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What is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)?

6 November 2020 by Laura Valentine

VdiIn 2020, the pandemic has shifted the way we work, perhaps forever. Much of the UK’s workforce has found itself working from home for the first time, and businesses across the country have been forced to quickly facilitate mass remote working.  

For those now looking to implement a more permanent solution, we’re here to shed some light on what virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is, and how it differs from desktop as a service (DaaS).  

Remote working on the rise 

Before the pandemic, working from home was already growing in popularity, although far from widespread. In the UK, between 2015 and December 2019, the percentage of the population who worked mostly from home grew from 4.3% to 5.1%. By April 2020, 46.6% of the UK was at least partially working from home.  

This shift has exposed both employees and businesses to the flexibility and cost efficiency of remote working. It’s no surprise then, that 72% of UK employees now report that they would like to continue working from home, at least part time, after the pandemic.  

Could remote working save your business £8,300 a year?

To facilitate largescale remote working, and ensure maximum productivity, many businesses are now researching virtual desktop technology.  

Virtual desktop infrastructure 

VDI has traditionally been the only way to run a virtual desktop. This technology is used to create a virtual desktop on remote server that users can access from any location, on any device. There are two main types – persistent and nonpersistent VDI.  

Persistent VDI allows a user to access the same virtual desktop each time they log on, meaning they can customise it to suit their needs. A nonpersistent VDI is the virtual form of hotdesking, where users log into a generic desktop each time. This is often cheaper than persistent VDI, but better suited to organisations where employee productivity won’t be affected by the inability to customise the desktop.  

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for digitalisation, including accelerating the uptake of VDI. In the first quarter of 2020, Windows reported that the use of its Virtual Desktop tripled as businesses rushed to provide their teams with the technology to work remotely.  

VDI vs DaaS 

At this point you may be wondering how VDI differs to desktop as a service (DaaS). It’s a fair question. On the surface, the two solutions are similar in many ways. The main point of difference lies in the management of the infrastructure.  

Whilst VDI can run from either on-premises infrastructure or from infrastructure hosted off-site, the hardware is both purchased and maintained by your organisation. There are things to consider when choosing whether to keep your hardware on-site or run your VDI from a MSP’s data centre: 

  • Those who wish to keep a closer eye on their infrastructure may prefer to keep their VDI on-premises where it can be closely monitored.  
  • Hosting VDI off-site provides improved business continuity – in the event of fire, flood or other disaster to your premises, users will still be able to log into their virtual desktops.  
  • Infrastructure hosted in a data centre benefits from the DC’s network, controlled environment and increased connectivity.  

With DaaS, your entire remote desktop solution is managed by your chosen service provider. This means they provide the infrastructure, which is hosted in their purpose-built data centres, and wholly managed by their engineers. Whereas with VDI, performance may be limited by the spec of the hardware you purchase, DaaS allows you to choose the right spec for optimal performance, and scale it to suit demand.  

Why choose DaaS? 

Investing in VDI is a permanent commitment, whereas most providers offer DaaS on a pay-as-you-go basis – although there may be a minimum agreed period in your contract. The ability to add and remove users as required also helps you manage your budget.  

If your tech team is already over-burdened, you may find DaaS invaluable. With installation, maintenance and support the responsibility of your chosen service provider, your IT teams remain free to carry out other duties.  

DaaS offers a ‘clickandgo’ approach to virtual desktops – requiring only the installation of an app via which users can simply, and most importantly securely, log into their desktops.  

Interested in learning more about how DaaS helps your business facilitate simple, secure virtual home working?

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