Virtual desktops boost governance, end-user security: Gartner

Companies embracing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments can significantly improve organisational security while boosting corporate governance capabilities, a senior Gartner researcher is advising.

VDI has typically been adopted to reduce the cost of computing, by removing the variability that’s present when employees work from ‘fat’ desktop PCs that are prone to misconfiguration. However, VDI also helps seal off potential points of data egress within the company network, argues Gartner fellow and vice president Neil MacDonald.

“Having the organisation’s data spread across hundreds or thousands of devices, many of which leave the physical security of office locations, presents a significant risk of data loss,” he explained, noting that VDI environments “can help improve the security standing of the client computing environment by centralising sensitive information and applications in the data centre – giving IT system and security stakeholders the opportunity not only to improve support efficiency, but also security.”

VDI architectures also, however, introduce their own security considerations – particularly around the security of the devices used to access the VDI, the scalability of the solution and associated security, and the remote connectivity that links the client with the VDI server.

Those sensitivities become even more important when VDI is implemented as an adjunct to bring your own device (BYOD) strategies, which expand the corporate risk profile by adding a raft of different devices to the corporate computing environment.

VDI desktops can be readily accessed on corporate and home desktops as well as mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, adding the complexity of device management to the mix even as the act of delivering desktops becomes easier. Compounded by intrinsic security flaws in many mobile devices and operating systems that have some experts warning companies off BYOD altogether, corporations must be sure their security remediation efforts address those new exposures as well as protecting the increasingly-centralised repository of user information on VDI servers.

“Because risk is aggregated in the data centre and network, strong security controls are required to protect the infrastructure,” MacDonald said. “As a result, it’s important to address data and [VDI] security requirements, and leverage the security capabilities of the [VDI] product sets, when required.”

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