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Key factors in a healthcare desktop virtualization implementation

Healthcare organizations must consider individual users' remote access and manageability before embarking on a desktop virtualization implementation.

Desktop virtualization is a technology that is well suited to healthcare organizations. However, there are several key factors that should be considered before an organization jumps into a desktop virtualization implementation.

Desktop sharing

Whether or not users will "own" their virtual desktop is one of the first considerations that should be taken into account. Most healthcare organizations randomly connect users to a virtual desktop from within a virtual desktop pool. When the user's session ends, the virtual desktop is reset to a pristine state. This virtual desktop model requires the least administrative effort, but does allow admins to assign virtual desktops to specific users so that individual changes are persistent from one session to the next.

Remote access

Remote access is another issue that must be carefully considered. Specifically, a determination must be made about whether or not virtual desktops will be accessible from beyond the network perimeter.

In a healthcare environment it is usually advisable to make some groups of virtual desktops externally accessible while limiting the access of others that have privileges for sensitive information to within the network perimeter. This approach greatly reduces the chances of electronic protected health data being exposed.

Desktop manageability

Desktop manageability is a third factor that must be considered. Groups of virtual desktops are typically generated from a golden image. Although the use of a image can make the deployment process easier, some administrators have found that they are constantly having to create new golden images as a way of keeping up with changes.

One way to reduce the management burden is to combine desktop virtualization with an application virtualization solution. By doing so, you will be able to easily make new applications (or new versions of applications) available to end users without having to directly modify the virtual desktops themselves.

About the author:
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server and IIS. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals, and once was in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. Write to him at or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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