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What is a Hosted Desktop?

“Hosting” in the computing world refers to outsourcing IT services to a third party so that they look after those services on your behalf. The most common example is for company web sites, it generally doesn’t make commercial sense for a business to run their own servers just for one web site when they can ask a professional outfit to “host” them.  Thereby taking advantage of the economies of scale that the hosting company can offer, as well as their expertise ensuring the web site is stable and secure.   Companies also don’t want the risk and hassle of having their own internet facing web server running in their office 24/7, and having to put in the sort of high availability measures required to make sure the server is never down.

Hosted Desktops work in very much the same way.  With a Hosted Desktop solution, a cloud computing company will look after the server that is running the desktop, manage all the day to day functions and fix things if they go wrong.


So, what is a Hosted Desktop?

When people run software applications they traditionally run them on their local Windows desktop PCs. Applications such as Microsoft Office, or Accounting systems, Payroll systems, Customer databases (CRM), Stock Control, and so on. Very often these “desktop” applications rely on some shared data, information that everyone in the business accesses and contributes to, stored in a central location. This may be Word and Excel documents in a shared folder, or records in a database.   For the last 30 odd years this information would typically be held on a computer in the business premises called a “server” or sometimes referred to as a “file server”.

With the prevalence of remote working over recent years the ability to get to that shared data on the office server has become a challenge. Employees in a business are now much more familiar with “cloud based” applications, programs they can run in a web browser or on an app on their phones and tablets. But some applications don’t work that way, they rely on the Windows operating system and the computing power of desktop PCs and database servers in a central location, so this is where a Hosted Desktop solution comes in. A Hosted Desktop enables people to use cloud computing run these “desktop” applications “in the cloud” by putting both the desktop and the shared data on hosted Windows servers and enable the users to connect to them remotely.


How does a Hosted Desktop work?

With a normal PC you can only have one person working on it at once, there is only one keyboard, mouse and monitor.  Hosted Desktops work slightly differently, they use a Windows Server Operating System feature called Remote Desktop Services, once known as Terminal Services.  Remote Desktop Services allows lots of people to connect to a computer over a network and run applications on that computer at the same time.  Each user running in their own secure bubble called a session.

With the increases in Internet speeds over the last 10 – 15 years it has become possible for people to connect to these remote desktop servers over an internet connection.  In fact, even on a relatively slow connection people can run applications on Hosted Desktops with the same speed and responsiveness that they would expect if running on their normal PC.

Hosted Desktop providers use technology called “server virtualisation” to run lots of “virtual” remote desktop servers on powerful “physical” servers running in commercial data centres.   Using economies of scale to provide Hosted Desktops for thousands of users at a very low price.

The remote desktop server can also play the role of the file server or database server that was running in the office as well as running the desktop sessions for all the users.  This means that businesses can run their desktop-based applications coupled with all their shared files and databases all on Hosted Desktops.  People can now work anywhere over the internet and enjoy the same speed and usability that they would if sitting in the office.

You may be familiar with the term Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).  Although at a strict technical level most Hosted Desktop solutions use slightly different technology that VDI, the experience of the users is the same and usually at a lower cost than local Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.


What are the benefits of a Hosted Desktop?

There are many benefits of using Hosted Desktops instead of using a local server, here’s just some of them:

  • Connect to applications and data from anywhere in the world using an internet connection.
  • Ideal for small businesses with multiple branches or where employees are remote working.
  • Make any Windows desktop application cloud based.
  • Run traditional Windows desktop applications by connecting to them remotely from non-Windows devices including Apple Mac or iOS devices, Android devices and even Google Chromebooks
  • Remove the requirement to have a server located in the office and all the associated support, maintenance, upgrade, and replacement costs.
  • Enjoy a completely managed service where the remote desktop server is supported and maintained by the Hosted Desktop provider including all the patching, antivirus, daily backups to protect against data loss, and most importantly, fixing things if they ever go wrong, all as part of the service.
  • Meet data security compliance obligations.
  • Enjoy fixed monthly costs
  • Run IT from your OPEX budget and dramatically reduce your CAPEX spending


Are Hosted Desktops secure?

Hosted Desktop providers will put in a number of data security measures to protect your applications and data.  These include minimum daily backups of databases, documents and files as well as enterprise grade firewalls and web filters to reduce the risk of data loss from hacking.   When looking for a Hosted Desktop provider make sure that the provider and the commercial data centre they use are certified to ISO 27001 for their Information Security Management System.

Hosted Desktop providers will also have a number of disaster recovery measures to ensure high availability, expect an uptime guarantee of at least 99.5%


Are Hosted Desktops cost effective?

For many small businesses the cost of Hosted Desktops will work out cheaper than running their own on-premise servers.  Especially when you consider that there are no upgrade costs when server operating systems go out of support, no unexpected costs if hardware fails, and no unplanned costs if something untoward happens to the hosted server as in the vast majority of cases any issues will be fixed by the hosted desktop provider.


How do I find out more?

Get in touch using the form below to discuss how you can work remotely using Hosted Desktops or call us on 01282 500318.

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