Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) is a cloud computing solution, where the virtual desktop infrastructure is outsourced to a third party provider. The DaaS functionality is based on the virtual desktop, a user-controlled session or dedicated machines, which provide on-demand-cloud-services for users and organisations.
Desktop-as-a-Service is also known as a virtual desktop or hosted desktop services. Depending on the type of implementation, DaaS uses distributed execution or remote execution. The approach is a cost effective alternative to conventional IT solutions and is used by organisations and companies which require a high level of performance and availability. Furthermore, DaaS is an ideal solution for smaller organisations with limited resources.
Advantages of DaaS include:
- Data security
- Simple platform migration
- Overall cost reduction
- Minimised complexity
- Disaster recovery
- Continuous connectivity
Thin Clients and Fat Clients
A thin client is a computer, which was optimised for the set-up of a remote connection with a server-based computer environment. The server does most of the work, for example the start of software programmes, calculation of numbers and storage of data. Thin clients occur as components of a wider computing infrastructure, in which many clients share their calculations with a server or server farm. The server-side infrastructure uses cloud computing software, such as application virtualisation, hosted shared desktop (HSD) or desktop virtualisation (VDI). This combination forms a so-called cloud-based system, where desktop resources are centralised in one or several data centres.
The advantages of centralisation are:
- an optimisation of hardware resources,
- a reduction of software maintenance,
- the improvement of security.
Generally, thin client hardware supports keyboard, mouse, monitor and connections for sound periphery devices and open ports of USB devices (e.g. printer, flash drive, webcam). Some thin clients also have legacy serial or parallel interfaces to support older devices such as receipt printers, scales or timers. Thin client software generally consists of a graphic user interface (GUI), cloud access agents (such as RDP, ICA, PCoIP), a local web browser, terminal emulators (in some cases) and a number of local utilities.
In contrast, a fat client (also known as a heavy, rich or thick client) is a computer (client) in the client-server-architecture or in networks, which offers typically extensive functionality independently of a central server. A fat client always requires at least one periodic connection to a network or a central server, it is however characterised by the ability to execute many functions without this connection. In contrast, a thin client works generally as little as possible as it accesses the server each time input data has to be processed or validated.
Desktop Virtualisation as the Basis of Desktop-as-a-Service
Desktop virtualisation is a software technology, which separates the desktop environment and associated application software from the physical client device, which is used to access it. Desktop virtualisation can be implemented in conjunction with application virtualisation and user profile administration systems, referred to nowadays as “user virtualisation“ to offer a comprehensive desktop environment management system.
In this mode, all components of the desktop are virtualised, which enables a very flexible and much more secure desktop provisioning mode. This approach also supports a more comprehensive desktop disaster recovery strategy as essentially all components are saved in the data centre and secured by conventional redundant maintenance systems. If the device or the hardware of a user is lost, restoration is simple and uncomplicated as the components are available when signing-in from another device. As no data is saved on the user’s device, the probability of critical data being retrieved or compromised is significantly lower.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Desktop-as-a-Service
Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) provides users with virtual desktops, which are hosted on a cloud server. This makes work easier for IT professionals as it automates the difficult task to sign into every single computer in the organisation to make the same changes. With DaaS a larger upgrade only takes place once at the host console of the service provider and this change is available for every individual virtual desktop when the user logs in. In particular for smaller companies, DaaS is a cost-efficient solution which releases them from the IT responsibility of maintaining their own infrastructure for their virtual desktops and applications.
There are, however, no guarantees that a cloud desktop provider does not suffer at some time a failure, so that data is inaccessible and users are unable to do their work. Even excluding worst case scenarios, latency is still a regular problem for many and can affect the performance for customers. Also costs for potential bandwidths are increasing to cope with the additional data traffic, which correlates with a cloud desktop.
For Whom is the Concept Worthwhile
Desktop-as-a-Service is suitable in particular if a company does not have the IT knowledge and in-house resources. When data is to be accessed remotely from various locations, then cloud solutions are very suitable. Through encryptions, even sensitive data can be well protected.
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