Over the past few years I've seen various demonstrations of ones entire computer running over the Internet. This is not just using a hosted application, but this is where your entire desktop - "My computer", your files, applications - everything are accessed over the Internet on a service provider's computer.
As broadband gets faster and more extensive this is not an unrealistic scenario. I find it a bit scary, as if the service provider goes down your entire computing infrastructure is not available. But on the other hand, so much of our world is already accessible online. I think of managed service provider mindSHIFT's new service NextDesktop. For as low as $40 per month, NextDesktop serves to any browser a complete computing experience.
This includes: Office Applications, Exchange (added cost), QuickBooks (added cost), backup, 1GB of disk space for your files and more. NextDesktop is one of many companies selling hosted desktops. Also, don't confuse a hosted desktop, wherein your entire computer applications and data are hosted by a service provider, with managed services. Managed services is where you pay one flat fee for a service provider to manage your company's infrastructure.
CMIT Solutions, Greenhouse IT (New York City) and other companies offer managed IT services. The decision to use a hosted desktop is one that can only be made by you, with the advice of your IT consultant. This decision is really based on the type of business you have and what your needs are.
If you need to have a totally managed environment, with the utmost security, then a managed desktop could be the best solution for you. However, if you simply need remote access to files, then a mix of hosted applications and remote file access to your local services, all manged by an IT consultant could be all you need.
Ramon Ray is the editor and tech evangelist for Smallbiztechnology.com