ThinkGrid's Hosted Desktop service enables businesses to provide an online Windows PC for workers rather than manage everything themselves. The service delivers an experience almost indistinguishable from having your own PC, save for some issues with multimedia content.
Provides Windows PCs and applications without the management overhead; access from anywhere with an internet connection.
Requires constant internet connection; multimedia delivery sometimes poor.
From £49 per user per month
ThinkGrid's Hosted Desktop service offers companies a way to get the benefits of a Windows PC for each employee, without needing to manage the systems themselves. The service provides virtual Windows clients hosted in a datacentre, with remote access via an internet connection.
Available now, the ThinkGrid Hosted Desktop is aimed mostly at smaller businesses without an IT department, and is intended to let such customers outsource much of the effort involved in maintaining a network of Windows PCs and associated applications, including email and office apps.
The service also has the advantage that ThinkGrid can turn on access to other applications, such as Acrobat Professional, if desired. Customers can pay to access extra applications on a per-month basis, and then turn them off again if they are no longer required.
On the downside, having desktops provided from a datacentre makes a company more dependent on its network connection. A loss of service would mean no access to applications and data, so customers may need to choose a communications provider offering some concrete form of service level agreement.
However, the fact that your desktop can be accessed from almost anywhere means that employees should be able to continue to work from home, or some other site with internet access, if required.
Customers will still need to provide users with some type of client device in order to access their online desktop. This can be an existing Windows PC or a thin client terminal, which ThinkGrid can supply if required.
We tested a trial Hosted Desktop account and found it gave quite a satisfactory user experience. Once past the log-in, it was easy to believe that the Windows desktop was running on the system we were seated at, rather than being delivered from a remote datacentre.
The Hosted Desktop automatically links up to the printer drivers on your local system, so that if you hit print in Word, the pages come out of your local printer. The Hosted Desktop also maps to any drives on the local system, so you can upload or download files, and it plays sounds from the virtual PC through the local system.
The only disappointment we found was that some multimedia content did not play as well as we might expect on a normal PC. For example, while the videos found on our own web site played reasonably well, the sound was often not in synchronisation.
Despite this, we found the ThinkGrid Hosted Desktop closer to the experience of using a real PC than you would typically expect from accessing a Citrix or Terminal Services session via a thin client. For example, users can customise their desktop with their own wallpaper and even install applications onto their virtual machine. During tests, we downloaded and installed Google Talk, for example.