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How Colleges Can Benefit from Hosted Desktops

Hosted desktops can benefit higher-ed institutions by decreasing their IT costs and increasing the manageability, accessibility, flexibility, and security of their IT.

Hosted desktops, as we’ve explained before, are (usually Windows) desktop operating systems that are installed and maintained on the servers of an IT hosting company and accessed by users via the Internet from a computer, tablet, or smartphone. These hosted desktops appear and perform the same as locally-installed desktop operating systems. In most cases, each user is assigned to a specific hosted desktop, and this desktop retains all of the user’s files, applications, and settings, even after he or she logs out.

These desktops are completely processed and stored on the hosting company’s servers. For the most part, when a user accesses the hosted desktop, the only data sent to his or her device are the video and audio output of his or her hosted desktop, and the only data the user sends back to the hosting company’s servers are his or her keyboard strokes and mouse clicks. As a result, hosted desktops are actually faster and more responsive than the average physical/local PC, and their centralization makes them easier to manage and secure.

In most cases, you pay the hosting company a monthly, per-user fee for your hosted desktop. Some hosting companies also include IT management and support services with their hosted desktops, including 24/7 technical support, security and performance monitoring, malware scanning, patch management (the hosting company will continually update all of the software on your hosted desktops for you, including the OS and all of the applications), and managed data backups.

The three main uses of hosted desktops for higher-ed institutions are to provide them to faculty and staff as their primary work desktop; to use them instead of locally-installed operating systems in computer labs; and provide students with access to applications they need to complete their coursework.

The main benefits of utilizing hosted desktops in these ways include:

Decreased costs. Hosted desktops don’t require the purchase of any expensive onsite IT hosting hardware, such as servers or storage arrays. They also don’t require the hiring of any additional IT personnel to manage them. They can be accessed from low-cost devices such as refurbished PCs or thin clients (which also require less maintenance and are much more energy efficient than standard PCs). In addition, users can securely access them from their personal devices, which don’t have to be purchased or maintained at all by the college.

Increased manageability. Because they’re software-defined assets and are centralized onto a relatively small number of interconnected servers, hosted desktops are relatively easy to monitor, protect, update, troubleshoot, and back up. In addition, your hosting provider may handle many IT management and support tasks themselves.

Increased accessibility. Hosted desktops can be accessed from anywhere with any Internet-connected computer, tablet, smartphone, or thin client by default. This allows faculty and staff to access their work-related files and applications no matter where they are. It also allows students to access important resources no matter where they are, whether they’re in class, at a computer lab, in their dorm room, or somewhere off campus. Many high-ed institutions use hosted desktops to provide students with temporary, semester-to-semester access to applications that they wouldn’t be able to afford on their own, including the Abode Creative Cloud suite, the Microsoft Office suite, and applications for engineers, scientists, and mathematicians such as MATLAB and SPSS.

Increased flexibility. You can quickly and easily add any amount of users, desktops, processing power, and storage capacity to your hosted desktop deployment at any time. You can also downsize or decommission your deployment at any time without being stuck with a bunch of useless servers and storage arrays. The flexibility of hosted desktops makes it easier for higher-ed institutions to frequently and rapidly adjust their IT as their IT requirements change from one semester to another.

Increased security. By default, hosted desktop data remains on the hosting provider’s servers at all times. The centralization of this data makes it easier to protect. It also prevents data loss from occurring as a result of the theft of users’ devices. Furthermore, malware infections are easier to isolate on and remove from hosted desktops than they are physical PCs.

To sign up for hosted desktops, higher-ed institutions should contact their preferred IT hosting provider.