TL;DR: Soon the "desktop" will be an interface served to a range of PCs and devices from a central location that's as likely to be in the cloud as it is to be in a company's IT department. Obviously, such ubiquity has the potential to be an automatic disaster-recovery option. But cloud-based virtual clients are good for much more than catastrophe avoidance.
There's no getting around the market trends: Sales of tablets and big-screen phones are growing, in part at the expense of desktop and laptop PCs. Gartner forecasts that "traditional" PC sales will drop from 296 million units in 2013 to 276 million in 2014 and 262 million in 2015. The company also projects that tablet sales will increase more than 25 percent in 2014, to 256 million units from the 207 million sold in 2013.
Does this foretell the imminent demise of the PC as we know it? Hardly. As The Motley Fool's Tim Brugger writes in an October 16, 2014, article, there's still plenty of money to be made in selling desktop PCs. And Apple appears to be leading the way, at least in terms of market-share growth (along with Lenovo).
On the other hand, the market for virtual desktops and desktop as a service (DaaS) is expected to boom -- and nearly all the desktops being virtualized run Windows, as Computerweekly's Janakiram MSV reports in an October 23, 2013, article. Janakiram identifies five DaaS deployment models:
- Presentation virtualization includes remote desktop hosted sessions (RDHS) and terminal services; it is the most popular form on the public cloud.
- Desktop virtualization is the original virtual desktop infrastructure; desktops are provisioned via a hypervisor, usually in a traditional IT environment.
- Application virtualization streams app interfaces to devices; the apps are executed on the server, so only the interface is rendered on the client.
- Personal desktops can be customized by users in terms of app settings, interface, and file management.
- Pooled desktops are reset at the end of each session and operate as public kiosks for visitors, temporary workers, and other unauthorized users.
A five-point plan for DaaS-based disaster recovery
One application in particular is getting a lot of attention as a good fit for DaaS: disaster recovery. The most obvious benefit of such a model is not having to maintain one or more remote hot sites to which your organization's networks can attach in the event of a long-term, widespread outage. TechTarget's Gabe Knuth points out in an October 2014 article that implementing a DaaS scheme only for disaster recovery squanders much of what the technology has to offer.
Knuth outlines a typical implementation strategy for setting up DaaS for disaster recovery:
- Connect desktops to backend services;
- Integrate authentication;
- Decide where to store your replicated data;
- Sign up for a reliable client-deployment service;
- Make sure the service has a good uptime record so it will be available when you need it.
That last line item is where the BitCan cloud storage service shines. A quick check of the service's uptime log indicates that it has run at 100 percent over the past 7 days, and was at 99.99 percent for the month of October.
BitCan lets you set and schedule backups in just seconds via a simple point-and-click interface. You can back up heterogeneous MySQL and MongoDB databases, as well as Unix/Linux systems and files. The communication and storage layers are encrypted, and your backups are retained forever on reliable Amazon S3 servers. Visit the BitCan site for pricing information and to sign up for a free 30-day trial account.
As appealing a notion as DaaS can be for IT managers, the technology faces some sizable hurdles, particularly in enterprises. Computerworld's Nancy Gohring explains in an October 27, 2014, article that in addition to performance and regulatory concerns, many big businesses run into problems with Windows licensing rules. However, analysts are confident that the obstacles to DaaS adoption will be relatively easy to overcome, especially when you consider the money DaaS can save companies in hardware and management costs.