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Imagine this: you’re orchestrating a project, onboarding a global team spread across three continents. 

The tension in the air as you ship out devices, each carrying the weight of the team's productivity, or roll out VDIs for the entire remote team introducing a single point of failure, risking security of confidential data — it’is enough to test anyone’s mettle.

IT teams face this challenge regularly as they try to strike the right balance between granting employees remote access while ensuring the company's security and observability needs are met.

Making sure devices are shipped safely, VDIs are configured correctly, and all the desktop applications are working smoothly is incredibly time consuming for IT teams.

In my role leading global teams and shaping product strategies, one challenge keeps resurfacing in both boardroom meetings and everyday IT discussions — How do we manage access and security for thick clients (or desktop applications) in the world of remote work? These applications are customized to fit specific business needs, but their legacy infrastructure brings a host of complexities for IT teams and users. 

Thick Clients - A piece that no longer fits the puzzle 

For years, thick clients have been the reliable workhorses powering many enterprises particularly because of their tailored functionality. However, a decade and a global pandemic later, the work landscape has transformed into a remote-first one and so have the priorities of organizations. 

This shift demands a level of accessibility that thick clients were simply not designed to deliver. 

For example, organizations using legacy SAP applications have a time and resource intensive process for rolling out thick clients. Setting up these applications can require IT teams to:

  • Install on each machine individually
  • Put in place a patching process
  • Upgrade when needed 
  • Ship the devices to each user or manage VDIs 

And if you want security layered on, you’ll likely need additional security solutions integrated as well. 

Integrating thick clients into your remote work IT setup brings up three significant challenges for end users, implementers, and stakeholders.

1. For end users 

Imagine trying to use a complex, vintage car with manual gears when you’re used to a sleek, modern automatic one. The learning curve can be steep, affecting your driving experience. Similarly, navigating legacy thick-client applications when you’re used to a browser-based experience can be challenging for users, leading to decreased productivity and an increased reliance on IT support. Browser-based apps come naturally to users as it aligns with how they primarily use their personal devices. Additionally, compatibility issues with different operating systems, versions, and configurations can hinder a seamless remote access experience. 

2. For admins

Coordinating the deployment, patching, and upgrading of thick-client software for a multitude of devices and versions is a time and resource-intensive feat. But the struggle doesn’t end there. IT teams are also tasked with managing licensing agreements and ensuring compliance for thick-client applications, complex network configurations, and more to ensure a smooth work environment. 

3. For stakeholders 

Allowing remote access to thick-clients without a tight security infrastructure invites potential risks, leaves valuable assets vulnerable, risking significant reputation harm. Moreover, the investment in hardware, software, and IT resources required to set up secure remote access solutions is not a small one, and can be a barrier for some organizations. 

Solutions? 

Many enterprises turn to existing tried-and-true methods like VPNs, RDPs, and VDIs to solve these issues, but only partially. In my conversations with IT leaders across industries, a common sentiment emerges — these solutions lack the agility and user-centered approach that remote workforces demand as well as necessary security and observability functionalities that enterprises need. 

The Better Way...

With years of experience leading global teams and driving product strategies, I've always believed that true innovation begins with a deep understanding of user challenges. As the cloud revolution unfolded, it became evident that a fresh approach was required for these legacy systems. A solution that could address the core pain points of remote workforces and companies by offering:

1. Better Digital Employee Experience

Providing secure access to remote teams shouldn't be that complicated. Users should be able to access web apps, thick-clients, and servers all in one place. There should be a solution that simplifies remote access for everyone, ensuring a seamless and native user experience.

2. Better Security Infrastructure

Security shouldn't be an afterthought—it should be woven into the fabric of your digital workspace. IT teams should be able to add a layer of security to thick clients and desktop applications without the need to modify these applications or rely on extensive custom coding. Also, administrators should be empowered with a centralized data repository, and nuanced security policies, from data leak prevention to watermarking — all managed from a single solution. A solution that would not only strengthen security measures but also streamline the entire management process. 

3. 360° Visibility

Understanding how users interact with your systems is crucial. IT teams need a bird's eye view of all user activity to identify problem areas, vulnerable nooks, and breach triggers. A solution that enables proactive issue management and elevates the overall user experience. 

Sonet.io helps to streamline the rollout of thick-clients and web apps, removing the need to install applications on devices. Remote workers can access any thick client instantly just by logging into the Sonet.io browser-based workspace. 

For example, if you leverage SAP GUI for Windows for temporary contractors to manage workflows and access custom apps, you can onboard them instantly with Sonet.io without the hassle of shipping devices or configuring VDIs. You can revoke the access as and when needed. The SAP application (like any other desktop app, web app, and server) is managed centrally. So, when it’s time to patch or upgrade, IT admins only need to do this once and not on hundreds of different devices.

In Conclusion 

As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of remote work, it's evident that a shift in perspective is needed. By placing the user at the center, implementing robust security measures, and centralizing management, enterprises can seamlessly provide remote access to thick-client applications. This would not only solve legacy system challenges but also establish the groundwork for a future-ready, adaptable, and secure digital workspace. It's time to embrace a solution that truly fits the needs of today's remote work environment.

Learn about how Sonet.io helps you solve remote work IT challenges here

PS: I was recently on a panel with CIO/CISOs of leading companies discussing what the future of work looks like for enterprises and how to adapt fast. Check it out here