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The Best Desktop as a Service (DaaS) Providers of 2020

By Joshua Stowers,
business.com Writer
| Updated
Mar 26, 2020

Looking for the best DaaS provider? We have easy-to-read, unbiased reviews and feature comparisons of the best virtual desktop solutions in the industry.
Best for Uptime and Scalability
Integrates Skype for Business
Offers enterprise-grade service
Only supports Windows
Best for Small Businesses
Offers Linux WorkSpaces
Provides data migration
Can create custom images
Best for Backup and Failover
24/7 customer support
Support in nine languages
Monthly billing options
Best for Mobile Workforce
Unified endpoint management
Alexa for Business integration
Free demo on request
Looking for the best DaaS provider? We have easy-to-read, unbiased reviews and feature comparisons of the best virtual desktop solutions in the industry.

DaaS Provider Comparisons

Desktop as a service (DaaS), also called hosted desktop services, is a form of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in which the infrastructure is outsourced and deployed by a third party. To help you decide which DaaS provider would be best your business, we spent weeks analyzing the industry, the market share leaders – such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Citrix – and a host of other DaaS providers. Overall, we considered nearly 20 options. When examining each, we looked at factors such as pricing, the number of apps offered, integrations, operating system compatibility and customer support to determine our final best picks. 

Below you will find deeper reviews of each of our best picks and valuable information about DaaS, including the various types of services, cost structures, pros and cons of the service, and some helpful answers to FAQs. In addition, you'll hear from some actual users on the services they use and what they like about them.

How We Decided
Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.
18
Considered
8
Researched
4
Selected

Compare Our Best Picks

 

Amazon WorkSpaces

Microsoft Azure

VMware Horizon Cloud Citrix Virtual Apps & Desktops
Supported OS Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android Windows Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android
Free tier Yes Yes No No
Serves all business sizes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Starting price $21 a month for one vCPU (Linux) or $25 a month (Windows) $7.59 a month for one vCPU (Linux) or $10.22 a month (Windows) $8.25 a month  (apps universal license) or $16.50 a month (universal license)

$12 a month (Personal) or $60 a month (Business)

Our Reviews

VMware Horizon Cloud: Best for Uptime and Scalability

You can use VMware's services on Amazon WorkSpaces, IBM Cloud or Microsoft Azure.
You can try Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure free for 45 days.
Add-on storage is required to use advanced functions and costs $124 per terabyte.

VMware Horizon Cloud is an efficient DaaS provider that scales your workspace to the cloud, driving the highest performance in speed, which earns it our best pick for uptime and scalability. 

With its Instant Clone technology, VMware creates a faster way to deploy customized virtual desktops by using in-memory cloning of parent virtual machines. There is zero dependency on the parent after cloning, which allows you to quickly deploy servers, scale more easily and maximize uptime for your virtual desktop infrastructure. 

VMware offers several versions of its DaaS, including Horizon 7, Horizon Cloud on IBM Cloud, and Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure. Horizon 7 delivers on-premises hosted desktops and applications from your own data center. Horizon Cloud on IBM Cloud delivers hosted desktops and applications from a VMware managed infrastructure, while Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure delivers from a Microsoft Azure managed infrastructure. 

Pricing for VMware Horizon Cloud depends on the license type, infrastructure and data capacity. These are the starting prices for each license type and data capacity: 

VMware Licenses 

Horizon Apps Universal License: 

  • Named user – $8.25 per month
  • Concurrent user – $13.40 per month 

Horizon Universal License: 

  • Named user – $16.50 per month
  • Concurrent user – $26.70 per month 

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure 

Horizon Cloud on IBM Cloud: 

  • Standard capacity – $2,950 per host per month
    • This capacity has a standard host type and includes one vCPU, 2GB of vRAM, and 30GB HD.
  • Graphic desktop capacity (M10) – $6,400 per host per month
    • This capacity operates with a maximum of 64 VMs per host (64 M10s) and includes two vCPUs, 8GB of vRAM, 120GB HD, and a 1GB vGPU.
  • Workstation capacity (M60) – $4,800 per host per month
    • This capacity is for users running graphics-heavy 3D applications and includes four vCPUs, 16GB of vRAM, 120GB HD, and a 2GB vGPU. 

One of VMware Horizon Cloud's many beneficial features is Instant Clones, which are automated desktop pools based on a parent VM in vCenter, also called the master image. Instant Clones share a virtual disk of the master image and consume less storage than full VMs. 

VMware Identity Manager allows businesses to set up single sign-on for Horizon Cloud apps and desktops and to support data security with multifactor authentication. VMware can also offer many provisioning services, such as network and capacity resources and secure point-to-point network interconnectivity. 

The service provides automatic data protection for your Horizon Cloud infrastructure, including routine backups, data restoration, and end-user management interfaces owned and operated by VMware. Additionally, VMware monitors infrastructure networks, top-tier management and end-user management interfaces. However, you must pay for add-on storage to use advanced functions, such as the Horizon Cloud User Environment Manager. 

This DaaS solution offers VMware Hands-on Labs, allowing you to try out any VMware product or service without installation. These labs, ranging from one to four hours long, let you easily evaluate the operational features of VMware products. Available labs include Virtualization 101, vSphere Security, vSphere Automation, vSphere Integrated Containers, Advanced Topics and VMware Skyline.

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Amazon WorkSpaces: Best for Small Businesses

There are seven different bundles that offer various CPU, GPU, video memory and SSD storage options.
A 12-month free tier is available to small businesses looking to test Amazon's virtual desktop infrastructure.
Amazon charges for additional technical support, starting at $29 per month.

Amazon WorkSpaces is the industry leader in the cloud infrastructure market, providing some of the highest-rated virtual apps and desktops across the U.S. We chose it as the best small business virtual desktop provider because it offers the best features and support for startups and small businesses of all the desktop solutions we researched – at an affordable price. 

This desktop provider offers several important services, including the Amazon Web Services Security Hub and Application Manager. It delivers bundled services with hourly and monthly billing options, and you can pay on the go. You are charged based on the bundle type and the number of workspaces launched. There are no upfront fees or commitments, and you can cancel your service at any time. 

For small business owners looking to simply try out the DaaS solution, Amazon offers a free tier that provides two standard workspaces with 80GB root and 50GB user volumes for up to 40 hours of use per month. 

Amazon WorkSpaces offers several bundle options based on region, root and user volume, number of CPUs, memory capacity, and BYOL (bring your own license). For example, if you're based in the eastern part of the U.S. and using Windows and your business values high performance, you may want the two-vCPU, 7.5GiB memory bundle that provides 80GB of root volume and 10GB of user volume. For this option, you can pay either $45 per month or $7.25 a month plus 47 cents an hour. 

Amazon also offers two application bundles: Default and Plus. The Default applications bundle can be added to your service at no additional charge and includes Internet Explorer 11 and Firefox utilities. The Plus bundle charges an additional $15 per month and includes Microsoft Office Professional, Trend Micro Worry-Free Business Security Services, and Internet Explorer 11 and Firefox utilities. It's important to consider the needs of your business and your workforce to determine the best bundle option for your virtual environment. 

Amazon WorkSpaces provides numerous features that can benefit your workforce and employees, such as application integrations, streaming protocols, BYOL options and the AWS Security Hub. 

Amazon WorkSpaces provides 24/7 access to customer service by phone, email and live chat. Its website also offers user guides, API references, whitepapers and support forums. Depending on your AWS support plan, you can gain access to trusted advisors, cloud support engineers and Amazon's personal health dashboard. 

Amazon Web Services is not an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau, but it does have an A rating on the site. As of March 2020, only one complaint has been closed against the company in the last year.

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Microsoft Azure: Best for Backup and Failover

The first 12 months are free, and you then estimate your monthly costs for Azure services.
It has a disaster recovery drill for users to check that everything is working as expected.
When you upload images in the cloud, transferring large files is likely to take far longer than what you would expect on your LAN.

Microsoft Azure is our choice as the best DaaS provider for backup and failover because of its numerous recovery support options and low cost. This desktop provider offers several crucial services for site recovery, including backup scheduling, snapshot creation, offline backup and encryption of Azure virtual machine (VM) backups. 

The Azure Site Recovery service manages replication, failover, and failback of on-premises and virtual machines. Azure's failover and failback has three stages: failover to the secondary site, failback from the secondary site, and replication from the primary site to the secondary again. 

You can subscribe with pay-as-you-go pricing, allowing you to pay only for what your business uses each month. It comes with one-year or three-year Azure Reserved VM Instances, a solution created especially for applications with steady-state usage. There are no upfront commitments; you can cancel your subscription at any time. 

Azure's pricing depends on the specifications of your selected virtual machine, such as region, operating system, number of CPUs, and memory and data capacity. It also offers add-on benefits and applications – such as Azure Cognitive Services, Azure Cost Management and access to an SQL database – that can cause prices to fluctuate. 

Azure Hybrid Benefit and Azure Dev/Test pricing options are also available. You can use the Azure Hybrid Benefit discount program for your on-premises Windows Server, while Dev/Test is a discounted rate on Azure for ongoing development and tests for app service and virtual machines. 

While pricing varies dramatically per user or business, it's important to know the requirements of your workforce to choose the right service plan and operate efficiently. If you're located in the eastern part of the U.S., using Windows OS, deploying one VM and paying as you go, you can expect to pay roughly $10 per month. Azure's pricing calculator can help you estimate the costs for its products. 

Microsoft Azure provides numerous features and applications that can benefit your workforce. It supports offline backup, which allows you to transfer initial backup data offline without using network bandwidth. The feature copies backup data onto physical storage devices that are exported to nearby data centers and uploaded to a recovery services vault. 

If you need to customize your Azure VM from backup data, you can restore disks to the storage account of your choice and create a VM from those disks according to their requirements. 

Microsoft offers a support matrix for disaster recovery of on-premises Hyper-V VMs to Azure using Azure Site Recovery. You can deploy Hyper-V hosts that are managed in the System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) in the Azure portal or by using PowerShell. 

The service also allows you to fail over a Hyper-V VM managed in the System Center VMM cloud to a secondary VMM site. After you've failed over, you will fail back to your on-premises site when it's available. 

Microsoft Azure offers billing and subscription support to all customers, including testing and development support, production workload support, and comprehensive Microsoft technology support. It also provides free resources, such as documentation and guides, support FAQs, an engaging community forum, Azure Service Health, and Azure Advisor. You have the option to use a 30-day free trial, with a $200 credit you can spend on any Azure product.

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Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops: Best for Mobile Workforce

Citrix has a BYOD policy that allows you to use your personal device for work purposes.
With the 30-day money-back guarantee, you can try any plan with no risk.
Citrix doesn't include image and font caching, advanced compression, optimization, or QoS support for the Windows Print Provider.

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, formerly Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop, is a low-cost hosted desktop solution that enhances your virtual environment with efficient mobility, making it our best pick for mobile workforces. Citrix provides one of the simplest solutions for displaying your virtual environment from any device without sacrificing visibility, control or performance. 

Citrix seamlessly integrates with Amazon Web Services, offering an affordable management solution that allows you to securely transition workloads and applications to the cloud. Scaling your workloads to the cloud can help you organize your business and maintain a data-driven virtual desktop infrastructure. 

The pricing for Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops varies by plan type, number of users and applications, and features. It offers two service plans with the option of monthly or annual billing: Personal and Business. Both plans offer a premium feature set, including SSL encryption, Google Docs and Dropbox integration, audit logs, email alerts, live customer support, e-signatures and signatures by fax or mobile device, and document tagging. 

Starting at $12 per month, the Personal plan is designed for freelancers and individuals. Its premium feature set includes the ability to send documents. 

The Business plan starts at $60 per month and includes document sending, online form creation, custom branding, reusable templates, attachment requests, knowledge-based passcodes and payment collection. You can upgrade, downgrade or cancel your service at any time. 

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops provides several features and applications to make your workspace function more efficiently. Citrix Endpoint Management uses unified endpoint management technology to connect all apps, mobile devices and platforms in one centralized location. Whether you use Android, Windows, Chrome OS, iOS, iPad or macOS, Citrix simplifies the desktop experience and manages every endpoint from the same console. 

Citrix also grants secure access to high-quality Linux desktops from non-Linux devices. This connectivity allows you to manage both Windows and Linux applications and desktops using a single console. Other valuable features include 3D applications, Citrix for Microsoft 365 and session reliability connections. 

Citrix NetScaler, a cloud networking platform, and Citrix CloudBridge, which connects business data centers to any off-premises cloud, are available on the Amazon Web Services Marketplace. Combined, these services make it simpler and more affordable to extend your business workspace to the Amazon cloud. 

To test its customer service, we contacted Citrix by phone, posing as a small business owner interested in its DaaS solution. During our phone call, we discussed Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops deployment on Amazon Web Services. The representative we spoke with was informative and answered all our questions thoroughly. Overall, we were pleased with the level of customer support we received.

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Pricing

The cost of DaaS and virtual desktop infrastructures varies by service provider, type of service plan and licensing model. Depending on how your virtual machine is deployed, there could also be fluctuations in the cost of additional features, like extra storage or faster GPUs. 

Another critical factor in the cost of DaaS is the number of users who need access to the virtual environment. It's important to determine how many employees will need access to your cloud data before you choose a plan. Prices generally increase as the number of users increases and as more virtual apps are included in your selected plan. Some DaaS providers offer unlimited access for users enlisted on a fixed monthly or annual rate. 

Pricing also depends on where the virtual infrastructure is hosted. Many virtual infrastructures can be hosted by third parties, like IBM Cloud, Amazon WorkSpaces or Microsoft Azure. DaaS is usually available as a cloud-hosted or on-premises solution. For cloud-hosted solutions, you can expect to pay a monthly fee. However, some providers offer pay-as-you-go options, while others may require an annual subscription. Costs for cloud-hosted DaaS range from free to a few hundred dollars per month, with extra fees for additional apps, users, storage and hardware. 

For example, if you choose Microsoft Azure as your DaaS provider, you can expect to pay about $250 per month with the following services included:

Virtual machine: 

  • Eastern U.S. region
  • Standard tier
  • Two vCPUs, 8GB of RAM (based on 730 hours of usage), 16GB of temporary storage, Linux OS (Ubuntu) 

Managed disks: 

  • Standard SSD
  • 4GiB, two disks at 15 cents per month, 100 transaction units at 2 cents per unit (10,000 transactions = 1 unit) 

Estimated total: $61.24 

Storage accounts: 

  • File storage
  • Standard performance tier
  • General-purpose V2, LRS redundancy, 1,000GB capacity, 1,000GB snapshots 

Estimated total: $120 

App service: 

  • Instance: One core, 1.75GB of RAM, 50GB of storage, 730 hours of usage 

Estimated total: $69.35 

Fewer vCPUs, storage options and applications will result in lower monthly costs. Many DaaS providers offer free trials and money-back guarantees. You should take advantage of free trials when available to ensure the virtual desktop solution is right for your business.

Buying Guide

Types of DaaS

With numerous virtual desktop providers on the market, choosing the right one for your business may be difficult. Various providers may offer similar apps or features but different integrations or performance qualities. 

Three common ways to deliver DaaS are desktop-hosted, server-hosted and session-hosted infrastructures. 

  • Desktop-hosted: A desktop operating within a virtual machine that's hosted on a server in a data center is what most would describe as a desktop-hosted VDI deployment. 
  • Server-hosted: A server-hosted infrastructure refers to a desktop running in a server OS that's only available for one user at a time. This is common with remote PC access
  • Session-hosted: These infrastructures are individual sessions inside a server OS. These sessions can take place either on a virtual machine or on-premises.

Pros of DaaS

The best DaaS providers offer numerous features for performance, application deployment and configuration, security and reliability, and administration and support. You can expect the benefits of desktop virtualization to include the following. 

Performance 

In a virtual infrastructure, all databases are stored in the cloud, which results in high-quality performance under all circumstances. These rapid speeds ensure safe app delivery and smooth redirection to secondary servers during failover, allowing your business to use cloud resources as a backup data center. 

Administration and Support 

The best DaaS providers support businesses by managing app delivery, which usually costs far less than hiring on-premises consultants or IT staff. There's also no need for oversight or to arrange office space when managing a team. This creates an unobtrusive work environment for all users. 

We gave special consideration to DaaS providers that offer 24/7 phone or live chat support, free trials or demos, and great customer service. Some providers offer a free year of standard service to see if it fits all of your needs. 

Session Reliability 

Session reliability usually refers to the presence of a troubleshooting step to turn a virtual machine on or off. With the possibility of configuration errors occurring in the access flow, disconnections can happen because of bad network connections, from frozen screens to the infamous "black screen of death." Most DaaS platforms come with safeguards to prevent crucial data loss in the event your session abruptly times out. 

Virtual Apps 

In most IT environments, applications are installed on each machine. When an application is installed, it creates numerous files on the user device. These virtual apps are optimized to run in a virtual environment. 

One of the most common types of virtual apps is a remote app. Remote apps provide ease of access because they can be hosted in a mobile session rather than a full desktop session. This can increase connectivity and cohesion for employees throughout your company. 

Bring Your Own Device 

BYOD is an evolving trend in DaaS where users bring their personal devices to use in the workplace. The device could be a laptop, mobile phone, tablet or even hard drive. Many DaaS providers also offer the option to bring your own computer (BYOC). 

It's important to keep track of what type of devices are connected to your virtual infrastructure. This way, you can ensure proper security measures are in place to reduce the chance of data loss or legal risk.

Cons of DaaS

Although there is no shortage of DaaS providers for organizations in metropolitan areas and it is gaining acceptance in certain circles, plenty of companies remain reluctant to get on board, citing several concerns. 

One of the biggest concerns for prospective customers is latency. With so many local service providers available and the prevalence of high-speed internet, the issue of latency has largely been resolved. VMware, for example, offers various tiers of service that can even accommodate 3D graphics and video. Furthermore, pixel painting protocols greatly reduce bandwidth needs by only replacing pixels on the screen that have changed. 

Another major concern is security or, more specifically, trust. 

"Cost was always the motivation to move to the cloud, but security was the reason to stay out, particularly for the enterprise," said Mike Chase, executive vice president and CTO of dinCloud

Shopping for a DaaS provider is much like finding a web hosting company. You must find a provider that you trust with your most prized assets – in this case, your data. 

For those who remain unsure, WebGap CEO Guise Bule says to consider the idea that DaaS providers could be much better at protecting your overall security than your own company could. 

"However, that being said, we have federal customers who would never trust us with their data but still use our hosted desktops," Bule said. "With DaaS, you don't have to make that choice, and your data can stay in your own PC. But still, we would protect it better than you can. It comes down to resources." 

Even if trust is not an issue, you must closely examine the service-level agreement to find out what recourse you have in the event of downtime, data loss or data theft. It is worth noting that certain industries do not allow companies to host data in the cloud because of compliance laws and other regulations.

Companies That Can Benefit From a Virtual Desktop

DaaS is typically best for small and midsize businesses (SMBs). It certainly makes sense for companies on the smaller end of the spectrum that require quality IT services but lack the need and finances for a full-time systems administrator. With an average entry-level cost of $10 to $20 per user per month, some companies see significant savings with DaaS, particularly in BYOD scenarios. 

Other types of businesses that can benefit from this technology include startups, businesses with seasonal employees or high turnover, or companies with many remote users. DaaS allows these businesses to easily scale up or down as needed. 

Another market for DaaS is cash-strapped companies running legacy operating systems like Windows XP. To avoid the immediate capital expenditure required to upgrade all their PCs to run a current OS, they can serve Windows 7 or 8 from the cloud on their XP machines. Potential candidates can also include any organization that has a need to free up resources to focus on their core competencies. 

Why not enterprise-level customers? "Larger customers can afford the overhead associated with standing VDI up, but smaller firms cannot," said Roger L. Kay, founder and president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. "Therefore, they turn to cloud services as an alternative. DaaS is sort of a poor man's VDI." 

There is also the issue of scalability. As the number of users increases, so does the complexity of IT needs. Suddenly, you need more memory, faster processors, different applications for various departments and so on. Furthermore, DaaS works best when service providers are nearby, which may not work as well when a company has multiple locations situated away from the service provider. Larger companies, even those in a single location, may find that their needs cause the cost of a DaaS solution to meet or even exceed an in-house solution.

Community Picks

Anh Trinh is the founder and CEO of GeekWithLaptop, a 2-year-old media startup. Trinh's company moved from an apartment with a team of five people to a coworking space with a team of 10 people within seven months. 

GeekWithLaptop uses DaaS to save time and effort. Trinh started using Microsoft Azure for his company after a friend told him about the service. 

"I did my research, and I like the service as a concept," Trinh said. "It's one of the best DaaS providers I've seen." 

Trinh said that what he likes most about Microsoft Azure is its security; Microsoft has convinced him that it's the safest platform out there. The company spends about $1 billion annually on its cloud security. Trinh likes that Microsoft Azure also offers a lot of other services, such as cloud computing, analytics and cloud storage.  

Before implementing Microsoft Azure, Trinh used Citrix as his DaaS service. He believes it is also an excellent service, saying it's about equal to Azure. 

"There are even times when it shows it is even better, since it is also compatible with smartphones and other OSs," Trinh said. "However, it didn't feel as secure as Microsoft Azure, which is why I withdrew their service." 

When implementing a DaaS solution, Trinh says, you must cover your bases: 

  1. First, make sure that you have a good internet service provider. Create a backup network plan in case your first one fails.
  2. Pick a good DaaS provider and work your way from there.
  3. Put standard operating procedures or README files on your virtual desktop so that employees can learn on the spot.
  4. Create policies for employees and users to prevent misuse of the service.
  5. Secure important files so your employees won't accidentally delete them. 

Andy Lipnitski is the IT director at ScienceSoft, a provider of IT consulting services and custom software development. ScienceSoft uses Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops because its testing results showed that Citrix was the best option. 

Lipnitski said ScienceSoft previously tried VMware Horizon but didn't go for it, because it was not multiplatform and didn't support Linux at the time. ScienceSoft now has a distributed hybrid multiplatform DaaS in place that uses two on-premises hypervisors, VMware ESXi and XenServer, and AWS and Microsoft Azure clouds. 

After implementing his DaaS solution, Lipnitski is pleased with the results. 

"Our DaaS solution works well with all types of hypervisors and public clouds, which allows us to be flexible while building a distributed fault-resistant infrastructure instead of having to stick to a particular platform," he said. "I also like that it supports Linux, UNIX and all versions of Windows." 

While the pros and cons of DaaS vary depending on the user and virtual desktop solution, there are a few general commonalities. 

"As the key advantage of DaaS, I see the ability to implement the BYOD (bring your own device) concept within an enterprise without putting corporate cybersecurity at risk," Lipnitski said. "DaaS also allows employees to work at any time, place and device, and enables IT infrastructure managers to flexibly set up enterprise applications to satisfy employees' individual needs." 

Lipnitski said the main drawbacks of DaaS are the cost and additional equipment required for a data center.

Industry Market Share

DaaS is typically best for small and midsize businesses (SMBs). It certainly makes sense for companies on the smaller end of the spectrum that require quality IT services but lack the need and finances for a full-time systems administrator. With an average entry-level cost of $10 to $20 per user per month, some companies see significant savings with DaaS, particularly in BYOD scenarios. 

Other types of businesses that can benefit from this technology include startups, businesses with seasonal employees or high turnover, or companies with many remote users. DaaS allows these businesses to easily scale up or down as needed. 

Another market for DaaS is cash-strapped companies running legacy operating systems like Windows XP. To avoid the immediate capital expenditure required to upgrade all their PCs to run a current OS, they can serve Windows 7 or 8 from the cloud on their XP machines. Potential candidates can also include any organization that has a need to free up resources to focus on their core competencies. 

Why not enterprise-level customers? "Larger customers can afford the overhead associated with standing VDI up, but smaller firms cannot," said Roger L. Kay, founder and president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. "Therefore, they turn to cloud services as an alternative. DaaS is sort of a poor man's VDI." 

There is also the issue of scalability. As the number of users increases, so does the complexity of IT needs. Suddenly, you need more memory, faster processors, different applications for various departments and so on. Furthermore, DaaS works best when service providers are nearby, which may not work as well when a company has multiple locations situated away from the service provider. Larger companies, even those in a single location, may find that their needs cause the cost of a DaaS solution to meet or even exceed an in-house solution.

Desktop as a Service FAQs

Are you still unsure about the basics of virtual desktops? We've got you covered. 

Our business.com expert community member Jason Bergeron, CEO of Stratify LLC, has 25 years of experience in IT and more than 15 years of experience running an IT consulting firm. We asked him some of the industry's most common questions. 

Q: What is DaaS, and how does it work?   

A: DaaS is a solution where the virtual desktop is delivered, but you do not have to purchase or support the infrastructure and software to deliver the virtual desktop. DaaS has also been referred to as "hosted desktop services." It is very similar to a VDI setup where you just must have hardware to load the VDI, but the VDI is delivered from the cloud. 

Q: What's the difference between DaaS and a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)?  

A: With a VDI, you must purchase the servers, software and supporting hardware. You are then performing the install, configuration and support of the system. With DaaS, you are paying for a cloud-delivered and -supported virtual desktop solution. Your main concerns are the hardware for the user and connectivity. Also, VDI doesn't have the performance of DaaS. A DaaS deployment can allow you to save a significant amount of budget (almost 50%). DaaS is an outsourced VDI solution. 

Q: Which DaaS provider(s) are best for small and medium-sized businesses? 

A: Amazon WorkSpaces, VMWare Horizon Cloud, Citrix XenDesktop and Microsoft Virtual Desktop are the best solutions. These companies have been involved in this business for as long as anyone.  

Q: What are the key aspects of DaaS to look for when choosing a desktop solution? 

A: The phrase "DaaS" refers to the solution being cloud-hosted. The major factors are reliability, uptime, backup and failover. If you are working in a DaaS environment, you want to minimize or eliminate downtime. Reliability is a functioning solution that is easily expandable, and resources fluctuate based on load. Uptime relates to having a solution that doesn't lose connectivity and/or isn't accessible. 

Backups are important from a corruption standpoint. If your OS is corrupted, what do you lose, and how long does it take you to get back up and running? As it relates to failover, if a rack, a server and/or connectivity is lost, you can remain functional without skipping a beat. 

Q: How has DaaS progressed and developed throughout the years? 

A: DaaS started with companies providing a Citrix-type desktop across 56K connection. Microsoft then developed their Remote Desktop technology to compete with Citrix. It then evolved to companies that were providing virtual desktops to their own enterprise. As the cost of cloud came down, technology evolved, and high-speed internet connection became more available, the logical next step was to host the entire solution in the cloud. 

The primary benefits include not having to have the staff to support on-premise servers, lower cost of support, and the ability to have better protection from cybersecurity attacks.  

Q: What technological advancements can business owners expect to see from DaaS in 2020? 

A: Business owners can expect to see greater flexibility, ease of administration and reduced costs in 2020. 

Q: Should a small business choose a big-name provider that offers DaaS? Or are big-name providers more suitable for enterprises? 

A: Amazon WorkSpaces and Microsoft Azure are at the top of the list when it comes to hosting anything in the cloud. At the end of the day, the business needs to understand all the pros and cons. If they don't have internal support, they should look for a technical consulting provider they know and trust that has experience with the solutions. If they have internal support, it depends where you are in the cycle.  

For example, if you are currently utilizing an on-premise version of VMware Horizon Cloud, it might be easier to migrate to their solution. Citrix has been in the space forever and is very experienced, but their minimum is 25 seats. If you have 10 to 15 seats, you might want to look at another solution. You should go with what you know and are familiar with. The major issues will happen in the migration. Once the solution is migrated, you shouldn't have to deal with any further issues. 

Q: How can DaaS help a business save money? 

A: Implementing a DaaS solution can save your business money that would have otherwise been spent on the upfront expenses of the traditional, one-time purchase of on-premises equipment. DaaS eliminates bulk hardware purchases and allows businesses to replace hardware when necessary. 

Q: How can DaaS help a business become more efficient and productive? 

A: A DaaS solution can help your business become more efficient and productive by providing a global customer reach, rather than restricting itself to only local customers. DaaS can also change the way your employees work and interact with one another. Full-time, part-time and remote employees can access all the information needed to complete their work from anywhere. 

How to Implement DaaS 

To implement DaaS, it's best to begin with a free trial or demo to test out the solution and see if it's right for your company. Most DaaS solutions offer free trials that range from seven days to a few months. After testing the solution, it's important to consider the number of users who will need access, the types of applications your company requires, the storage and memory capacity you need, and monthly pricing. 

In addition to the number of users, recognizing the type of user helps determine your bandwidth requirements for DaaS. While bandwidth requirements vary by DaaS provider, you can perform this calculation to analyze your bandwidth utilization if you know your internet connection, file and application size: 

Bandwidth in Kbps x 0.8 / User type high value

(factoring 80% utilization of total bandwidth) 

For example, if you have a standard high-value user of about 150Kbps with a total bandwidth of 1500Kbps, you could host eight concurrent users on a T1 line

Bandwidth = T1 = 1.5Mbps = 1500Kbps

1500 x 0.8 / 150 = 8 concurrent users on a T1

Methodology

Our search for the best DaaS solution began with research on business and review websites, and then we ventured throughout the industry for a broader perspective. We compiled this information into a list of nearly 20 companies. Eventually, we narrowed our list down to eight finalists. 

To determine our best picks, we looked for companies that provide the best features and offer quality performance. Affordability is a crucial aspect for many small businesses, so we also looked for companies with low monthly fees, top-notch support and great integration capabilities. 

Although most DaaS providers offer more than one way of connecting your users to your company information, we focused on rates, the number of apps offered and OS compatibility for this review.

What to Expect in 2020

Over the years, the growing availability of computing power and high-speed internet at reasonable prices has made technologies such as DaaS finally viable. It remains to be seen if it will be adopted en masse or evolve into something else. 

Regardless of the eventual outcome, there is a huge market for these services. Servers and desktops have and always will have a symbiotic relationship, according to Mike Chase, executive vice president and CTO of dinCloud

"As servers moved to the cloud, desktops were sure to follow," Chase said. "Therefore, the enterprise fought so hard to get VDI to work, because their 'private cloud' demanded it. But VDI doesn't have the performance of DaaS." 

Chase believes that all servers will live in the cloud and the rise of DaaS will be the inevitable result. 

For now, and for the right organizations, DaaS is a useful solution that potentially brings greater flexibility, ease of administration and reduced costs.

Joshua Stowers
Joshua Stowers,
business.com Writer
See Joshua Stowers's Profile
Joshua is a staff writer based in New York City. He is a former entrepreneur who started a fashion and art, print and digital publication called Elusive Magazine, serving as the features editor for several issues. Previously, he worked in product development for DirectTV and for a content agency that wrote for Verizon and Google. He is a New Jersey native in love with the city lights and skyscrapers.
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