The idea that the more things change, the more they stay the same holds true in tech. In the early years of computing, many workers used so-called dumb terminals that left complex computing tasks in the hands of large computers to which they were connected. As the PC became adopted widely, workers began using devices that handled much of the processing and storage right on the desktop.
Companies once again are exploring technology that shifts much of a computer's processing power to a central location—in this case, the data center. Known as virtual desktops, these devices can help an IT department better manage security and reduce costs. Employees can access the full range of documents and corporate software, via the Internet, while the company can guard against the security breaches that can occur when a computer is lost or stolen. Setting up new employees can also be done in minutes instead of hours.
For all their promise, virtual desktops have not yet been deployed broadly. Most companies are still in the testing phase, but chief information officers are enthusiastic about the technology and many say they see it as a potential way to increase security and save money in 2009. Read on to see which companies are experimenting with virtual desktops.