Windows 8 Devices: How Will They Affect Your BYOD Strategy?

Given last year’s increase in tablet sales and the continued growth of ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD), organisations will be hard pushed to keep up with the very latest in consumer device innovations. Furthermore, according to Gartner, two-thirds of the workforce will be using a smartphone or tablet device by 2016. Before this becomes too much of an IT headache, organisations need to find a solution to this fast evolving situation.

We are experiencing an influx of new devices, ranging from the iPad mini to Google Nexus, especially in the wake of the purported ‘Tablet Christmas’ of 2012. Users wanting to bring these latest devices into the office will already have spent a good amount of time at home getting to grips with them and using them for so-called ‘fun-work’.

Back at the office and things are a different story. Employees will have realised that it’s not quite so easy to make the transition to using their devices for ‘work-work’, putting pressure on their IT support to find a remedy. Even simple tasks like email, Web browsing, and printing can cause a serious problem for company IT.

As these devices creep into the work environment they also bring other challenges. For example, many workers will have received devices running on the relatively unfamiliar Windows 8, adding a new complication to how these devices are used for work.

Certainly CIOs and IT managers will have already seen Windows 8 on the horizon. But on the whole they are unlikely to have a formal policy in place to deal with it, let alone being prepared to deviate from the corporate standard of Windows 7 for desktops and applications. However there are simple yet effective ways for organisations to manage this shift towards Windows 8, while also maximising the benefits of a staff BYOD movement.

A key approach is to implement a virtual desktop solution around a server running a single instance of Windows 7 and one set of applications to be used by all. Once users have installed a soft client, this will give them secure, tested access to the organisation’s resources through a virtual desktop running Windows 7. End users can then put their laptops and mobile computing devices onto the internal network.

Therefore all their important work-related activities can be performed using the same Windows 7 virtual desktop environment and applications that have been in place all along, whilst using their new Windows 8 device taking advantage of its physical attributes – keyboard, display, wireless access, etc. When they have finished with work and they want to use their machines for play, they can simply disconnect.

All organisations will need to do is make employees aware of the new policy. By explaining that the plan is to continue to use Windows 7 as a standard but also demonstrating that should an employee need a new computer, they will pay for a virtual desktop access device running the centrally managed and delivered Windows 7 environment. Furthermore if anyone wants to use their own device running on Windows 8, they can install virtual desktop software on it to give current Windows 7 access.

In this way desktop virtualisation will perform as a shield safeguarding enterprise IT against the frustrations of BYOD. It will give all the network control and preservation of existing standards, whilst still allowing users to work with their preferred computers. It’s a far better solution for organisations than burying their heads in the sand and pretending it’s not happening when they see their employees come in with a new device.

How desktop virtualisation facilitates a robust but flexible BYOD is enabled thanks to the way virtual solutions have matured. Thankfully the days when a virtual solution meant spending the earth on an alternative that couldn’t even match your traditional PC’s performance are long gone. Now there are faster, better and cheaper options that can be deployed without compromising enterprise IT standards.

Centralising and virtualising Windows desktops and apps is a win-win solution for IT departments and employees alike. It also works equally well for extending the corporate standard environment to non-Windows devices like Android devices and iPads too. A virtual desktop should therefore make this steady BYOD invasion and constant device innovation much easier to handle, avoiding a further potential nightmare facing organisations in 2013.

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Mike Pagani has over 20 years of IT industry experience spanning computer software, hardware and networking solutions. Mike has broad, in-depth Desktop Virtualisation knowledge and experience. Prior to joining NComputing in February of 2011, he had global responsibility for Product Marketing within Quest Software’s Desktop Virtualisation Group. Mike has also held senior executive level strategic Technology and Marketing positions within a diverse set of organisations including Redwood Software, Quad Research, Magellan Software (now OpenText) and Stay-Linked.