VDI and DaaS: Advantages and Disadvantages

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure – abbreviated VDI – was long without any alternative when virtual desktops were in use within organisations. The traditional VDI process has been very simple: You place a server into the data centre, install a virtualisation software on it and start some virtual machines. Employees can then access these via the Local Area Network (LAN) in the business or via VPN (Virtual Private Network) from the home office. In comparison to VDI, Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) is the younger virtualisation approach, which differs to VDI mainly in that the desktops are outsourced to a service provider.
It basically works as with VDI, only that with the virtualised desktop this is now a cloud application. Ever since cloud services have become more cost effective and reliable, DaaS has developed into a serious alternative to VDI. If a company is to make a decision, the pros and contras of both approaches should be weighed against each other.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: Latency remains manageable

The in-house IT department is responsible for administration and maintenance as the VDI solution is locally in use. This means: hardware, software, licensing and provision is handled in-house. This has the advantage that latency remains manageable. The in-house IT department also maintains complete data control, even when access to the internet leads externally, the data remains within the organisation and under control of its staff. Many companies, for example those that handle sensitive customer data, are not keen to pass these into external hands. Security is probably one of the most mentioned reasons when a decision is made for VDI or a hybrid solution. Another plus of VDI is its longevity. This enables most large software vendors to offer cost efficient and tailored licence options for the individual business.
Initially this all sounds very positive, but there are also negative aspects.

Disadvantage VDI: Hardware and staff costs

While it appears to be practical to administer and maintain hardware and software in-house, VDI systems require committed IT staff that understand to circumnavigate all possible uncertainties. Which business doesn’t recognise this? Hardware errors, software problems and much more, which goes wrong, has to be resolved internally. This can be time intensive and even become very expensive as the IT world has become increasingly complex over the past few years. And faced with the shortage of specialist staff, the task to find really qualified staff is not always a simple one to achieve. Another disadvantage of VDI is ensuring compliance within the business. Apart from the cost intensive hardware procurement, the business also needs to make sure that the programmes installed on all desktops are also correctly licensed. Administration, security and licence management take up a lot of time, which the IT department could use for important things such as training etc.

DaaS: Oursource hardware and software problems

With Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS), VDI is hosted in the cloud by a provider. Here the complete hardware as well as software is administered by the provider. Long gone are the days when one had to think about hardware failures, software problems and maintenance. DaaS systems are mainly offered on a subscription basis and invoiced per usage (per seat), which offers an organisation maximum flexibility and agility when procuring the latest software solutions. This makes organisations attractive, in particular to younger members of staff (so-called millennials) and provides them with a competitive edge, which is not to be underestimated.

Desktop-as-a-Service – all beginnings are difficult

Currently the relatively new Desktop-as-a-Service business is still struggling with some teething troubles. For example, many DaaS providers only offer conventional programmes that come along with standard Windows software.  All other programmes, which employees require for their work, have to be provided and configured by the in-house IT department. At least in the beginning, using such hybrid solutions does not reduce the administrative effort of the in-house IT department. DaaS providers, who offer comprehensive business-ready solutions from the cloud, are currently rather scarce. Another problem presents the still high licensing costs. Many software vendors are currently still busy to develop suitable licensing offers for DaaS solutions.

Daas: Does mobility justify higher investment?

Another issue, which prevents businesses from using DaaS, is long-term pricing. Nathan Hill, Gartner’s Mobile Research Director explains: “One of the biggest hurdles for an extensive implementation is the long-term pricing of DaaS.  It can be misleading, as the initial price often only covers a very rudimentary resource profile for nothing more than OS or workspace hosting. ” The researcher also states that DaaS is particularly suitable for agile computer demand, but it currently does not yet pay off when replacing the average desktop.  However, for certain organisations, business-ready DaaS systems are of real benefit. Higher education establishments can for example offer their students a work environment via DaaS. Temporary workers in a business receive a workstation without the need for a hardware set-up. And everybody, who would like to test hardware or software, can only benefit from a complete cloud-based system.

Conclusion: The ideal provider fits their own cloud readiness

In conclusion: DaaS may be tempting for many businesses, but not appropriate for all. Firstly, the offer of the provider has to be a fit for their own organisation and it should be about business-ready solutions. Secondly, DaaS only makes sense for many businesses, when agility and flexibility are prime concerns. If this does not apply, then DaaS in most cases is not worthwhile, in particular when it replaces an average staff desktop. In these standard cases, with regards to costs, a business currently benefits more from a traditional VDI solution.

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