IT and the virtual workstyle – new challenges, new opportunities

6 May 2011

You don’t have to be in IT to recognise what liberating times these are for information workers. Virtualisation, cloud computing and a new generation of ever more powerful devices have us rapidly approaching an era of unprecedented flexibility.

Once, employees were all but chained to a desk. Today, technology increasingly empowers them to benefit from what we at Citrix like to call the “virtual workstyle.” In the virtual workstyle, anyone with a laptop or a tablet can be as productive during business trips as they are at the office. A parent with a sick child can easily and securely work from home, sharing the same PC the rest of the family uses. Project teams spread across different time zones and continents can collaborate just as effectively as they could if they were all in the same room.

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In short, employees who live the virtual workstyle are free to do their work, wherever and whenever, across a wide array of devices. It’s a powerful vision but one that hinges on having an infrastructure built for maximum agility. Specifically, you need a data centre equipped to support the following core capabilities:

Virtual meetings: Today’s workforce is more mobile – and hence more productive – than ever before. But all of that mobility can make getting people together for meetings challenging. With the help of web-based conferencing software, however, employees can quickly gather online to share ideas or make decisions anytime and anywhere.

Virtual desktops: People use a broad and constantly changing assortment of devices to connect with corporate computing resources these days. To manage that diversity, organisations need to achieve true device independence. With the help of desktop virtualisation, IT doesn’t have to juggle dozens of device images – users can do their work on whatever hardware they choose.

Client virtualisation is an important part of the desktop virtualisation picture, too. It enables companies to install and run virtual desktops on mobile devices, such as laptops and netbooks, creating an environment in which users can roam freely without worrying about the consequences if their PC is lost or stolen. Employees can also utilise virtual clients to keep business information securely isolated from personal files, so they can use one computer for both work and leisure.

Virtual apps: The virtual workstyle means having access to applications on demand. Employees (especially the talented younger employees you most want to recruit and retain) increasingly expect companies to let them find and install new business systems on their own, just as they do on their smartphones. Here at Citrix, we’re doing our part to help businesses realise the promise of the virtual workstyle. Our GoToMeeting product is one of the world’s most popular platforms for virtual meetings, and XenDesktop 5 and the recently released XenClient both power virtual desktops. XenApp 6 and Receiver, meanwhile, give IT departments the tools they need in order to create self-service virtual app stores. The future belongs to the virtual workstyle.

James Stevenson, Area Vice President, UK, Ireland and South Africa Citrix Systems Inc

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