A Business Technology Place

Desktops in the cloud

Is it time to put your business desktops in the cloud?

The concept has an appeal to IT managers. Why shouldn’t it? Reduced total cost of ownership, automatic upgrades, and on-demand variations for OS/browser are a few appealing features. But are we really ready for desktops in the cloud?

I think we’ll get there. But we aren’t ready just yet.

  • Habits – computing usage habits and familiarity with screens and processes are hard to change. Most of the users with desktops/laptops under my IT management are very attached to their local drive storage. Saving to a network drive isn’t the path of least resistance because it’s not the default (but could be) and may not be available (laptops in local mode). Laptop users are in the habit of using their devices even with not internet connectivity. That would have to change.
  • WiFi availability – A recent trip down I-95 and I-10 in Florida reminded me that we still have areas on the grid that don’t have good access to the internet. My phone was flipping between 4G, G, E, and no networks. It’s getting better as providers enhance their networks, but until we have more wide spread access to full internet access I don’t think we can see wide-scale adoption of a mobile cloud computing desktop.
  • Data location – Storing data in the cloud is a concept that hasn’t reached happy place with security policies and risk management offices. I fill out a couple of security questionnaires each week and must answer about the security of PII and PHI data. The most common security controls call for no local storage, encrypted storage, and disabling portable storage media. That seems to fit into the cloud storage model well. But the complexity is that cloud storage means another facility and another group of employees that could have physical access to the data. The risk management office asks many other questions about physical security of the building and standard operating procedures for employees. Once the data is stored in the cloud, how can an IT manager vouch for the procedures at the hosting site?
  • Industry machine – Desktops and laptops are a big industry. Don’t underestimate the lobby and influence of the major players if they feel a cloud computing desktop will cut into their sales and profits.

None of these concepts are difficult to overcome and I think they will be overcome. Google has already started creating a variation in the home market with the ChromeBook. I think the cost benefits will ultimately draw IT managers to introduce cloud computing in the business environment as well.  They just need to solve for user habits, accessibility, data location, and availability of equipment.