Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Vs. Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

With the announcement of lockdown in March 2020, there was a surge in people adapting to remote work, and concomitantly VDI, as evidenced by Google search trends. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is the latest form of remote desktop virtualization. 

What is VDI?

VDI technology allows you to access desktops that are hosted either on a central server at your location or on the cloud. It creates and deploys instances of those desktops on any machine that has permission to use them. 

Some of the benefits of using remote desktops are: 

  • Reduced hardware costs:  It is much easier and cheaper to upgrade desktops on a centralized server (or cloud) than numerous discrete machines.   
  • Improved Security: In a traditional setup, data is localized to the machine. If it gets stolen or damaged, the data may be lost forever. Additionally, you will have to purchase a new licensed operating system for any replacement device. With VDI, you can decouple data, OS, applications, and the machine. It gives you greater control over digital security. 
  • Remote Working and Device portability: With many workers opting for a hybrid work model – partially working from home and partially working from the office, device portability takes precedence. VDI allows you to use the same virtual desktop from your mobile, laptop, and desktop helping you transit seamlessly, saving you time, and improving your productivity. 
  • Improved Data Management: Desktops hosted on centralized servers can manage their data with great efficiency. Additionally, you can apply multiple layers of security to the data and develop a centralized data recovery plan. 

However, some of the benefits are not limited to VDI alone. Other remote desktop technology such as the Remote Desktop Services (RDS) also offers similar benefits. The following few paragraphs outline how VDI is different from RDS, so you can choose if you want one technology over the other or a combination of the two for your remote working solutions.

How is it different from Remote Desktop Services? 

Technical differences:

VDI creates user instances where each user has a dedicated virtual machine with a separate operating system. Users can control how their desktop looks and what applications are installed in it, depending on the admin permissions they have.

RDS, on the other hand, is a feature of the Microsoft Windows Server platform that gives the client (user) desktops remote access to Windows applications through a graphic user interface. It does not create separate virtual machines for different users. Several users typically share the same resources such as desktop, operating system, and applications.   

Operating Differences:

You can think of VDI as partitioning the central server into multiple CPUs to create virtual desktops. Each of them will need its own operating system, which can be Windows or any other OS. Thus you can isolate critical functionality and data while still maintaining a centralized workflow.

RDS, however, does not segregate resources, and it is often observed that users share admin rights within their team to allow for seamless working. But, alternatively, it means that the central CPU usage is optimized, and memory management is efficient.

Cost Differences:

With VDI, since you need to install multiple operating systems, you might face higher licensing costs, but consequent administration is simplified. You can judiciously choose how many machines you want to modify based on your needs. Additionally, you can choose the OS most suited for your use.

RDS allows you to work with a single OS by “cloning” the server and presenting it to the users. It can help you cut down on licensing costs. But you will have to use the Windows suite throughout.

In Summary

VDI and RDS are both viable technologies that have successfully facilitated remote working across several industries. Whether you choose to go with one or the other or go for a mix of the two depends on your business needs. Consult your IT solution providers to walk you through which technology would suit you the most.

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