DaaS vs. VDI - What’s best for your business?


For the uninitiated, Desktop virtualisation is the practise of taking the computing requirement away from local machines and centralising it in servers. Because of this, users require very low performance/cost machines to act as a portal to their desktop in a virtual environment. When opting to deploy virtual desktops, IT leaders have an important choice to make between classic virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or desktop-as-a-service (DaaS). This blog covers a few key factors you may wish to take into consideration when evaluating your options.

There is one key difference between VDI and DaaS: With VDI, all of the infrastructure resides within the business, and IT departments manage their own network, servers, user desktops, and hosted applications. Conversely, although the end result of DaaS is very similar to VDI, the desktops are hosted in the cloud by a third party, often with a daily or even hourly subscription fee. The provider handles all aspects or provisioning, deployment, management, etc.

Taking the implementation and management of the infrastructure off of IT’s plate is one of the main selling points of DaaS, and in addition to this convenience, it makes moving, patching, upgrading or restoring the desktops less of a demand on resources as they are hosted in the cloud rather than connected to servers in your data center. DaaS also boasts more flexibility than VDI, as desktops can be added quickly and easily, normally without having to worry about resources and capacity.

Conventional VDI, on the other hand, allows full on-site control for IT departments, making it ideal for environments that have sensitive or mission critical compute requirements. Because of this control, conventional VDI also enables more customisation, and if managed well, VDI can be cheaper than DaaS, as it is possible to build environments that offer (within reason) exactly what users need without surplus.

While VDI and DaaS each have their own benefits, they are ultimately different methods of achieving the same result. There are certain factors that IT leaders should consider when deciding whether VDI or DaaS better suits their organisations. Firstly, consider when you need the desktops ready, and for how long. As most DaaS providers can provision desktops almost instantly and for set periods of time, it is certainly the more viable option for short-term or intermittent usage (seasonal workers, for example). Creating a conventional VDI setup can take time and comes with front-loaded costs, not to mention the time and resources required to manage the infrastructure effectively, so it’s important to plan carefully before committing to a VDI project.

In a similar vein, the number of desktops you need and what type of work they are doing can both affect the cost of a DaaS deployment. DaaS works well for an organisation with many “normal” office users, but if you need to supply desktops for power users that work with intensive software involving artworking, heavy data crunching, 3D or CAD applications, the computing power required will increase costs substantially. In an environment like this, VDI (or a hybrid solution) may be the more cost-effective option. In addition to this, a cloud-hosted desktop will require a lot of bandwidth, so you must consider whether your internet connections have the capacity for DaaS deployment before moving forward.

If your business is data-centric, it is worth considering the issues surrounding data ownership and security that arise when using a third-party DaaS provider. As you can hold all your data on-site when using a VDI setup, it may be better for ensuring your operations are compliant.

There is no absolute “right answer” for every business when it comes to choosing between VDI or DaaS, as either could be cheaper or easier depending on the circumstances. However, if IT leaders carefully consider their time, resources and their employees’ needs, virtualisation in one form or another can offer substantial benefits.

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