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Dtop Strategy Tomorrow's desktop is mobile. It's a phone, a smart device of some sort, a laptop - and there will of course be some fixed PCs in there too. But enterprises already need to cater for an increasing proportion of mobile workers, and that proportion is set to grow.

The challenge is not just how to deliver enterprise-level services to those individuals across an increasingly diverse set of hardware and network platforms, it's also to improve their experience and enhance their productivity. That's what desktop management is increasingly becoming: the art of delivering the right set of services to the right people at the right time.

Additionally, desktop estates are ageing as a the result of a combination of reduced spending during the recession and a reluctance to move away from Windows XP. The consequence is often increased spending on maintenance, and other perhaps more hidden costs as users find ways around using their company desktops, which are now perceived as near-obsolete, while IT picks up the costs.

So refreshing the desktop estate is now climbing the priority lists in many organisations and with research into enterprise buying patterns suggesting that Windows 7 is now becoming the chosen corporate desktop OS, this will help to realign users' PC experience at home with that of their office desktop.

On top of that challenge - and no one should underestimate the size of the undertaking - is the need for greater mobility and productivity. So as well as constant access to the corporate network and, through that, to the internet as appropriate, IT needs to support a wider range of devices than ever before.

Desktop virtualisation is one of the technologies that can help. It allows IT managers to stream applications to the right people, and allows the processing load to be borne by centralised servers rather than mobile devices, many of which are good for email and web browsing but can support little else.

For those with more capable devices, virtualisation technology allows laptops to be used at home while connected to a home network, without the danger of the desktop becoming compromised by a less secure environment. It also allows applications and the OS to be fully managed so that they're kept up to date, for example. And the resulting smaller footprint resulting from limited local storage of applications means lighter updates, which can be key over slow links.

Taking virtualisation a step further, if the entire desktop is virtualised, it means the desktop gold image, with no hardware dependencies, can be standardised across a much wider range of client hardware, reducing the costs of application and driver compatibility testing and allowing older applications to run in a suitable environment. All this speeds up the desktop roll-out, so reducing costs of both the roll-out process and of having to maintain older desktops for longer.

As an alternative to virtualisation, a thin client to which is streamed a live desktop that's running on a server in the datacentre can be appropriate for many users, especially task workers. In this scenario, the client can be very lightweight, reducing hardware costs but not incurring costs such as additional end-user training, since the end user experience will already be familiar.

Whichever way you deliver the desktop, for IT to give users a responsive, modern desktop experience is a critical element not just in increasing productivity and cutting costs, but also enhancing the reputation of the IT services teams, resulting in an improved relationship with end users. This in itself results in other benefits - not least among them an easier ride when negotiating the annual budget. ®

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