What pros and cons of VDI and RDS should businesses be aware of when choosing a desktop virtualization solution?
Virtualization has long been a go-to solution for businesses looking to allow employees to access key data and applications from any device or location, but in today's environment, it's more useful than ever. With attitudes shifting in favor of flexible working and strategies such as bring your own device (BYOD), being able to offer a full desktop working environment whenever and wherever it is needed is the key to success.
But how do you ensure you're putting in place the best solution for you? Enterprises have a choice when selecting their technology, so when determining how to implement desktop virtualization, you need to understand what's on offer, and what the pros and cons of each are.
VDI vs RDS
For desktop virtualization, the two leading contenders are a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) or a Remote Desktop Service (RDS) solution.
VDI involves users accessing a complete desktop operating system from a remote interface. This can be a normal PC or, more likely in enterprise deployments, a virtual machine hosted within a data center server.
It creates a separate virtual machine and operating system for each user, ensuring that each individual can work in an isolated environment. There are a range of suppliers that can provide and support VDI environments, including Citrix and VMWare.
RDS, meanwhile, is a proprietary tool developed by Microsoft for use on its Windows Server products, which enables multiple users to connect remotely to an interface and share an operating system and applications. With RDS installed on a company's server, users can access the virtual desktop from any device on which an RDS client has been enabled.
The key features of VDI
One of the key features of a VDI solution as opposed to RDS is that every user has their own isolated connection between their device and a virtual machine. With each individual running their own dedicated operating system, with their own computing resources, this prevents the activities of one user affecting others.
This therefore makes VDI an ideal solution for use in highly regulated or secured environments where highly sensitive data is being accessed. The user can also install and uninstall applications on their dedicated virtual machine if they have the correct admin rights, making it easy to manage and control an individual machine.
The trade-off of this is that it can quickly become a challenge for IT managers to keep control over multiple instances of the operating system, especially when it comes to essential tasks such as patching and updating, which will have to be done separately.
When is RDS a better solution?
For enterprises running many instances of virtual machines, the complexity involved in managing VDI may become too much to handle. In this case, RDS may be an attractive solution. With many users sharing the same virtual machine and operating system, there is much less time and effort required to manage and keep this up to date.
Because users are sharing a single system rather than each having their own dedicated virtual machine, RDS is also less resource-intensive in terms of CPU and memory usage. This means businesses can handle more users without having to invest in hardware - though it may mean a performance hit if many people are taking advantage of the system at the same time.
RDS is therefore highly useful for businesses seeking to lower IT costs or streamline their virtualization process. Being simple to set up and easy to use may make it a good choice for environments where many users will be expected to use the software, and if they are dealing with less sensitive data types where security is not a primary concern.
On the other hand, RDS does offer users less customization, as the shared nature of the soliton means users do not have full administrative rights over the virtual machine.
The right solution for the right purpose
Both VDI and RDS can provide a strong virtualization experience for users, but the differences in requirements and use cases mean companies will have to think very carefully about which they adopt. Therefore, it may well be the case that the best approach is to embrace both, with different departments or users being able to choose what is most suited to their specific demands.
"Neither solution is right for all uses, and few organizations use only one approach. Both paths can help you cope with the potential end of the Windows desktop."
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