VDI vs DaaS: the flavors of desktop virtualization

We take a closer look at two popular desktop hosting options

Pairing attractive design with ease of operation, today’s business desktops tick all the boxes for productivity while also appearing slick and stylish. However, in the wake of burnout emanating from always-on work culture, the world of employment has undergone a profound change - remote working has become the new normal for small and medium businesses.

Nearly half of all employed Americans are working from home amid the COVID-19 outbreak and will continue to do so. A Forbes report cited remote work as a “standard operating procedure” for 50% of the US population, corroborating the trend. The IT sector has long practiced remote hiring, and sales and marketing industries are now following suit.

All of this makes one thing clear: Remote working is here to stay. 

A growing number of employees are cutting loose from their cubicles, which places mounting pressure on IT to enable anywhere, anytime working. This is where the usefulness of desktop virtualization via virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and desktop as a service (DaaS) becomes hard to ignore. 

Virtual desktop hosting: what, why and how?

Desktop virtualization, also known as client virtualization, is a technology that moves end-user computing from employee workstations to a centralized server. Essentially, employees can access work files and applications from any location at any time. 

From a technical standpoint, this is possible because archives from virtualized desktops are stored on a managed data center as opposed to hard drives in personal computers. 

The right virtualization solution will allow an administrator to customize and manage desktops through a single interface, freeing IT staff from the daunting task of configuring individual desktops. Reduced maintenance cost is another benefit of virtualization, as the organization needs fewer employees to supervise the hosted desktops. 

Is enabling virtualization safe? 

Absolutely. Since enterprise data is stored inside a data center rather than on the actual machine, the risk of a data breach through a lost or stolen device is virtually zero. Virtualization also allows IT admins to set accessibility rules so data remains in the right hands at all times. 

At the same time, when a device is decommissioned or defective, users can conveniently log in from another device and continue working. In effect, every component of a desktop is virtualized to enable quick access while also preventing unauthorized data tampering. 

Finally, when the employee calls it a day and logs off from the computer, data is backed up centrally, taking confidential data away from prying eyes. If need be, IT admins can reset the desktop to wipe out data, software or any other potentially risky document as a safety measure.  

Choosing the right virtualization tool

Organizations can achieve desktop virtualization in a variety of ways, but the most popular options include virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and desktop as a service (DaaS). 

VDI and DaaS operate on similar technologies and are highly expandable and reliable as a service. So, how do they differ? Is one better than the other? 

Here is a complete breakdown of the differences between the two:

Set up 

VDI, as you’d expect, helps enable virtual desktops through a server and implementation requires you to manage all areas of the infrastructure yourself. This includes the hardware, operating systems, applications and associated software. Any issues that may arise, from software patches to hardware replacement, are your responsibility.

DaaS offers all the benefits of VDI, minus the hassle. It’s a cloud-based service under which third-party service providers supply and administer VDI-based virtual desktops. Organizations don’t need a server and data center to access a virtual desktop using DaaS. A trusted provider configures, manages and checks on the platform as required.

Cost  

VDI platforms have a high deployment cost, as an organization must find space for a data center, purchase or lease hardware and accessories and manage a host of other associated costs. There is also the cost of the ongoing support the VDI will need. 

DaaS providers take on tall the virtual desktop setup costs, and organizations need little or no expertise to manage the infrastructure. This might seem cost-effective, but the expenses not only include a base fee, but there will be ongoing subscription fees that’ll increase relative to the number of users you have.

Accessibility

Regardless of the platform, you can access files from anywhere with just about any device. That said, a lack of internet can make all the difference. With VDI as a platform, internet connectivity is never an issue as files are stored on a local server, so employees can access them with or without the internet. 

DaaS, however, requires a stable internet to access a virtual desktop because it’s hosted on a remote server.

Data back up

Backing up data is undeniably vital for ensuring business continuity. The ability to retrieve copies of data is paramount to any business when faced with a cyberattack. With VDI, a backup server comes at an additional price. 

Most DaaS providers back up data on reserved or redundant servers to ensure prompt data recovery. Backup servers also help recover accidentally deleted files. File additions or updates are synched and available to registered members on the DaaS subscription list. 

The way forward 

With remote working rapidly evolving from a nice-to-have perk to a necessity, virtual desktop deployment is not a question of if it happens but when. Concentrating on core business operations rather IT issues becomes substantially less challenging with virtual desktops. 

Furthermore, IT giants VMware, Citrix, HP and Microsoft now offer VDI and DaaS solutions. The offerings will only improve as more companies adopt cloud computing for data management. 

For enterprise-level file storage and sharing, VDI is a natural fit, as it keeps everything in-house. However, the type of business, duration of service and size of the company play a role too. 

Daas can be exceedingly beneficial for small and medium-sized businesses or startups with a lighter workforce. 

Interestingly, from an end user’s perspective, VDI and DaaS systems look one and the same. More succinctly, choosing between the platforms is a tradeoff between manageability and return on investment. 

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