. A small business’s decision whether to employ workspace virtualization depends on individual requirements, such as the number and type of users and IT capabilities. [Read related article: The Pros and Cons of Virtualization

“Complexity is a major driver for implementing workspace virtualization technologies,” Donahue said. “In most cases, as a small business grows past a few hundred users, meeting those users’ expectations can grow more challenging.”

Workspace virtualization for remote and hybrid work

There is also the issue of remote workers, for whom businesses may be looking at desktop virtualization solutions that offer flexibility, he said. “In most cases, the added personalization and security benefits that workspace virtualization can offer for these deployments make the investment worthwhile.”

TipTip
If your business doesn’t have dedicated IT staff, or is seeking to free up personnel for other duties, an IT managed service provider (MSP) might be a good fit for you. An MSP can handle a variety of operations, including setting up workspace virtualization.

Workspace virtualization for IT management

IT strategy is also increasingly being driven by the need to keep users satisfied and productive, Donahue said. Workspace virtualization can help businesses that fall into this category. “IT departments that are having trouble keeping up with the demand from users can use workspace virtualization as a springboard for improving how IT services are managed.”

This is especially the case for small businesses with limited IT staff and budget. [Read related article: What Is SaaS (Software as a Service)?]

Drawbacks of workplace virtualization

Transitioning from a legacy system to a virtualized one comes with significant upfront costs. Expect to invest upwards of $10,000 for servers and software licenses. However, as virtualization technology advances and becomes more widespread, costs are expected to decrease.

It’s important to note that not all hardware or software can be easily virtualized. Some servers and applications may not be compatible with virtualization. The primary reason for not virtualizing a server or application is often due to lack of support or recommendation from the application vendor.

While more software applications are becoming compatible with virtualization, there can be licensing complications related to multiple hosts and migrations. To avoid performance issues and licensing conflicts, it’s crucial to ensure that your essential applications are suitable for a virtualized environment before proceeding.

It’s tempting to add servers indiscriminately in a virtualized environment, but it’s important to remember the goal of resource efficiency. Being able to create servers effortlessly can lead to inefficient resource allocation.

It’s also important to watch out for “server sprawl,” where administrators start adding servers for every task, resulting in an overwhelming number of servers to manage. Instead of streamlining operations, this can become a burden for your team to manage effectively.

Workspace virtualization could improve business processes

Digital technology brings with it a lot of capabilities for businesses, as well as significant challenges. Not only is the employee’s user experience (UX) critical – a bad UX means reduced productivity and morale – but the IT manager’s ability to coordinate, track and manage technology is also vital. Workspace virtualization helps streamline both UX and IT management, giving businesses the opportunity to simplify their technological needs and get back to driving results. If you’re running into user experience issues or your IT team is finding it increasingly difficult to manage the devices connecting to your network, it may be time to think about workspace virtualization for your business.

Tejas Vemparala and Jeremy Bender contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Sara Angeles
Sara Angeles, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Sara Angeles is passionate about the startup stage of the business lifecycle and equipping new entrepreneurs with the resources they need to get off the ground. She has spent years guiding new business owners toward the technology, particularly SaaS tools, required to run a business. Today, she is especially focused on connecting new business operators with experienced startup founders for a valuable mentorship arrangement. Angeles also spends extensive time working in software development and sales, and is the first recipient of Uvaro's Women of Color in Tech Scholarship. She has been published in Fox Business, Yahoo! News, Mashable and other outlets.
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