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5 step guide to replacing your VDI solutions

Ritu Gupta
|
January 30, 2024
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Remote desktops, thin-client computing and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) changed the way businesses operated–in the 1990s and 2000s. VDI offered advantages over traditional “workstations'' and desktop hardware. Back then VDI improved security, provided flexibility, and even offered cost savings, because many employees could use less expensive machines to do their work. VDI helped support remote workers because it would substitute or complement remote-access VPNs and provide a virtualized work environment.

However, as browser-based applications became increasingly popular, VDI no longer provided the same advantages. While many organizations still utilize VDI systems, security and IT teams have voiced their frustrations. Many are shifting to more advanced, flexible and cost-effective approaches.

The disadvantages of VDI with the modern workforce

Costly and resource intensive

VDI requires a large upfront investment. Along with license cost, there is additional cost for hardware, software, storage, computing resources, bandwidth and then ongoing cost of maintenance.

Complexity

VDI deployment involves many different components, which makes troubleshooting and upkeep harder and more complex.

Security concerns

VDI has been the target of attacks on public-facing servers and has provided a mechanism for threat actors to move laterally within organizations. While the protocols have matured and utilized modern authentication and transport security, these servers are just one more system that needs to be patched and monitored for threat activity. Highly evasive threats have used VDI systems to establish a persistent presence and execute a breach.

Poor user experience

The user experience associated with VDI can be poor depending on the remote location, end point resources, and network connectivity. Often, these issues are difficult to resolve.

Citrix, a respected VDI provider, claims that over 90% of Fortune 500 companies use their product. For those organizations even when the drawbacks of VDI are hard to ignore, transitioning from VDI might seem difficult. It seems hard to move on from something that has been in place since the 1990s. However, with a phased approach, organizations can start taking advantage of more efficient approaches and reserve VDI for the use cases where it’s a better fit.

What are some necessary steps to replacing your VDI?

1. Determine your workforce needs

Across organizations, workforces are set up differently and these differing needs matter when finding the right technology. Some organizations require all employees to be in one location, while others have a dispersed, global workforce. Some organizations have mostly employees while others engage more contractors and other third parties. Lastly, some organizations have embodied a bring your own device policy (BYOD) which requires a certain set of capabilities.

VDI can prove difficult to support and secure for dispersed employees and for teams that have a range of access, connectivity, and client systems. Some teams can move on from VDI easily. Other teams, such as those in central locations on an enterprise network with managed laptops, can use VDI with fewer challenges.

2. Identify the types of applications that users are provisioning

It’s important to understand not only what applications are being used but also what type of applications. Do most users access your applications from the browser or do they require dedicated endpoints? If most of the applications are browser-based, organizations can more easily move on from VDI. Clientless security and access technologies can help such organizations save time, money, and resources immediately.

3. Cross-team planning

It’s critical to get the appropriate teams involved from the start and ensure there is alignment. The IT, security, and infrastructure teams need to collaborate to understand how VDI is being used within their organization and how any changes would impact their users. It’s important to ask the following questions:

  • Which groups are using VDI?
  • How integrated is VDI into their day to day tasks? 
  • How are browser-based and non-browser based applications being accessed with VDI? 
  • How sensitive is the data within VDI? Are there controls in place? 
  • What are all the security policies currently in place?

4. Start with browser-based first

A browser-security solution can provide an agentless option to secure access for web applications, enabling an easy and effective first step.

5. Consider VDI, browser security in the context of Zero Trust

Where are you in your zero-trust journey? Do you need a quick win? Have you considered that zero-trust cannot be effective without browser security? A phased approach to VDI replacement enables your organization to adopt a better suited technology while advancing your zero-trust efforts.

You can start with browser security. Or you can add browser security to zero-trust architecture that might have been only network-focused at the start. Secure access technology and browser security can ensure that policies are aligned with a zero-trust framework in order to protect all users and applications.

If you’re wondering why you’re spending so much money to deliver web applications over VDI, then maybe it’s time to rethink VDI. Why are we converting web apps to another technology so we can deliver web apps to a VDI client inside a web browser? Today, you can migrate to an approach that delivers web apps as web apps, safely and securely. And migrating from VDI to browser security and secure-access technology can save money and improve user experience, too.

Deliver a faster, seamless experience with Cloud-Based Browser Security

Menlo Security’s Secure Application Access provides organizations application access only to configured authorized users. Additionally, the Menlo Secure Cloud Browser is used to fetch and serve the content to protect the application from attacks. These attacks include session hijacking, cookie manipulation, and other attacks which are achieved by protocol manipulation.

illustration of how secure cloud browser works

Secure Application Access enables organizations to secure applications with:

  • Protection against malicious users
  • Access based on user/group, source IP, and location
  • Posture check
  • Inspection and blocking of uploads

Secure Application Access enables organizations to secure data with:

  • Read-only/read-write, upload/download, and copy/paste controls
  • DLP for uploads and downloads 
  • Watermarking 
  • Data redaction

Secure Application Access enables organizations to reduce cost with:

  • A clientless and zero touch deployment for browser-based applications 
  • One pane for configuring and monitoring all your applications
  • Easy provisioning and deprovisioning applications to users

As we navigate the changing landscape of VDI, it’s clear that traditional approaches no longer suit the needs of the modern workforce. Learn more about Secure Application Access for a seamless approach.