My dentist punctuated the bad news by using a tablet to show
me the x-ray. I’d like to say the coolness of using the tablet offset the pain,
but I still asked for a shot of local anesthetic.

I was feeling much better as I left the dentist office — the
anesthetic finally started working. Being hungry, I decided to get some lunch.
I knew the numbness would be a challenge, so I went to a restaurant known for
its excellent soups. As I sat down, I picked up a tablet looking to see which
soup looked the best. When I decided, I placed my order using the same tablet.  

The soup and service were great, so I made sure to give the
waiter a good tip when I paid my bill —using the tablet. Next, I was off to my
afternoon consulting gig. As I walked into the conference room with the CEO, I
noticed he had a new tablet. I smiled, already knowing how this meeting was
going to turn out. The topic to be discussed: do tablets make sense for their
company.

The
debate is over

The debate about tablets making sense in the workplace is over.
They’re everywhere. The onus is now on IT departments to figure out how to keep
an already fragile company infrastructure safe with the influx of tablets — personal
and company-owned. The learning curve is especially steep when personal tablets
are allowed, each with its own idiosyncrasies.

Is
there an answer?

Lots of people and companies say they have the answer. For
example, MobileDevice Management technologies (MDM) have been proclaimed the way to
control mobile devices attaching to the company network. MDM is not a panacea,
and there are several seemingly insurmountable hurdles.

Knowing that, I’d like to discuss an approach that gets past
those hurdles by using proven technology that’s already hard at work in homes
and offices throughout IT-land.

Virtual
Desktop Infrastructure

It’s called Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). I was happy to see that TechRepublic
Senior Editor Teena Hammond referred to VDI in VDI growth fueled by need for flexibility, mobility. Where she explains how VDI has proven to be an effective
method to secure desktops.

IT departments — by applying VDI technology to tablets — have
a fighting chance against most if not all known BYOD technical challenges. VDI
does that by forcing tablets to use a controlled desktop environment when they
are connected to the company’s IT infrastructure.

Another plus is the removal of the usually overlooked legal issues
I discussed in Security policies must address legal implications of BYOD when
VDI technology is employed, simply because company data does not reside on the
tablet.

How
does VDI work on tablets?

VDI for mobile devices uses two approaches:

  • Client-based mobile VDI: This
    approach uses an installed client on the tablet. The client creates a virtual
    session between the tablet and the company’s servers, giving the illusion of
    residing in the normal work-computing environment.
  • Browser-based mobile VDI: If
    there is a compatibility problem between the VDI client application and the tablet’s
    operating system, the browser-based version will work. All the tablet needs is
    an installed mobile web browser.

One of the nice things about using a virtual desktop is user
familiarity. If the office environment is Windows-based, but the employee
prefers an Apple product, mobile VDI allows the employee to have the best of
both worlds. Some additional benefits:

  • VDI
    for mobile devices allows the user to access personal data, work data, and the
    two do not intermix.
  • Using
    virtual environments eliminates the need to install business-related applications
    on every tablet, especially useful when business-specific apps are not ported
    to mobile operating systems.

Still
not the full answer

Mobile VDI comes close, very close to solving the security
and technical challenges that have stalled IT departments from blessing the use
of tablets. However, I would be remiss by not acknowledging that there are
challenges.

For example, Mobile VDI is completely reliant on having a
connection back to the company’s servers. A more pressing challenge will be the
increased demands, as mentioned by TechRepublic’s Scott Matteson in this article,
on the company’s internal network and Internet portal because of the additional
bandwidth required by devices using VDI technology.

As I alluded to in the beginning, tablets are here to stay,
and they should. I would be lost without mine. We just have to make sure we are
not opening yet another door, making it easier for bad guys to sneak-in.

If you are interested in more details, this white paper
sponsored by CDWG.com is a good resource.