I am sitting at my laptop on yet another cold, snowy New England day, conveniently working from home while the plows systematically clear (yet again) the roads. Not so conveniently, I am installing anti-virus software to scan my system for a potential threat I may have just downloaded. If only I had used my hosted desktop to retrieve that blasted file!

A hosted desktop, whether it is a cloud desktop running in a public cloud, a virtual machine running in our corporate data center, or a desktop operating system running on dedicated hosted hardware, insulates my personal machine from any action I take while working on that desktop. I might install incompatible applications; I may download a bad file; I could do any number of things and my laptop remains safe.

This particular scenario barely touches the surface of the benefits organizations gain by hosting data and desktops in the data center. Data is more secure in the data center, virtual machines are easily updated and managed, expensive applications are turned into shared resources. These benefits, however, take control away from the end user.

IT now decides what resources the user can access, how the user connects to that resource, and what they can do with the resource. For certain task workers, that lock down is likely just fine. But, what if you have end users who start to feel a little stifled? They, like me, may revert to their own device and start working away.

What are some key aspects of the end-user experience that should consider giving back to the end user to keep them productive and working on their hosted desktop?

USB Device Passthrough

Many of the user’s personal desktops have plug-and-play compatibility with their USB devices, and users become accustom to having access to their devices on their desktop. Organizations must juggle the requirements of end users to access their USB devices, with the corporate requirement to lock down the hosted desktop and ensure data security.

Introducing a connection broker into a hosted desktop environment allows organizations to create rules that define what USB devices users can pass through to their hosted desktop. Look for a solution that allows you to change the list of allowed devices based on the user’s client. For example, if they connect to their hosted desktop from a corporate laptop, you may allow the user to connect different USB devices than if they log in from their personal laptop.

The client used to connect to the hosted desktop should give the user control over selecting which and when USB devices are attached to their hosted desktop. If the user can connect to multiple hosted desktops, the client should allow the user to move devices between connected desktops, as well.

Connection Characteristics

Not all networks are created equal. Most high-performance display protocols provide tuning parameters that allow you to tweak the desktop connection to provide the best connection for a given network connection. In a hosted environment that utilizes a connection broker to handle user logins and connections, IT typically defines the parameters used to establish the connection.

For mobile users, a single parameter set is often not sufficient. Look for ways to allow the end user to control how their connection is established, including changing resolution, setting image quality, specifying fullscreen versus windowed mode, or indicating which monitor the remote sessions span.


When a distributed work force is assigned to the same task, careful collaboration is key. If you have users that need to share a workstation, connect the user to their workstation using a display protocol that allows collaboration, or session shadowing. Connection broker technology can help track who is logging in and who is shadowing certain sessions, and can even provide tools that allow users to send invitations to collaborate with one another.

For some workloads, a move to the data center is inevitable. Careful planning and considerations on what end-user experience items you can place back in the end-users hands will help you build a hosted desktop solution that provides all the security you want, with all the functionality the end user needs.

Now it’s your turn, what ways are you giving control back to the end user in a hosted or virtual desktop environmet? Share your tips using the comment section below.