DaaS, VDI, and the Changing World of the Desktop

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Over the past 20 years, the enterprise has changed beyond all recognition. Enormous server rooms, monolithic desktop computers, and miserable-looking landlines are seemingly on their way out, thanks to the emergence of cloud computing, the mobile workforce, and IoT.

This brave new world has even seen significant changes in the way that desktops are delivered, with DaaS (desktop as a service) and VDI (virtual-desktop infrastructure) becoming a more pressing need for modern business.

Changing times

In the past, an enterprise’s chosen OS would run on the desktop computer or laptop used by its employees, with everything from the browser to the data stored locally. Even further in the past, users would connect to a (locally placed) mainframe, via a terminal, for any and all data processing needs.

The enterprise landscape has changed again with the emergence of the cloud and remote working. With employees taking their devices home, the ability to locally manage these devices, from policies to security, became increasingly difficult. This approach also meant that if one computer was compromised, the entire enterprise was vulnerable.

This is where thin clients came in. These lightweight devices with limited local resources offer reduced user costs, thanks to centralized resources. Thin clients embraced a model not dissimilar to the traditional mainframe one, where the devices would connect with the terminal server.

However, the difference here is the location of the terminal server, with thin clients able to connect users to an outsourced desktop. Here, the remote desktop, DaaS and VDI began to take shape.

VDI or DaaS?

The reason for businesses embracing the remote desktop involve everything from security to the ability to outsource maintenance. Indeed, many of the same business benefits that companies turn to cloud or hybrid applications model are available in VDI and DaaS.

What, then, is the difference between VDI and DaaS? VDI means that a business’ server delivers desktops to an enterprise’s fleet of devices. The business is required to maintain and operate the infrastructure.

DaaS on the other hand is entirely outsourced. All employees are required to do is connect to the internet and cloud service, and the hosting company handles service management.

In hotel terms, VDI is half-board, while DaaS is all-inclusive. Both are excellent options, but with great change comes a certain degree of trepidation.

Security concerns

Many people, for example, have concerns regarding the security of DaaS. This is mainly due to an issue of trust: do you truly trust another organization to safely manage your company’s most important assets? That being said, DaaS is arguably better placed to securely handle a BYOD policy than traditional personal computing, with all devices managed behind virtual desktop services.

DaaS is also usually thought of as a more cost-effective option and, in many cases, it is. However, there are some details that need to be taken into account. As with all licensing agreements, you need to understand what your cost per user is, and where price breaks occur. If you are using a DaaS solution and your company acquires another company, that’s a cost that will need to be factored in. It’s a very different model than acquiring a company where each employee simply brings his or her computer to work.

Cost and security are particularly important for the key markets of DaaS: SMBs and healthcare organizations. SMBs benefit from the low cost to operate and maintain their desktops. Healthcare organizations benefit from the security of VDI or DaaS solutions because it minimizes the number of systems that store sensitive patient data. 

The enterprise will continue to change as the manner in which we use and deploy our resources advance and evolve. DaaS and VDI should be considered as more than passing trends, and instead represent different ways that organizations can embrace this change, streamline their processes, and better serve their employees.

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