What is Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS)?

Definition

Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) refers to the provision of virtual desktops hosted in the cloud. DaaS thus combines the concept of desktop virtualization with that of cloud computing. In contrast to the classic infrastructure of virtual desktops using a central on-premise server (so-called Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI for short), there is no longer any need to acquire and manage your own infrastructure. The DaaS provider does this for you.

In recent years, more and more DaaS offerings have come onto the market. Even traditional VDI providers such as Citrix and VMware have now launched their own DaaS solutions. Drivers that have led to the rapid growth of the DaaS market include the falling cost of cloud usage, the increasing willingness of companies to employ remote workers, and the greater variety of mobile devices that all need to be managed. What we’re seeing is a quiet revolution. Companies of all sizes are increasingly moving away from decentralized endpoint management.

Advantages of Desktop-as-a-Service

  • DaaS offers a number of advantages over traditional local desktop provisioning and VDI. Here are the most important advantages:
  • The data of the company is stored centrally in a secure data centre and not locally on different user devices, which significantly reduces the risk of your company data leaving the company
  • Virtual desktops can be managed centrally without physical access to the end devices and without affecting the end-users, e.g. by distributing software or applying patches
  • You can have the virtual desktops remotely managed by the provider and take advantage of additional services (e.g. antivirus, 24/7 helpdesk, performance monitoring, patch management, 2FA, etc.). In this scenario, service providers also sometimes refer to the term Workspace-as-a-Service (WaaS) or Managed Desktop-as-a-Service
  • It is very easy to provide consistent desktop environments to different user groups.
  • Your employees can work productively at any time and from any location with practically any device. DaaS also allows you to offer employees a BYOD option (“Bring-Your-Own-Device”)
  • You can save hardware and energy costs by using cost-effective and durable “lean clients” or “zero clients”. Even when using “fat-clients”, e.g. regular laptops or PCs, longer service life can be expected, because the machines have a lower load.
  • A daily automated backup of virtual desktops can be performed. In case of system errors, the desktop can be restored within minutes.
  • The costs of a good DaaS solution are transparent and can easily be budgeted. No initial investment in hardware is necessary (OPEX instead of CAPEX)
  • Due to the use of cloud technologies, DaaS is scalable and elastic

The top providers in the DaaS market

There is a lot of movement in the DaaS market right now. In the table below, I have compiled the advantages and disadvantages of the three offers from Amazon, Microsoft and Citrix for you:

 

Advantages Disadvantages
Amazon WorkSpaces

The DaaS solution from Amazon that lets you deploy Windows and Linux desktops

 

 

  • Workspaces Application Manager (WAM) is a smart way to distribute software in AWS WorkSpaces
  • Active Directory integration
  • Mature DaaS offering (on the market since 2014)
 

  • Complicated pricing
  • Not a turnkey solution, requires in-depth implementation and management knowledge
Windows Virtual Desktops

The DaaS solution from Microsoft which has been generally available since September 2019. With this service Microsoft wants to bring desktop virtualization to the mass market.

 

 

  • Supports two types of session-based desktops (Windows 10 multi-session and Windows Server Remote Desktop Session Hosts)
  • Full compatibility with the applications you run on Windows 10 devices today
  • Tight integration with Office 365 and related security and management features
 

  • For Windows Virtual Desktop you need either a Microsoft 365 or Windows 10 Enterprise subscription
Citrix Managed Desktops

 Citrix Managed Desktops is hosted in Azure and uses Windows Virtual Desktop, but with its own management and monitoring solution.

 

  • Turnkey offer
  • Seamless integration of Microsoft technologies (e.g. Office 365 and on-premise Active Directory)
  • Intuitive admin environment
 

  • At least 25 desktops must be purchased, therefore not optimal for smaller companies
  • Service scope is relatively limited and additional services are only available through Citrix partners

Use cases for Desktop-as-a-Service

In principle, DaaS offerings are best suited for small and medium-sized companies, as they often have less investment capital and internal IT resources available. There are some specific use cases where a DaaS solution is particularly advantageous:

Companies with high turnover rates or seasonal fluctuations in their workforce

Companies with high turnovers, such as customer support centres, have a very high administrative effort for on- and off-boarding of employees. The same applies to companies that are subject to seasonal fluctuations in their workforce, e.g. accounting firms. The simple user administration offered by a DaaS solution is particularly useful here.

Companies with many branch offices

Companies with many branches with relatively few users each are difficult to manage with classic desktop provisioning. DaaS allows all users to have a one-stop desktop solution, no matter how dispersed the users are.

Company Acquisitions

When two companies merge, the merging of the different IT landscapes proves to be a major challenge. With Desktop-as-a-Service you can give a large number of users access to all the data and applications they need in a very short time.

Companies with a large number of remote workstations or external partners

In certain industries, companies are increasingly relying on freelancers instead of permanent employees. In such cases, it is also very practical to temporarily provide freelancers with a virtual desktop that they can access securely with their own device, without having to store company data on the external device.

Companies that would like to offer their employees a BYOD option

It can be a win-win situation when employees use their own mobile devices for work purposes. Employees don’t have to constantly switch between different devices and can work with the device they like best. Companies save the cost of purchasing hardware. However, companies often shy away from the challenges of data protection, security, and incompatibility between enterprise applications and home end-user devices. Here, too, DaaS proves to be a coherent solution. Desktop and applications are delivered to the device without running on it, and all your data remains in the company.

Training environments for employees

If you need to create training environments for dozens of employees that require access to existing internal resources and the internal network, a Desktop-as-a-Service solution is an excellent choice.

Challenges with DaaS Solutions

There are a number of requirements that must be met for a successful implementation of a DaaS solution:

  • DaaS is a cloud service delivered over the Internet. Consequently, you need to make sure that the bandwidth is sufficient and the latency is not too long, otherwise the user experience may be affected.
  • Check the license terms and conditions or get good advice on them. It is easy to get caught up in the relatively complicated rules here
  • Secure user authentication is of major importance when using any cloud services. As a best practice, you should implement a multi-factor authentication
  • Clarify with your DaaS provider exactly which tasks remain with you in your company and which things the provider will take over for you.

Costs of a DaaS Solution

 

Subscription fees for Managed Services

There is a monthly subscription fee for your Desktop-as-a-Service solution, which is usually charged per managed desktop. The amount of the subscription fee depends on the scope of services. There are often different service packages and price levels. If you need extensive services such as antivirus, back-ups, performance monitoring, helpdesk etc. you can opt for a premium version. Typically the monthly subscription is between 25 – 55 EUR per desktop.

Costs of Cloud infrastructure usage

Virtual machines and other infrastructure resources in the cloud are used to deliver virtual desktops. Some providers operate their own cloud. They pass the cost of operating your cloud on to the customer along with the subscription fees for managing the desktops.

Other DaaS providers don’t operate their own cloud but administer and manage their customers’ infrastructure in the public cloud. Here, usage-based monthly billing is the norm. The DaaS provider can either pass the usage-based costs on to you and charge additional fees for managing the cloud resources or bundle both items. The latter option has the advantage that your costs remain the same each month and billing is very straightforward.

Cost of additional services

There are providers who, if desired, migrate and manage other components of your IT environment into the cloud in addition to desktops. A DaaS offering then turns into a fully comprehensive IT-as-a-service solution that keeps your IT always up-to-date.

Conclusion

The transformation of end-user computing is continuing relentlessly. Desktop-as-a-Service will play an increasingly important role in the future, greatly simplifying endpoint management in companies and increasing security. If you are interested in a DaaS solution, please contact us to learn more about our “Managed DaaS on Azure” offering.

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Dennis Kionga

Dennis Kionga

Dennis is Managing Director of Cloud Cape, an IT services company that implements and operates future-proof IT security and cloud solutions for SMEs. He previously worked as a Business Development Manager at Lufthansa Group, where he was responsible for global sales of outsourcing solutions for airlines. He graduated from the University of Mannheim with a Master of Laws (LL.M.). He also holds a postgraduate certificate in Project Management from the University of Cape Town. In his career, he has spent extended periods abroad in Portugal, the Czech Republic and South Africa.

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