New virtual desktop technology enables the work from home labor force

According to the Telework Research Network, just over 2% of the U.S. employee workforce works primarily from home. This amounts to some 2.8 million people. Still, it's a far cry from the 50 million people that the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates could be working from home at least part of the time. There are many reasons why companies are hesitant to let their employees or contractors work from home, but technology shouldn't be one of them. Virtual desktop technology from RingCube is proving to be a great solution for the work from home (WFH) labor force.

There's a growing trend in the United States and other countries that are thriving in this Information Age. It's called the "home agent model," whereby an employee or a contracted agent does his or her job at home. The worker might be in sales, making cold calls or following up on leads; in accounts receivable, calling customers about overdue payments; or in a call center, taking orders or answering questions. Regardless of the specific job description each worker has, there is one thing in common among the work from home (WFH) labor force: these folks are using Internet-connected PCs to access company information and applications and to communicate with the outside world.

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One solution that is catching on big in the call center and other WFH industries is virtual desktop technology from RingCube Technologies. RingCube vDesk provides a user experience that is similar to a regular at work PC, while also providing all the security and manageability that you would expect from a centralized virtual desktop solution. The RingCube technology allows a worker to use his own personal Windows-based computer by creating a virtualized workspace for his work applications. vDesk isolates and protects the work environment according to policies set by an administrator.

Unlike other desktop virtualization technologies that segment a PC into two or more virtual machines, RingCube takes the tactic of just virtualizing Windows and not the entire PC. The logic is that there's no need for multiple operating systems on a PC when there is only one user. When you want to have a personal version of your desktop and a work version of your desktop, and they both run on Windows, why create another version of the OS? RingCube virtualizes on top of Windows to create a container (or workspace) for the work applications.

Inside that workspace, the WFH worker can have a VPN, access to the CRM application, office applications, VoIP, video training -- whatever he needs to accomplish his job. An administrator sets policies to determine what applications the desktop gets, and how they can run. For example, the worker can be prohibited from copying company data out of the workspace, or even doing a print screen. The data within the workspace is stored on a central server so it is protected with encryption and backup.

vDesk is a high performance virtual desktop, running at 99.7% capacity of the host PC (compared to less than 70% for a typical VDI implementation). This means there is no "performance hit" and the worker can actually run video and VoIP applications without loss of fidelity.

There are three components to vDesk:

* The vDesk Administration Server is where users are set up, policies are created, applications are provisioned and data is stored. One Windows Server can handle about 5,000 users.

* The vDesk Client portal is a single interface for users to download, create, launch and manage vDesk workspaces. Using vDesk MobileSync, the vDesk Client allows users to effortlessly checkout and check in their workspaces for offline mobility.

* The vDesk Workspace separates the user's desktop environment, including applications, data and settings, from the operating system. Different vDesk workspaces can be created for individual users or user groups and can be updated and centrally provisioned via the vDesk Administration server.

Granada Corp. is in the early stages of rolling out RingCube vDesk to its WFH labor force, which provides bilingual outsourced customer support. Lia Ortega, director for information security at Granada, said the major factors in choosing RingCube for the virtual desktop environment are the isolation and protection policies they can put in place with vDesk. Ortega says this is extremely valuable to her company because they will be able to prevent workers from switching to their home PC while working; disable print screen; disable access to fixed and removable devices; disable access to network drives; and enforce a range of other security measures. Granada also appreciates that RingCube has incorporated PCI requirements and compliance throughout the entire desktop virtualization process.

RingCube has several deployment modes that fit different use cases:

* PC deployment -- vDesk runs over the Internet. A worker securely logs into the vDesk Client portal and downloads his workspace onto his home PC, where vDesk secures the workspace and isolates it from the host PC.

* Drive deployment -- A companion USB with vDesk on it is created. A worker plugs the USB drive into any PC and transforms that computer into his secure workspace. Everything stays on the encrypted USB drive, so this mode is great for the mobile worker.

* Network deployment -- For in the office use, vDesk creates a local environment but stores all data centrally on the Administration Server.

* VDI deployment -- In this mode, vDesk is run on top of a VDI type of virtual desktop to give the worker a better user experience and to add an offline mobility option.

The security elements built into RingCube vDesk are good enough that several large banks, including one nation's central bank, have deployed RingCube to allow employees to work from home. To me, this is a real testament of the power of a solution. If financial institutions feel it is secure enough, it must be good.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.