The main benefits to banks of signing up for hosted desktops include increased security, reliability, manageability, and cost-efficiency.
Hosted desktops make it easier to protect your clients’ data and comply with regulations such as GLBA and PCI DSS; are less susceptible to downtime; are relatively easy to manage and maintain (especially when it comes to installing and updating applications); and can reduce your IT hardware and personnel costs.
Hosted desktops are Windows desktop operating systems that you access via the Internet. To begin using them, you have to sign up for them from an IT hosting company such as Iron Orbit. The hosting company will deploy, maintain, and manage the hosted desktops for you on its own servers. You just have to supply your own end-user devices (such as desktop PCs or thin clients) and pay the hosting company a monthly, per-user fee for the service.
If you haven’t heard of hosted desktops before, they’re hardly an unproven IT solution; they’ve been offered by IT hosting companies for more than a decade now, and they’re based on well-established desktop virtualization and cloud hosting technologies from the likes of Microsoft, VMware, and Citrix.
Hosted desktops are fully processed and stored on the servers of the hosting company. They’re similar to web-based or SaaS applications in that they’re just as fast and responsive as a desktop installed on your device’s hard drive, but they don’t store any data on your local hard drive and you access them via a web browser or a remote connection client. The only data that is sent to your device when you access your hosted desktop is the desktop’s video and audio output, and this data is transferred via a secure TLS/SSL encrypted connection.
Most hosting companies, including Iron Orbit, protect their hosted desktops with extensive security measures that go beyond what’s required by regulations such as GLBA and PCI DSS.
Iron Orbit, for example, protects our clients’ hosted desktops with enterprise-grade Cisco firewalls, Palo Alto Networks intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS), Vipre enterprise antivirus, EMC VNX data-at-rest encryption, and 24/7/365 monitoring by CCNP Security, MCSE, and CompTIA Security+-certified engineers. We also protect our datacenters with measures such as barbed wire fencing, locked metal doors, biometric access panels, closed-circuit video surveillance, and 24/7/365 armed onsite security guards.
To protect your data from inappropriate access by our employees, we perform background checks on all of our personnel before hiring them; limit their access to your data to only those situations when it’s absolutely necessary (such as when they need to back up or restore your data); and maintain comprehensive logs of all of their activities whenever they access your hosted desktop deployment.
(Note: You’re not limited in what types of data you can host in the cloud as a bank. Both GLBA and PCI DSS allow you to have a third-party hosting company host your sensitive client data, including payment card information, addresses, and Social Security numbers, as long as your hosting company complies with GLBA and PCI DSS, too.)
Hosted desktops appear and perform the same as locally-installed Windows desktop OSes. They have the same interface as the corresponding Windows desktop OS version (most hosting companies currently offer Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 hosted desktops) and can be used to run any installed application and store files. You can access them from any Internet-connected computer, tablet, smartphone, or thin client, including Apple devices such as Macs, iPads, and iPhones. Each user is assigned to a specific hosted desktop, and that desktop retains all of the user’s applications, files, and settings even after he or she logs out.
Check out the second part of this article to learn how hosted desktops can increase your security, reliability, and manageability and lower your costs.