Virtual Desktop Infrastructure vs. desktop-as-a-service: What’s the difference?

The “work-from-anywhere” culture has fueled the growth of remote desktops and virtualization as more employees enjoy the freedom away from their desks. This has led to the development of two IT streams — Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and desktop-as-a-service (DaaS). At first glance, DaaS and VDI might look similar as the fundamental objective of both is to give users access to a remote working environment. But that’s also where the similarities end.

In this article, let’s look at the differences between these two streams, so you can decide which of the two is a better fit for your needs.

What is virtual desktop infrastructure?

Simply put, VDI is a technology where you host desktop environments in a central server or datacenter, and virtualized copies of these environments are sent to the end-user through a network, such as the Internet.

The endpoints or the devices used by the end-user to access these virtualized desktops can be PCs, laptops, tablets, and even thin client terminals. Users can access the operating system and the applications installed on the virtual desktop as if they are using a local system.

Non-Persistent VDI Benefits
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VDIs can be persistent and non-persistent. In persistent VDIs, a user connects to the same desktop every time, so personalization is possible. In non-persistent VDIs, on the other hand, no changes are saved, and hence no customization is possible.

Features of VDIs

Some of the notable features of VDIs are:

  • Multiple instances of virtual desktops can run on the same server.
  • Windows-based VDIs are the most common, though Linux-based VDIs are also available.
  • The VDI can be set up for single or multiple users.
  • Since most of the processing happens on the server, the end devices don’t need advanced capabilities.
  • Allows users to remotely access desktops from anywhere.

Moving on, let’s learn about desktop-as-a-service.

What is DaaS?

Desktop-as-a-service is a cloud computing service that delivers virtual desktops through the Internet to end-users. This service is licensed on a per-user payment subscription model.

Here, the cloud service provider hosts the required infrastructure and resources and takes care of their security and maintenance as well.

What-is-desktop-as-a-service-Shutterstock

Like VDIs, DaaS can also be persistent and non-persistent — persistent offers customization options while non-persistent is more for accessing cloud services through a desktop.

Features

Here’s a look at the salient features of DaaS:

  • Works well for graphics and other resource-intensive applications, as administrators can quickly migrate applications between servers.
  • Saves the time and cost of building and maintaining a virtual machine infrastructure.
  • Easy to scale up or down based on business requirements.
  • Many DaaS services come with analytics and reports to help companies stay on top of their performance.
  • Often, DaaS providers use the latest technologies, so you can access these desktops without worrying about costs and upgrades.
  • DaaS providers are in a better position to identify and mitigate threats before they impact your organization.

As you can see, there are many overlapping features between DaaS and VDI. But a closer look shows that they are similar in some ways but are not identical. As an organization, understanding this difference can help you make the right choice.

VDIs vs. DaaS

From the above discussion, an obvious difference stands out between VDIs and DaaS.

While the company’s in-house team manages VDI, DaaS is handled by the cloud service provider. This distinction has its ramifications for security, cost, scalability, and control.

Let’s look into these differences beyond the obvious ownership.

Cost

Out of the two, DaaS is cheaper because there are no costs associated with setup and maintenance. All that you do is pay a certain fee every month based on the number of users, and that’s it.

DaaS also helps if your business has seasonal spikes in employees because you can increase the number of subscriptions only during these spike periods, thereby making it a cost-effective option instead of investing in infrastructure that would remain unused during the non-spike months.

VDI, on the other hand, is expensive to set up and maintain and entails considerable resources such as an IT support and admin team. Also, it gets costly to add more capacity, and you also don’t have the flexibility to scale up or down as needed.

Security

There are two ways to look at security. If your organization prefers to keep security and control in-house, VDI is the choice. Many companies in the financial sector prefer VDIs because of this control and the ability to meet the associated compliance standards.

That said, VDI is often built on older infrastructures as it is not feasible to upgrade to new systems and networks frequently. This aging infrastructure can open up vulnerabilities and can increase the chances of an attack.

The reverse works for DaaS. You have very little control over security and operations because everything is outsourced to a third-party provider. But these providers are likely to leverage the latest technologies so that security will be top-notch. Also, SLAs give you an added layer of protection as the onus will lie with the provider to prevent any breaches.

Tenancy

VDI is based on a single-tenant model as only one organization uses the resources. As a result, there are no interferences or interruptions from other users.

At the same time, when your datacenter is down, you can’t use any resources.

On the other hand, DaaS works on a multi-tenancy model where you dynamically share resources with other users. This means your access can be slower, depending on the usage rates of other organizations. However, it is more resilient because there are automatic backups for failures.

Thus, these are some of the differences between VDIs and DaaS.

VDI or DaaS — Which is better for you?

Now comes the big question — should you choose VDI or DaaS?

Choosing VDI

VDI is a good choice for companies that,

  • Have a large employee base as the organization can provide a consistent user experience. Also, desktops can be pooled across multiple user groups, thereby helping you to save money in the long run.
  • Require large groups of users to share desktops without much customization
  • Have a good internal IT support system as there can be an increase in help desk requests from users. Most issues are likely to be related to connectivity and access, so the support team has to spend additional time, especially for new employees and those who are not used to working in a VDI.
  • Possess a robust IT admin team that can handle the administration and management of VDIs.
  • Owns considerable storage space or is willing to spend money, as VDIs require large storage spaces and servers with high computing capabilities.
  • Require high levels of security and control within the organization

Choosing DaaS

On the other hand, DaaS is a good choice in the following situations.

  • Ideal for businesses that see seasonal spikes in demand or employees, as they can subscribe to DaaS only when needed and on a per-user basis.
  • Works for businesses that don’t have a dedicated IT support team for handling issues.
  • A good choice for startups that are looking for cost-effective solutions.
  • DaaS mitigates security risks as devices can be pulled off the network quickly in the event of a hack.
  • Ideal for companies that don’t work in a highly regulated industry like banking or insurance.
  • Works well for companies that are looking to expand their operations to other countries, as they don’t have to spend money upfront in setting up the systems.
  • Ideal for companies that may be involved in mergers and acquisitions as transfer of ownership of the systems and resources will be easy.

Overall, VDI and DaaS are good choices for companies that support a global workforce and remote working arrangements, but choosing one over another would depend to a large extent on the specific needs of your business, nature of operations, availability of support resources, and cost considerations.

We hope this distinction helps you to identify the model that’s most conducive for your work culture and business goals.

Which one would you prefer and why? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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