Virtual desktop-government

The pandemic — and subsequent global social distancing and stay-at-home mandates — proved to be a surprising catalyst for the rapid demand for technology and programs that allow and facilitate a remote working solution. 

Despite the world being in various stages of reopening — and regardless of whether new variants of COVID-19 will keep it in limbo — remote working is becoming the new ‘normal’. 

Until now, the main tool deployed by the government sector to manage remote workers has been virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions which ensure security, support, continuity, and flexibility. Traditional VDI solutions met many of the needs of government to support distributed workforces but are now being superseded by cloud based VDI solutions – known as Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS).

Let’s examine first the reasons government have adopted VDI solutions and then discuss the benefits of moving to Desktop-as-a-Service.

The unique needs of Australian Government Agencies

As a publicly-funded institution, the government has been historically, by nature, slow to embrace change. In response to COVID-19 measures, the Australian Public Service is demonstrating a move towards remote working, albeit in a carefully planned and phased manner. The problem is that the Public Sector can’t be considered in a vacuum. 

Government departments and all their different segments are constantly liaising and working with not only each other but with Commonwealth agencies, state and local level government, advisory bodies, and stakeholder groups/organisations (public and private sectors). What the world learned in the beginning stages of the pandemic was that efficient information sharing was essential to the development of safety measures, to provide support and other political responses. 

At the same time, the government sector must also ensure another kind of safety when it comes to operating with a hybrid environment. What it needs is a workable solution for the different moving parts to collaborate and share while maintaining a stringent level of data and information security — with the added dimension of the remote working trend.

How Does Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Benefit Government Agencies?

The benefits of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions become clear upon examination of how government agencies have tended to implement remote work.

The pre-COVID reality

Government agencies all over the world have been gradually venturing into remote work capabilities. The first step was to choose a core group of personnel who needed to be connected to government systems even when out of the office — working from home or on the road. Alternatively, remote work was allowed for employees who only accessed the less sensitive data or application workloads because the information security risk was considered too high when it came to highly sensitive and secret data.

In either case, agencies would procure the equipment for a small percentage of employees. This meant that how much remote work could receive support depended mostly on the ability of personnel to access and use government-furnished devices. 

VDI solutions ably supported these use-cases.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) core benefits

VDI solutions, provided by companies such as VMWare, do away with the necessity for particular end-user (government-procured) hardware for a remote workforce simply because it manages practically any number of ‘virtual machines’ on a server. Users connect to the virtual desktop through the VDI, so therefore any end-user device can be used — whether it’s a laptop, home computer, or mobile device.

Here are a few benefits agencies with remote workforces have reaped by adopting VDIs:

1) It’s customisable

Building a ‘template virtual desktop image’ allows configuration of the operating system and any software – for instance Microsoft Office – or components personnel may need into every virtual desktop.

2) It’s a lot faster

Setting up thousands of virtual desktops to deploy in an environment from the template image is possible in a matter of hours. The government-furnished device approach not only requires following the procurement process, but the IT team will have to set up each device. The outdated approach to desktops isn’t sustainable or scalable. Hosted desktops mean faster deployment and faster support. For instance, Microsoft Teams could be rapidly deployed when teams started to work from home.

3) Information is secure

When coupled with a VPN and multi factor authentication, all traffic to and from every virtual desktop is transmitted over an encrypted channel keeping data secure. There is no local storage and no data is stored on any end-user device that connects to the VDI — reducing breaches not only from hacking but also from theft or loss. As a result, when you deploy virtual desktops in an environment you keep mission critical workloads, sensitive information and data secure. 

4) Backups are instant

In many cases, ‘mission-critical’ programs and systems are deployed via VDI in more than one data centre — one being the primary environment and the second being a backup environment.

5) Better cost efficiency

Investment in computer hardware can be tricky since technology evolves rapidly. Virtual desktop solutions are less expensive overall, and repurposing or reusing hardware is more effective. VDI-related patches and updates are done centrally, not piecemeal, and at different times on every single end-user device.

6) Virtual desktops use less bandwidth

The information that would normally reside on the end-user devices is stored in a central server and environment, and the same data is available to all network users, whether in the office, at home, or via the public internet.

7) VDI uses less power

Every end user desktop and work session uses less power than would a desktop computer, meaning that green initiatives and carbon footprint reduction are supported with VDI solutions.

8) VDI provides flexibility

Because employees can work from any location and use any approved device as long as they have an internet connection, virtual desktops enhance mobility and convenience for remote users.

How VDI enables business continuity of operations for Government users

In the case of a global pandemic or other similar unforeseen circumstance, when most of the workforce and government employees were relegated to staying at home, the ability to use their own devices and access all the electronic resources normally available to them in the office will prevent a downtime that could cripple an organisation. Since the government sector serves the public and government customers, it is also imperative that operations continue. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, when normally simple administrative transactions — such as driver license renewals — were on hold, there was a legal grey area. For some jurisdictions, it became a matter of whether or not personnel would enforce breaches of law — such as in the case of a driver who was unable to renew a driver’s license.  

Without access to internal databases, agencies in charge of inspecting or investigating administrative offences could not initiate background or other checks. Intra- and inter-agency collaborative work also becomes more onerous representatives do not have the same access to supporting documentation and other resources.

Service disruptions need not be global. There could be a power outage or a building evacuation. With VDI solutions installed and implemented — if their own end-user devices meet the requirements of the VDI authorisation policy — employees can continue their work remotely, autonomously, and seamlessly as if they were physically in the office. This is even across devices with different operating systems. 

Without interruption of operational continuity, it also means less backlog and catching up when offices are reopened for business. Again, information security is maintained because the centralised server stores all the data — never the end-user devices — and ensures continual data backup. VDIs with VPNs also apply state-of-the-art encryption for everything transmitted to and from the devices.

VDI for Emergency Services

For many emergency services, VDI has been an ideal solution. For firefighters, as an example, the ability to access important information and support resources in the field facilitates quicker, informed decision-making — a definite advantage when time is of the essence because lives are at stake. 

The cost savings the move to deploy VDI presents can have a tangible impact on the emergency service’s budget, providing more options for resource allocation — potentially giving the organisation the solution to acquire more or updated equipment to perform even more effectively.

Another way VDI can save on emergency service time and expense is regarding temporary or additional emergency workers, for instance volunteer firefighters. Clearly, it would not be feasible to equip everyone with government-furnished devices, nor would it be practicable to spend a lot of time and resources on training supplementary staff. With a VDI solution, temporary ranks just have to connect to the VDI to access onboarding and off-boarding materials to get them up to speed quickly.

VDI vs. Desktop as a Service: What Government Agencies Should Know

The next generation of VDI solutions entail moving the functionality off premise and into a cloud environment. These solutions, known as Desktop as a Service (DaaS) provide an attractive alternative to traditional VDI in that they provide the same core capability as VDIs, but with the additional benefits that accrue through providing services from the cloud – scalability, cost efficiency and manageability.

Desktop as a Service (DaaS) solutions also cancel out the burden of supporting physical servers by providing that functionality from the cloud. 

1) Key considerations and potential challenges presented by VDI 

Traditional VDI solutions do have their limitations. Whilst running a VDI solution on premise provides a welcome level of security, it does create other issues.

Hard and expensive to scale

User licenses for VDI solutions are typically sold in blocks, often purchased as lifetime licenses. This means that the need to add even one additional user in some circumstances can lead to large capital expenditures. Conversely, as needs change and less licenses are needed then investments in lifetime licenses are a sunk cost that can’t be recovered. Then there is the need to consider not just the VDI licenses but also those for the operating system and application software that users will require.

In addition, if there is a need to rapidly expand the number of users supported – for instance to support work from home – then the server infrastructure that the VDI runs on will need to be scaled – again requiring unplanned for capital cost.

Difficult to keep secure

All software requires patching through its life to continue to ensure services are provided in the most secure way. This requires either in-house expertise or expensive external service providers to perform the patching and testing. 

Compounding this, if there are multiple VDI instances, each will need to be patched and tested separately.

Cost and resource intensive to manage and maintain

Patching is only one of the costs to run and maintain on premise VDI solutions. IT teams need to be trained and certified on functionality, diagnostics, managing outages etc. They will need to be able to support the software, servers and connectivity – a wide range of skill sets including analysing user logs.

If internal IT teams can’t provide support, then external resources can be engaged but that of course then drives additional cost and dependencies.

2) Why DaaS is attractive to government organisations

With cloud DaaS, a third-party desktop service provider manages and maintains the infrastructure — including upgrades, hardware, and troubleshooting — and provides technical support. Instead of using capital for data centres and servers, DaaS helps to reduce costs by charging ongoing user license or subscription fees. 

Compared to VDI, desktop virtualisation delivered as a service deployment are quick to implement since the platform and the cloud infrastructure have already been configured. Additionally, the subscriptions tend to build in operating system licences for full virtual desktops. This is not only cost-effective and brings down the total cost, but it also allows clients to change operating systems and application software if or as needed. 

Desktop virtualisation delivered by a DaaS service provider tends to be favoured by most organisations that need to scale up or down quickly, whether it’s because of expected expansion or because of seasonal fluctuation in terms of workforce requirements for supporting government customers. 

Cloud DaaS is also great for operations that that require high availability and need access 24/7. It also allows for the redeployment of IT staff to better manage internal stakeholder requirements or develop technology strategies.

Discovering and leveraging Virtual Desktop benefits for Government Agencies

Using a the Desktop-as-a-Service system delivered as part of the Workspace ONE solution to manage secure access to tools and platforms across an organisation saves time and money. Nevertheless, a successful DaaS deployment requires the input of endpoint management experts with extensive experience in the field.

AUCloud provides Sovereign Cloud and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to organisations across Australia. One of our main services is helping organisations implement the right DaaS solution.

If you are interested, you can speak to our sales team by calling 1800 282 568. Alternatively, you can email us on

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