Even though most of us were hoping that 2021 would somehow mark a clean break from 2020, this year—just like every year before it—didn’t come with a giant reset button. It’s naturally going to be informed by trends and events that were already in motion, such as COVID-19 and the widespread shift toward remote work.
It’s clear that this shift has had huge implications for virtualization and digital workspaces. So here are three developments and lessons we learned in 2020 that will continue to have a major impact on business over the next eleven months.
Virtual desktops and virtual app delivery will coexist
As organizations start to adopt digital workspaces to enable permanent remote (or hybrid) work, many of them have come to realize that not every user needs a full-blown virtual desktop. What most users need is straightforward access to their business-critical apps. This is where virtual app delivery, a more streamlined productivity solution for those who don’t need full desktops, comes in.
Granted – this doesn’t mean every organization has to choose either virtual desktops or virtual app delivery. In keeping with the philosophy behind hybrid workplaces, 2021 will mark the year that organizations right-size their virtualization strategy with a balance of virtual desktops and virtual apps. We’ll begin seeing a move away from “one-size-fits-all” VDI solutions and instead toward more curated approaches.
In other words, the power users who need virtual desktops will still get them. But the much larger pool of users who are better suited to the flexibility and ease of virtual app delivery will get a solution tailored to their needs. This will help avoid a lot of the complexity and waste of overprovisioning.
Along with boosting users’ productivity, this right-sized approach has the potential to be easier to administer and more cost-effective. Those added benefits will prove to be further drivers of hybrid virtualization strategies.
Remote work has driven home the need for Zero Trust security
Zero trust security assumes that all access, even authorized access, is a potential risk. Unfortunately, this is something we’ve all come to better understand during the COVID-19 pandemic: Even the close friends and family members who we implicitly trust might be asymptomatic carriers of the virus.
In a world that has shifted to remote work, there’s a worrying parallel here between COVID-19 and VPNs. Using VPNs to give users unrestricted access without knowing whether or not their devices may be infected puts corporate networks and sensitive data at risk.
For hackers, the growing number of work-from-home employees has been a dream come true. Instead of having to breach the multiple layers of enterprise-grade security on a corporate network, they can focus their attacks on individuals using poorly secured home networks. From there they can use the VPN to get an all-access pass to deliver a malicious payload behind the corporate firewall.
Previously, organizations only had to focus on 10% of their users being mobile. Today, that percentage has flipped completely. As many as 90% of users are outside the network. Hence the urgent need for the blanket skepticism that lies at the heart of zero trust security.
That’s why zero trust will see mainstream uptake in the coming months as IT departments move to mitigate the vulnerabilities introduced by a remote workforce—yet without hindering the productivity of those same users. Security-conscious organizations will embrace virtual app delivery and other digital workspace solutions that provide users with the tools they need while also limiting the exposure of the internal network. Moving beyond VPNs will be an important part of their overall efforts to shrink the attack surface.
There is no “new normal” – so flexibility is key
This is a theme I’ve covered in detail before. But it bears repeating, if only because the idea of the “new normal” became such an axiom in 2020.
The fact is, there is no new normal. To call something “normal” implies that it will be the same for nearly everyone, and that’s far from the truth when it comes to what tomorrow’s workplace will look like.
While some companies will continue to allow permanent remote work, some—such as Google—are going to be experimenting with ideas like the flexible workweek. Others are going to have a proportion of employees continue working remotely while the rest return to a traditional in-office workplace. JP Morgan, for example, estimates that 30% of its workforce will remain remote.
And in a lot of cases, these workplace arrangements are going to be shifting and changing in response to other events—not all of them pandemic-related. Even in a post-pandemic world, things will still be in flux for quite some time.
IT departments therefore need to prepare themselves for a shifting work environment in 2021 as well as the years to come. The only certainty, as the saying goes, is uncertainty. So they’ll have to put a premium on agility, ensuring that they have systems and solutions in place to ensure people can be productive from anywhere as the situation changes. Digital workspaces and right-sized virtualization strategies, as noted above, will hold the answers to many of those unknowns.
Remote Anticipate a Changing Workplace, Prepare with a Digital Workspace
Steve Jobs was fond of saying that hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky always skated to where the puck was going to be, not where it had been. With these three lessons from 2020 in mind, your organization can better anticipate imminent changes in the workplace before it evolves yet again in 2021 and leaves you scrambling to catch up.