Virtual Desktop VS Remote Desktop: Which One Should You Choose?

When it comes to virtual desktops, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Remote Desktop Services (RDS) are two of the leading technology solutions. 

Yet, with the terms VDI and RDS are often used interchangeably with each other, people often get confused between the two, and as a result, many end-users simply don’t know which of these two technology solutions they should choose for their business.

While there are indeed many similarities between the two leading virtual desktop technologies, there are also many fundamental differences between VDI and RDS. 

In this post, we will discuss the differences between the two solutions, as well as their advantages and disadvantages. By understanding their differences, the hope is that you can make a better-informed decision on whether RDS or VDI is better for you. 

Without further ado, let us begin.


What Is Remote Desktop Service (RDS)?

Remote Desktop Services is previously known as Terminal Services and is a component of Microsoft Windows that allows multiple users to connect to a single Virtual Machine (VM) remotely. 

As a result, these users will share the same OS (Windows Server) and applications, and technically, they are simultaneously working together in a single machine.

Individual users can connect remotely to the virtual machine from any device and different types of applications through Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and a local RDS client on the device.

What Is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)?

VDi works differently from RDS and is essentially a desktop virtualization technology that allows end-users to access a complete desktop OS from a dedicated Virtual Machine (VM), so they don’t share the OS with other users. 

There are two basic types of VDI: persistent and non-persistent. Persistent VDI desktops (or static VDIs) are personalized for individual users, so each desktop has its own specific user profile data and applications. In a persistent VDI, end-users can even download and install their own application when given administrative rights. 

In a non-persistent VDI (also called dynamic VDI), on the other hand, end-users are randomly assigned a VM from a pool of VMs.

Why Do You Need VDI and RDS?

Before choosing between the two to implement in your business, it’s important to first understand why you need them (or one of them).

In a nutshell, both VDI and RDS offer a pretty similar core function: letting end-users access and use a remote Virtual Machine (VM). This VM will, in turn, offer the end-users a ready-to-use OS containing all the applications they need to perform the tasks at hand. 

Remote virtual desktops provide several core benefits when it comes to professional work:

  • All applications/software and confidential files are not stored on the end user’s device, which can translate to better security.
    • No confidential/sensitive/regulated data is stored on the user’s own device, better protection against data breaches.
    • All data is stored on a centralized server, so managing backups is easier.
  • Since applications are stored in a centralized server, it’s easier to manage software updates and troubleshoot any technical issues.
  • The end users’ devices don’t handle the data processing and storage on their own so that users can use less powerful (and more affordable) devices.

Although remote/virtual working is not exactly a brand new concept, it’s no secret that the global COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2020 and 2021 has forced many companies and individuals to adopt remote working. Both RDS and VDI are excellent solutions for these businesses to ensure an effective and convenient remote working environment. 

RDS VS VDI: Key Differences

For the end-users (i.e., remote employees), there won’t be any significant difference in experience whether they are using VDI or RDS. However, there are significant differences for businesses running and managing the virtual working experience in four key areas:

  1. Versatility: for example, how easy it is for users to connect with their mobile devices.
  2. Reliability: for instance, whether the solution offers offline working so remote workers can still work in the event of an internet outage
  3. Maintenance: how easy (and cost-effective) it is to maintain the system.
  4. Price: pretty self-explanatory; how much upfront investment and maintenance cost must be spent on the solution. 

Below, we will discuss the pros and cons of RDS and VDI while considering these four different elements.

Pros and Cons of RDS

A key characteristic of RDS is how multiple users can access a single desktop OS, which will offer the following advantages:

  • Ease of use: It’s much easier to implement an RDS system when compared to VDI infrastructure due to it having fewer components. We can easily add new users to the RDS system in just a matter of minutes.
  • Cost-efficiency: with RDS, there’s a reduced license expense because end-users are essentially sharing a single system.
  • Lower system requirements: RDS deployments typically have lower system requirements, which will translate into lower investments in hardware (CPU, storage, etc.)
  • Easier maintenance: It’s typically easier to maintain an RDS deployment, which can translate into better security.

However, the simplicity of RDS deployment will also translate into several limitations: 

  • Customizability: end-users have very limited ability to personalize their desktops and applications.
  • Compatibility issues: some applications are not designed for simultaneous access by multiple users.
  • Performance issues: users sharing the hardware and software resources of the server can lead to performance issues.

Pros and Cons of VDI

In a VDI deployment, each user individually accesses a shared VM or a centrally-hosted VM (or physical VC). This architecture will provide the following advantages:

  • Customizability: in a persistent (static) VDI system, users have utmost freedom in customizing their desktops. This can lead to a better overall user experience.
  • More choices of applications: since VDI runs in a standard Windows environment, more applications are compatible with VDi when compared to RDS
  • Versatile resource allocation: VDI allows businesses (IT departments) to allocate different levels of resources available based on the user’s unique needs.
  • Snapshot: VDI offers a snapshot technology so users can easily roll back to a previous state in the event of OS corruption, system errors, and other issues.
  • Device flexibility: in VDI, users can easily connect to the system with their own devices, including mobile devices.

However, although VDI offers more versatility, it also has some downsides:

  • Higher upfront cost: in most cases, VDI is more expensive than RDS, especially due to licensing and hardware costs
  • Complex maintenance: it’s more difficult to set up than RDS and also harder to maintain. You’ll need experienced IT staff (or outsourcing to a specialist IT provider) to deploy and maintain RDS.

Wrapping Up

So, which between VDI and RDS is right for your business?

In most cases, VDI offers more versatility and a better user experience, but it is also more difficult to set up and maintain and more expensive to deploy. 

However, there are services like V2 Cloud that offer simple and affordable VDI solutions. With V2 Cloud’s cost-efficient and scalable VDI deployment, you can have more time to focus on achieving your business objectives rather than worrying about your virtual desktop solution’s performance and maintenance. 

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