Cloud Desktops – Reducing the Cost of Virtual Desktops While Enhancing Security & User Experience

These days, flexible work arrangements are more or less expected by most people – and this isn’t solely the result of COVID-related pivots. According to a pre-pandemic 2019 FlexJobs survey, more than half of the respondents had already negotiated flexible work arrangements with their employers. The same annual survey found that an overwhelming majority—86%!—said that flexible work hours reduced stress, which might be one reason why companies that are receptive to those arrangements also see higher employee retention.

However, even companies that appreciate these trends might be at a loss when it comes to cost-effectively addressing them in a way that enables anytime/anywhere productivity. 

For example, you’re no doubt well aware that cloud solutions are essential for dynamic work environments, remote work and online collaboration. But how can you cost-effectively provide your end-users with high-performance tools to support their individual workloads under those conditions? More importantly, how can you do it in a way that’s not only cost-effective but also less complex from an IT deployment & management perspective?

And perhaps even more importantly, how can you avoid the common security pitfalls that are leading to massive spikes in successful ransomware attacks?

Texas-based Community Hospital Corporation (CHC), one of the United States’ top providers of healthcare consulting and management services, is one of thousands of organizations globally who have turned to cloud desktops to address these issues. CHC selected Cameyo‘s virtual app delivery (VAD)-enabled cloud desktop solution, yielding exceptional results in terms of reduced cost and complexity. 

CHC wanted to streamline its infrastructure across more than 20 hospitals nationwide. Yet the company still wanted to provide customized workspaces for its end users in order to enhance the user experience and make its outstanding patient care even better. As CHC was already familiar with desktop virtualization through virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), the company initially saw VDI as the default method of getting Windows apps into the hands of its distributed staff.

What is a virtual desktop?

Many companies—from small businesses to global Fortune 500 enterprises—follow that same line of thought. VDI has been around for decades, so in many cases, organizations can default to this legacy approach due to it’s familiarity.

VDI is a pre-cloud technology that’s built around providing complete desktop environments, usually some form of Microsoft Windows, to remote endpoints. The way it works in most use cases is that virtual machines (VMs) are hosted on a centralized on-premises data center server. End-users connect to these VMs through a complex server-based authentication mechanism that typically involves Microsoft Active Directory. That then allows those users to interact with a familiar desktop environment on their local machine—even though the actual computing is being performed on the host server.

Simply accessing virtual desktops has traditionally been a stumbling block for users as well as IT. Most VDI solutions require dedicated software clients—interactive viewer windows, so to speak—that don’t work with every endpoint device. Users are also often expected to connect to the virtual desktop infrastructure via virtual private networks (VPNs), which introduce major security risks. This leads to IT diverting more and more resources to providing technical support, locking down firewalls, assisting with basic connectivity and maintaining the VMs.

That was certainly CHC’s experience with virtual desktop solutions.

“[W]e did what most people probably do – we started with all of the biggest players. We spent almost four years evaluating VMware, Citrix and Nutanix. But it became clear, time and time again, that none of those solutions were feasible from either a cost or complexity perspective. Many of our facilities only have one or two IT personnel, and it typically takes 10 or more people to manage a VDI deployment full time,” said Brian Stopinski, Corporate IT Operations Director, CHC.

“So it doesn’t matter that these were the solutions that were in the upper right of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant – they simply were not an option for us.”

What is a cloud desktop?

The term cloud desktop has been applied as a catch-all to many remote desktop and desktop virtualization solutions that have incorporated a cloud computing framework. Sometimes dubbed desktop-as-a-service (DaaS), a fair number of these are just legacy virtual desktop infrastructure in disguise: VDI with a backend cloud infrastructure and SaaS-style pricing. The longstanding complexity and limitations are still there, even if they now happen to leverage popular cloud services.

But true cloud desktop solutions encompass a technology that departs from VDI and represents an evolution in virtualization solutions: virtual app delivery (VAD).

Cameyo was an early pioneer of VAD technology as a more cost-effective, flexible and secure response to conventional Windows virtual desktops. Unlike legacy desktop virtualization approaches, we saw that a user’s desktop environment didn’t have to be tied to a specific operating system (Windows) or even a universal set of apps. It could change to suit individual or group workflows. It could take full advantage of cloud infrastructure for on-demand responsiveness. And it could neatly solve the issues presented by VPNs and remote desktop protocol (RDP) vulnerabilities to provide an incredible—and incredibly secure—user experience.

While VAD may have emerged as a cloud-native alternative to VDI and DaaS, just how much of an alternative it offers can sometimes be overlooked. That was certainly the case for CHC. At the beginning, at least.

“When I first started my conversation with Cameyo, my mentality was that we had to deliver full Windows desktops. It’s simply the byproduct of 25 years of experience with Windows desktops, and I think a lot of people are still stuck in the same mentality that I was,” said Stopinski. 

“We were still in the mindset that we needed to deliver a full Windows desktop to give our people access to their apps. So at first, I completely discounted Cameyo and didn’t think it would work for us. But we decided to do an evaluation based on Google’s recommendation.”

Cameyo’s engineering team showed Stopinksi and his team at CHC how they could spin up the exact cloud desktop environment they were looking for. And what’s more, they did it in just 45 minutes.

FAQs about Cameyo’s digital workspace solution

How is Cameyo different from a virtual desktop?

Fundamentally, VAD and VDI are both digital workspace solutions with a shared goal: empowering users to stay productive in any environment. But Cameyo moves beyond classic desktop virtualization in many important respects, with cost-effectiveness, security, and flexibility being the biggest factors. By design Cameyo bolsters zero-trust computing policies while being far more user friendly for end users of all technical backgrounds. And it can reduce your costs by up to 85% compared to traditional Windows OS-based virtual desktops.

What devices is Cameyo compatible with?

It’s easy to forget that one big promise of the public cloud was device agnosticism. Unfortunately, old habits die hard, and some solution providers have clung to software clients that only work with a handful of operating systems.

Cameyo, by contrast, works on any device that can run an HTML5-capable web browser like Chrome. That means Mac and Linux computers, iOS (e.g., iPad, iPhone) and Android mobile devices, Chromebooks and even PCs with aging CPUs can access the full desktop versions of Windows software—on demand and in real-time—without those applications being installed locally on the device.

Is Cameyo more cost-effective than VDI?

Without a doubt.19% of Cameyo customers report an immediate ROI due to a reduction in cost compared to their previous VDI/DaaS solutions, while 61% report ROI in less than 3 months, and 91% experience ROI in less than a year.  

Then there’s the cost savings that comes from reduced complexity. As a true cloud desktop, Cameyo doesn’t come laden with all the legacy baggage of VDI. With Cameyo, you’re delivering apps, not operating systems, which means less time spent on technical support, increased user productivity and minimal to no infrastructure footprint. In Stopinski’s words: “In our initial evaluation, I was shocked by how small the footprint was of Cameyo’s solution. All of the servers, load balancers, and other infrastructure you have to manage with Windows desktops – we didn’t have to deal with any of that with Cameyo.”

And by helping to mitigate ransomware attacks through features like HTTPS encryption and non-persistent sessions, Cameyo can also spare your organization from the expensive and disruptive aftermath of disaster recovery.

Does Cameyo require extra training and certifications?

No. Compared to VDI, which often requires a dedicated technical support team with bespoke VDI training and certifications, Cameyo has been deployed in hundreds of environments across all industries by non-specialists—and usually in a matter of hours. It doesn’t take any special skills to get Cameyo up and running or optimize it for your particular use case.

Which cloud service providers does Cameyo support?

Cameyo is all about flexibility and customization. While our fully-hosted solution is available in your choice of Google Cloud (default) or Microsoft Azure, we also offer a BYOC (bring your own cloud) option. You can also self-host Cameyo in any cloud of your choice, as well as hybrid and on-premises environments. 

What kind of user experience can we expect with Cameyo?

Virtual app delivery through Cameyo provides your end-users with a Windows-independent cloud desktop on any device, no matter where they happen to be. Whether they’re working from home or in a dynamic hoteling workplace, accessing the full desktop version of their apps is as straightforward as clicking a Cameyo PWA-enabled app icon in their taskbar (which launches the app in its own window, even though it’s not installed locally) or accessing the apps in the browser just like SaaS apps. Your users literally have nothing new to learn – they simply use their apps as they normally would, no matter what device they are on. And all of this ease of use is underpinned by Cameyo’s uncompromising security features.

Move beyond Windows-based virtual desktops

The idea of a cloud-native, cost-effective and user-optimized cloud desktop experience with industry-leading security and ease of use might sound like an IT wish list, but CHC was pleased to discover that Cameyo was a proven virtualization solution that checked all the boxes. The biggest hurdle was thinking beyond traditional VDI and realizing the benefits of a Windows OS-independent cloud desktop.

“The reality is, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We thought we needed to deliver a Windows desktop in order to give everyone access to all their apps, including Windows apps, on any device,” said Stopinski.

“With Cameyo, I finally realized that the user doesn’t need to see the Windows OS. As an organization, we always ask ‘What is the value add?’ whenever we’re evaluating something new. So I applied that question to something old – Windows desktops – and it became obvious that the added value was zero.”

If you’d like to know more about CHC’s experience with Cameyo, you can read the full case study here. On the other hand, if you’re eager to leave behind the cost, complexity and security risks of legacy VDI solutions, be sure to sign up for your free trial of Cameyo today or request a demo from one of our engineers.