Skip Navigation

Virtual desktop infrastructure security best practices

Posted on June 7, 2022

Senior Program Manager, Azure Virtual Desktop

It’s no longer a matter of organizations deciding whether to embrace remote and hybrid work but finding the best way to do so. A recent study showed most employees are happier having the option to work from home, and 80 percent say they’re as productive or more productive when they do. One of the most popular options for organizations who want to offer remote work options is virtual desktop infrastructure or VDI.

What is VDI?

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is an IT infrastructure that virtualizes desktops—to give employees access to enterprise data and applications from anywhere and from most personal and professional devices. Organizations host applications and data on servers, and through VDI, enable their employees to work remotely via remote desktops. VDI is popular for enabling remote work because, with the right configuration, it’s highly secure and relatively inexpensive compared to on-premises options.

What are some of the security benefits of cloud-based VDI migration?

Migrating to a cloud-based VDI solution allows organizations to take advantage of built-in security features that mitigate and eliminate the risks associated with traditional desktop virtualization. Azure Virtual Desktop in combination with the Azure public cloud, for example, offers comprehensive security features, like Azure Sentinel and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, that are built-in before deployment. This helps enable an organization to follow critical VDI security best practices from the start of their virtualization journey.

What are some VDI security best practices?

  • Conditional access applies access controls based on signals like group membership, type of device, and IP address to enforce policies.
  • Multifactor authentication requires that users consistently verify their identities to access sensitive data.
  • Audit logs are used to gain insight into user and admin activities.
  • Endpoint security like Microsoft Defender for Endpoints offers built-in protection against malware and other advanced threats for all your endpoints.
  • Application restriction mitigates security threats by limiting what applications certain users are allowed to access using software like Windows Defender Application Control.

Following these VDI security practices helps organizations secure user identities, data, and access to their VDI. They’re the reason a comprehensive VDI solution, like Azure Virtual Desktop, doesn’t just mitigate security risks associated with virtualization, but increases overall security.

Of course, there are numerous factors and potential issues for an organization to consider in choosing to implement a VDI solution. Most of these issues stem from hosting virtual desktops on-premises, as traditional VDIs do.

What are some concerns for an organization considering a traditional VDI?

First, there’s the cost. Traditionally, implementing VDI is an involved, complicated process. It often requires employees with specialized roles to deploy, manage, and scale an organization’s VDI as needed. Cloud-based VDI solutions like Azure Virtual Desktop are managed and scaled by the cloud VDI solution provider themselves, which lowers cost considerably.

Second and most importantly, there are the security concerns that come with adopting a hybrid model through traditional VDI. After the deployment of a VDI, IT managers must consider the security of home and corporate networks when developing security protocols. Employees using different types of devices to access data also opens networks to new vulnerabilities, as these new devices can be more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Most of these vulnerabilities are eliminated when you use a cloud-based VDI with built-in security features and endpoint protection.

How do you choose a secure VDI for your organization?

Meeting these implementation and security challenges often poses a barrier to organizations fully embracing a hybrid work model. IT decision makers must consider the challenges along with the benefits of enabling remote work when choosing a VDI solution for their organization. Adopting a comprehensive, cloud-based virtual desktop solution, like Azure Virtual Desktop, mitigates and eliminates many of these security concerns.

Also referred to as desktop-as-a-service, cloud-based VDI solutions host their virtual desktops on the cloud using a subscription model instead of on-premises, locally operated and maintained servers. Not only does this lower the cost and time of implementing VDI by decreasing the amount of labor needed to maintain it, it also ensures that the cloud-based virtual desktop solution provider shares responsibility with its customers for security. With the right provider, this can prove to be an enormous benefit.

Learn more

To explore the possibility of implementing Azure Virtual Desktop at your organization, read the 17-page e-book, Delivering Secure Remote and Hybrid Work with Azure Virtual Desktop, to learn more about how to:

  • Increase your end-to-end security through VDI migration.
  • Implement and maintain VDI security best practices.
  • Scale resources on demand for your employees without the limitations of on-premises data centers using Azure Virtual Desktop.
  • Lower your costs by running multiple virtual desktop user sessions on a single virtual machine.