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Hosted Desktops vs. Traditional In-House IT: Which Is Better?

Hosted desktops are more accessible, convenient, cost-efficient, secure, and reliable than traditional in-house IT.

“Traditional in-house IT” is the average IT setup of a business that purchases and manages all of its own IT hardware and software, and whose IT assets are all located onsite, meaning inside one or more of the company’s offices. These businesses do not use any hosted IT solutions, which are IT assets that are set up and managed by another business (an IT hosting provider or a cloud hosting provider), paid for on a monthly, yearly, or per-use basis, and accessed via the internet.

Hosted desktops, meanwhile, are hosted IT solutions that appear and perform the same as Windows desktop operating systems installed on a desktop PC. As a hosted solution, they are installed, processed, and stored on an IT hosting company’s servers, and you pay for them on a monthly, yearly, or per-use basis and access them via the internet from any compatible computer, tablet, smartphone, or thin client.

You can do anything with a hosted desktop that you can do with a Windows PC, including install and run applications, browse the internet, send and receive emails, and save and open files. Hosted desktops are versatile enough that they can replace an entire in-house IT setup (since Windows applications, email, and file storage are the only IT assets needed by many businesses), with companies only having to obtain their own end-user devices and some type of internet access—though of course they can also be used to supplement any existing IT setup without completely replacing it, if a business only wants certain types of users to use them (remote workers and employees with access to extremely important or sensitive documents, for example).

The advantages of hosted desktops over traditional in-house IT include:

They allow users to access their work applications and files from anywhere and with any device. With traditional in-house IT, users can usually only access their work applications and files from a desktop PC at their office. With hosted desktops, however, users can access all of their applications and files from any location where they have internet access with any computer, tablet, smartphone, or thin client. This allows employees to do their work on their preferred device (a personal iPad or laptop instead of a desktop PC, for example). It also allows employees to access their work applications and files when they’re away from the office—e.g., after they’ve gone home for the day, if they work from home full-time, or they’re on a business trip or providing services out in the field.

They free up businesses from having to manage their own IT assets. If you replace your entire in-house IT setup with hosted desktops, you no longer have to set up, manage, and maintain IT assets like terminal/application servers, email servers, and file servers. You may also not have to worry about upgrading, protecting, and backing up your IT assets or providing technical support to your users if you select a hosted desktop provider like Iron Orbit includes these management services (patch management, data security, data backups, and 24x7 technical support) with all of its hosted solutions.

They are more cost-efficient. If you have a traditional in-house IT setup, you will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to replace all of your servers, storage devices, and desktops every 3-5 years, which is the average lifespan of IT hardware. With hosted desktops, however, maintaining, repairing, and replacing servers and storage devices are solely the responsibilities of the hosting provider. In addition, because hosted desktops are fully-processed and -stored on the hosting provider’s servers and not on the end-users’ devices, businesses can equip their users with low-cost end-user devices like thin clients and refurbished PCs instead of mid-range to high-end PCs, and keep them in service for longer than the normal 3-5 years, without affecting performance.

They are more secure. Hosted desktops can prevent users from saving their files to the hard drives of their devices, where they might be more vulnerable to hacking if the devices lack the protection of the hosting provider’s servers. Hosted desktops also prevent data loss from occurring as a result of lost or stolen devices, because with hosted desktops the user’s data always remains on the hosting provider’s servers.

They are better for disaster recovery. The centralization of hosted desktops makes backing them up easier and more effective. In addition, the servers containing hosted desktops are always located offsite, usually in another county or state, so even if a localized IT disaster such as a power outage, fire, or flood occurs and causes damage to your office or makes it inaccessible, your hosted desktops will still remain online and accessible. (And even if an IT disaster affects the hosting provider’s datacenter, some hosting providers like Iron Orbit have measures in place, such as redundant power connections, fire sprinkler systems, and raised flooring within datacenters, not to mention backup datacenters that can be brought online at a moment’s notice, to prevent or mitigate outages). With a traditional in-house IT setup, in contrast, a disaster like a power outage, fire, or flood could disrupt or damage the onsite IT hardware and result in extensive downtime and data loss.