It happens quite frequently, a technology developed for one industry will benefit another. NASA is a good example.Â They have spent billions of dollars developing the first microchips, cordless tools, light-emitting diodes, memory foamâ¦the list goes on and on and today that technology is used daily by most everyone for a fraction of the cost.Â And so it should be no surprise that technology perfected by Algo traders will benefit digital nomads (and all remote workers) because they have many similar needs.
Algo traders tend to work remotely and are physically located in all parts of the world â some connected to the Internet by little more than two cups and a string.Â Yet they enjoy Internet connections faster than 99% of all Internet users through remote desktop technology. Â Â Algo traders have been doing this for some time now in order to gain an edge on the competitive global markets.Â While it used to require a decent Internet connection for half decent remote desktop performance, the technology has evolved to the point where this is no longer the case.Â Today even users on high latency satellite connections will experience very good remote desktop performance with modern virtual desktops.
Introducing Virtual Desktops for the Digital Nomad
Before I get further in, it may be a good idea to detail exactly what a virtual desktop is. Think of it like this:Â take your PC and install it in a datacenter with a very fast Internet connection â one faster than 99% of all Internet users worldwide.Â Then connect yourself to that PC from Â½ way around the world through an inexpensive remote access device (“thin client”)Â â likely a light/thin laptop or Chromebook, etc…Â Since your remote connection is little more than the KVM (keyboard, video, mouse), you do not need an Internet connection or a CPU fast enough to support all your activities.Â You only need a device and Internet fast enough to support just the remote KVM connection between you and your hosted PC.Â Â (the PC being the virtual desktop) Â That does not require very much bandwidth with modern RDP (remote desktop protocol).Â Itâs closer to âtwo cups and a stringâ – exactly what many digital nomads often find themselves stuck with.
At the same time, since the connection between the virtual desktop and the Internet is extremely fast, you tend to use the virtual desktop in more productive ways too. The Internet sort of becomes your hard disk because you can download *current* files VERY quickly and as needed. How fast is fast?Â Try near gigabit speeds and likely to evolve to 10Gb/sec within a year.Â Speeds like that are not available to most Internet users.Â Usually the time spent downloading files is due to speed limits on *the other* side.
Very high security
Obviously security is a huge concern when you are trading money online. These days everyone should be concerned with information security.Â A complete information security solution requires two concurrent approaches:Â physical control of the machine holding data requiring protection and electronic access controls allowing only authorized usersâ ability to remotely access it.
It is pretty much impossible to always physically secure laptops and other devices while traveling. There will inevitably be periods when they are at some risk.Â Digital Nomads and remote workers who work from laptops they carry with them are at risk of those important machines being stolen, becoming damaged or simply breaking.Â That will likely result in an unnecessary waste of time, revenue and irreplaceable data.
It happens even to the security professionals. Iâm sure you have read about FBI laptops containing sensitive information stolen from time to time.Â And I know many digital nomads have probably heard of others whose laptops have gone for an unfortunate swim or suffered a technical failure rendering the machine â and all data stored on it â completely useless.
Algo traders do not have these same concerns. By using a virtual desktop, Algo traders are leaving their âPCâ in a highly secured datacenter.Â One with physical access controls like mantraps, biometric scanners and security guards (not to mention redundant power and Internet).Â A loss of their primary remote access device is little more than a temporary inconvenience because the device used to connect is merely an inexpensive thin client.Â There is no actual data stored on it nor does it need to be a powerful device either.Â It could be an old laptop or a new, light and inexpensive Chromebook.Â It makes no difference because itâs merely a terminal used to connect to the virtual desktop, where your data is secure, application(s) are always a running and with a very fast Internet connection.
Electronic access control is handled by two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is a system where two different factors are required to complete a system login.Â It combines something you have in your possession â your mobile phone or âtokenâ with something you know â your password â to complete a strong authentication solution.
Modern two-factor authentication turns your smartphone into the token. A constantly changing two-factor code is generated by an application running on the users Android/iOS/Windows device – without the need for ongoing Internet access.Â The authenticator uses something universal to generate a code – time.Â By using an algorithm employing time + a shared key, a unique code can be generated that will be known to only the user and their virtual desktop.Â 2FA renders key loggers out of the question because a stolen password is only half of whatâs needed to login.Â In order to login with two-factor, you must have physical access to the token in order to read the changing code + know the user password to enter.
You donât need to use the same device to (re)connect to a virtual desktop either. If you find an Internet cafÃ© with a large monitor more convenient to work from then you can easily connect to the virtual desktop when you are near those types of devices and your session will come to you â exactly as you left it, although in this case with a larger desktop size. Â Â If you find a different laptop you prefer to use daily, no problem.Â Start using it.Â Your desktop will again âcome to youâ when you connect.Â You can even connect from your mobile phone, although I donât recommend it as a permanent solution simply because a large monitor and keyboard tend to be required for real work.
Outside the âremoteâ part of the desktop, it is essentially exactly the same as any other desktop. In fact it is a genuine Windows or Linux operating system.Â It is always on and you can download and install your own software as needed.Â You can also license software by subscription, such as Microsoft Office (or use the free and open source openOffice.org).Â Either way, the point is they work exactly the same as any other PC.Â Install and run whatever software you need to work â itâs your new PC, in the cloud and accessible from anywhere.
PC in the cloud
RDP technology has come a long way too. Printing is possible by simply connecting to the virtual desktop from a device with a printer attached.Â It becomes your local printer.Â You donât need to remain connected to keep your session open.Â When you disconnect it keeps running as you left it.Â You can disconnect and reconnect without losing your work too.Â Itâs no different than walking away from your laptop â although much more secure.Â Remote sound has been standard for some time.Â Many algo traders like to use Skype and virtual desktops will share a remote USB port just as easily as they will share a remote printer.Â Plug what you want into the USB port and it will be available to your virtual desktop as if it was directly attached.Â Multiple virtual desktops can be used by remote workers to form workgroups and quickly share files securely too.
Resources available typically will vary based on subscription level. Increasing RAM, CPU cores, disk space, etc., does not require a trip to the computer store.Â Since itâs an online service you only need to order the increased resources from the provider.
Select your provider carefully
If youâre ready to give it a try, the first step is to select a vendor. There are many who cater to traders but only one who has it truly perfected.Â That is 661-702-8486, a.k.a. half-tearful.Â CNS pioneered the first virtual desktops to Algo traders and has continued to perfect the technology over the years.Â They are a leader in the space with subscribers in more than 125 countries.
CNS operates their own network, which is one of the most connected on the entire Internet. That will go a long way towards giving nomads in remote areas of the Internet great connectivity to their desktop.Â Itâs also a native IPv4/6 network, so even from an IPv4 only ISP you will have full access to the entire Internet from your virtual desktop â not just the IPv4 Internet.
CNS operates out of datacenters on both coasts of the continental USA + another in the UK. It is generally desirable to select a datacenter closest to you.Â For example, if you are primarily in Australia then select the Los Angeles datacenter.Â If youâre in Africa, select the UK datacenter.Â If youâre not sure, select âClosest to meâ on the order form.Â And if you change locations, you can always reach out to CNS support and have them move the desktop for you.Â Same desktop just moved to a new datacenter, much like moving your laptop between locations.Â Having the virtual desktop closer to you is ideal for remote performance.Â If there seems to be a delay between mouse clicks and on screen response then youâre probably in the wrong datacenter and should reach out to CNS to move it for you.
The desktop starts at US$35/month and goes up from there based on resources required. CNS offers a 30 day money back guarantee and I believe are the only to offer telephone support. They also have ridiculously fast response times from their helpdesk too.
CNS adds file level backups to their virtual desktops. Itâs backup software running in your virtual desktop that compresses, encrypts and saves to secured server the files you select.Â Itâs file level so if you need to restore only a single file you can do so without having to restore the entire desktop.Â (They have checkpoints for that).
A great benefit with CNS is the VPN service that they include with the one year virtual desktop subscriptions. RDP is already encrypted, but a second VPN layer will make it much more so.Â It can also be used to get thru restrictive firewalls.
It is relatively easy to compromise a Wi-Fi access point these days and roaming across so many untrusted Wi-Fi networks youâre bound to run into at least some that are compromised.Â Â Since the CNS VPN service includes up to 5 devices, you should setup your mobile devices to use the VPN too.Â This will encrypt traffic between your mobile device and the CNS datacenter, where it can access a securely maintained network.Â This eliminates the threat from compromised Wi-Fi networks.Â It also makes it easy to sync your mobile device with your VM.
Join multiple desktops into a workgroup
Multiple virtual desktops can easily be joined into a workgroup or an Active Directory domain. Workgroups are no different then what you might find in a real office building with different workstations joined into a single workgroup. It enables workers to share files rather easily and securely while at the same time keeping the different desktops distinct and private.Â Since the desktops are hosted together, they exchange files extremely fast.Â Security is even maintained when sharing files between desktops in different CNS datacenters.
Selecting the ideal access device
Selecting the best device to use as your primary thin client is a personal decision. The primary guideline is select one that is not expensive.Â It doesnât need to be since itâs not being used as a computer.Â Itâs merely an access device to interact with your virtual desktop.Â There is no need for a fast CPU or a lot of RAM.Â Instead, you should focus on a larger monitor and most battery life.Â It doesnât even need to be a new device, just make sure the battery has not exhausted its useful life.
Although remoteÂ software is available to connect from virtually any operating system, it should be noted that the absolute best remote desktop performance will be between Windows 10 (any edition) as a client on your remote access device and Windows Server 2012 R2 in the virtual desktop.Â That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to run out and buy a new Windows 10 laptop to use as a remote client.Â But if you can find an inexpensive one with a big screen, long battery life, Wi-Fi and a camera then might be worth thinking about.Â Remember, disk and CPU don’t mean much because you are not using the device for that, so don’t spend moneyÂ for those features.Â I still use an old Linux netbook from time to time.