Game-changing IT technologies -- and how they affect the everyday worker

The evolution of IT changes the way business gets the job done.

As IT evolves to support everything from virtualized desktops to mobile and social networking, new advances promise to change the way the business side of the house gets the job done. Here's a look at some of IT departments' game-changing technologies and how they affect the everyday worker.

What IT pros like best about next-generation technology

Desktops anywhere

The battle between users, who are all about flexibility, and IT, which is all about control, is nearing a truce as more organizations evaluate and deploy virtualized desktops. "Corporate IT is all about controlling the users, locking down the devices and making sure users are doing the right thing and not installing unknown applications," says Brian Madden, an independent consultant. Users, however, want more freedom and flexibility than that. "There's a whole new Generation Y, MySpace, YouTube, text-messaging, cell-phone generation. These people turn 30 this year, and are starting to move up pretty high in companies. And they won't take no for an answer," he says. Desktop virtualization works to make both sides happy by providing IT control and user flexibility. Here are three ways desktop virtualization is changing the way everyday employees work:

Virtual desktops. With virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology, pioneered by virtualization giant VMware, users access virtual images of their desktops via the network anytime, from anyplace. So, if users need to access their personal desktop files from the road, they no longer need to lug around their own laptops. They can use a public kiosk in a hotel, log on and access their entire personal desktop via the Internet and a VPN. IT keeps the virtual desktop images safe and controlled in the data center.

Desktops on a stick. What if users can't get online but still need to access their desktop from the road? Before they log off from the network, they update a USB stick with the latest virtual images of their desktop and take it along. Then they plug the stick into their laptop -- or even better, the USB port on a public computer in their hotel. The stick is encrypted, so data stays private, but it fits in a pocket -- and that's much easier than lugging a laptop through airport security. Key players here are RingCube Technologies, SanDisk and Ceedo Technologies.

Desktops in a desktop. Some desktop-virtualization software lets users run virtual desktops within a desktop and work whether they're online or offline. For example, a worker could bring in a home laptop configured with personal e-mail, Web sites and files; download a virtual image of the locked-down corporate desktop; and access both from the same machine -- seamlessly. Plus, if necessary, users can take a corporate desktop with them, letting them do company work from home or on the road. On linking to the corporate network, the device receives streamed updates, ensuring optimal security and flexibility. Microsoft, with its Kidaro acquisition, is set to offer this technology sometime next year, while start-up Moka5's LivePC is available now.

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