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Some Windows tools to manage the desktop estate

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Desktop Most businesses are pulling their IT team in two directions at the same time. We want instant access to information for improved productivity - and we want regulatory compliance. We want the economies of cloud, virtualisation and managed desktops - and we want business mobility.

We want to get online from the coffee shop, the hotel, the aeroplane and we don't want to wait to go through a virus scan to get access -- but we don't want to leak data or discover all the files we created on the road were lost with the laptop we left in the back of a cab.

Managing desktops in the office can be secure, streamlined and heavily automated, but can you still get a single view of IT assets you need to manage if most of your desktop estate isn't actually a desktop PC or even in the office?

Research firm IDC says that over 30 per cent of workers will be mobile this year, and analyst firm Forrester says mobile PC usage will climb to 43 per cent by the end of 2012. And that's not counting people bringing their own smartphones or laptops to work.

That's nearly half the users you support that won't benefit from classic virtual desktop infrastructure - and who will be complaining loudly if you're trying to keep them connecting over VPNs and making themselves more productive by copying the information you thought was safe behind the firewall.

On average one in ten of those laptops is going to get lost or broken every year. The ones that don't get lost are still more expensive to manage than desktops, and not just because of the cost of data breaches. Most companies - 68 per cent - told Forrester they struggle to manage PCs when they're not physically connected to the corporate network, mainly because of the complexity of connecting to the office network remotely.

This all means your desktop management strategy has to take mobility into account, and it has to give you a combination of flexibility and control that fits your business - and your users.

Virtualization is still a big part of managing the desktop, even when it's a notebook; application and user state virtualisation are even more useful on mobile systems because you can use them for fast remote provisioning if you have to replace a lost or damaged PC without making the user come back into the office.

Roaming profiles and folder redirection put user settings, preferences and files onto their notebook automatically when they log in to a new machine with their existing user account, and the client-side caching for user data and profiles in Windows 7 stops that from slowing things down because they don't have to get it over the network every time they log in.

Virtualised apps can stream onto the PC in the same way and with technologies like App-V, users don’t have to be online to use the app once it’s streamed - and you can manage them and push updates from the same System Center tools where you manage desktops and servers.

Offline files give users access to key documents from file shares and document libraries when they’re not connected by VPN and, if you have an IPv6 infrastructure and Windows Server 2008 R2, you can do away with hard to manage, painful to use VPNs by setting up DirectAccess.

That makes sense, together with the shift away from assuming a firewall is enough to secure company data and towards information-centric security; you can use roles, rights management, data leakage prevention tools and encryption to control which files and applications can only be used on the internal network and which can be copied onto mobile computers as long as they’re secured there.

You can also keep inappropriate file types like music and video from being synced back to the servers from user machines; giving users the flexibility they need doesn’t mean giving up all your control. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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