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How to Access Your Desktop from Anywhere


In a traditional office environment, each employee has their own computer with its own operating system and applications. Any type of desktop maintenance, from software updates to technical support issues, would require a visit from the IT department that forced the employee to stop working until the issue was resolved.


In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven business world, this approach doesn’t work. It’s expensive, slow, complex and labor-intensive. Also, with the emergence of mobility and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, employees can’t be tied to their desks. They need to be able to access their desktop and all of its functionality from anywhere at any time.

Desktop virtualization began to address these issues by separating the desktop environment from the physical machine. This makes it possible to store a virtualized desktop on a central server and access the desktop remotely through any Internet-connected device. The virtual desktop appears and functions just like a traditional desktop. Users could access the same desktop environment from their home office, a sales call, the airport or a conference room. Updates to operating systems, applications, security and other software are centralized and managed remotely.

One approach to desktop virtualization is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). VDI uses hardware and software to enable virtualization, hosting a fully personalized desktop environment in a virtual machine (VM) that runs on a central server in the data center. However, the most common challenges of VDI are cost and complexity, which are the issues VDI was created to alleviate. VDI generally involves significant investments in software, licenses, servers, centralized storage infrastructure, and additional network bandwidth.

An increasingly popular alternative to VDI is Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS), formerly called Terminal Services. With VDI, each user’s desktop is stored in its own VM. With RDS, users share a VM that runs a terminal server’s operating system, and applications run directly on the server, not a virtual desktop. Because there are fewer instances of operating systems with RDS, storage requirements are much lower and each hardware unit can support more users.

Desktops are accessed from the terminal server through thin clients. The Microsoft Remote Desktop Client is available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone devices as well as Macs and Windows PCs, meaning that you can access your desktop from anywhere.

Microsoft Terminal Services was introduced 15 years ago but has gained momentum in recent years. Compatibility issues have all but disappeared while functionality, performance and scalability have been greatly improved.

Today, Microsoft Remote Desktop Services can be deployed in-house or accessed through a hosted solution. In the next post, we’ll discuss the features and benefits of both options.