Citrix vs. RDP: Which One is Best Remote Desktop for Your Business?

June 28, 2022
09 mins 10 seconds

Author: Haziqa Sajid

Virtualization-vs-cloudcomputing-v2cloud

Choosing the best remote desktop between Citrix and Microsoft’s RDP is not easy. Both companies are industry leaders in their respective domains and have competed neck-to-neck over the past few years.

Both have satisfied customers who will vouch for either of the two solutions. But, the question remains, which is the better remote desktop solution? Rest assured, there’s an answer to this question. But it’s subjective.

To choose between Citrix and RDP, you’ll have to weigh both against each other on certain factors. These factors (which we’ll also detail below) include price, performance, scalability, etc. Then, you move forward with matching them with your internal requirements.

Only then does one solution start looking preferable to the alternative. Let’s dive into this topic deeper to see what solutions stand out for your business.

Definitions

It’s essential to have a clear understanding of what Citrix and RDP do.

Those already familiar with the definitions can skip this part and move forward to the next section. For those that still have lingering doubts, let’s read on.

What is Citrix Used For?

Citrix is often referenced in several different contexts. The company offers a wide range of products/services. But, their specialization mainly lies in virtualization technology. For example, two popular products are XenDesktop and XenApp.

Citrix’s primary focus is on thin clients. The company helps users move their resources to the cloud. Through a remote-server-based connection, users can run virtualized hardware/software applications. Reduced dependency on on-premises hardware is a significant selling point for the company.

In our context, we’ll focus on Citrix’s remote desktop services. XenDesktop is the primary product in this regard. XenDesktop, offered by Citrix, allows users to remotely connect to a virtual desktop running on a server.

What is RDP Used For?

Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is the baseline mechanism used to connect to any system remotely. The protocol allows a computer to connect and remotely use another host computer. Once a connection is established, all of the host computer’s data can be remotely accessed.

Users can even access and use any application installed on the host computer. Through Remote Desktop Services (RDS) offered by Microsoft, users can even run virtual desktops remotely.

At this point, It’s easy to confuse the similar terms RDP and RDS. To simplify, RDP is the underlying protocol used to establish a remote connection, and RDS is the ‘service’ that runs using this protocol.

Citrix vs. RDP: A Comparison

Now that we’re past the definitions. Let’s dive into the actual Citrix vs. RDP comparison.

The contender for the throne on one end is Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services (RDS). RDS is the actual service run using RDP. On the other end, there’s Citrix’s XenDesktop. Like RDS, XenDesktop is the actual product that offers Citrix’s version of a remote desktop solution.

Both can be pitted against each other on several different factors, including price, performance, scalability, etc.

For simplicity, we’ve also summarized the comparison in a table. For readers looking to move past the details, you can find the summarized table at the end of this section.

1- Compatibility

XenDesktop

  • Cross platform compatibility: Unlike Microsoft, Citrix is more open to being compatible across platforms.
  • Operating system compatibility: XenDesktop is more compatible across different operating systems. It can run Windows, Linux, MAC, Linux, etc.
    XenDesktop uses Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) as its default protocol. RDS is no different, as it’s more focused on being Windows compatible. Users trying to run a different OS on RDS might have some difficulty.

RDS

  • Cross-Platform Compatibility: With Microsoft’s RDS, there’s a compulsion to use a Windows version that supports RDP.
    On top of that, RDS is a Microsoft product. And for those who know their history, Microsoft isn’t that much open to the idea of interoperability.
  • Operating System Compatibility: RDS is no different, as it’s more focused on being Windows compatible. Users trying to run a different OS on RDS might have some difficulty.
    Supported configurations for RDS can be viewed by clicking here.

2- Performance

RDS

  • Accommodation for Growing Number of Users: Performance-wise, RDS does not hold up very well against Citrix.
    For one, the number of users has an inverse relation with performance. As more users join and use the resources on a server, the server takes longer to process information.
    Several users using the server at the same time results in lower performance.
  • Internet Connection Requirements: On top of that, RDS requires the internet connection to be stable. Without it, performance can degrade.

XenDesktop:

  • Accommodation for Growing Number of Users: Citrix, in comparison, has proven to provide better performance.
    To solve the issue of multiple users using the server simultaneously, Citrix uses HDX, a suite of proprietary technologies that delivers a high-definition experience to users of virtual desktops and virtual applications HDX becomes the bridge between server and user.
    HDX compresses data, providing a faster way to send/receive information between the user and the server.
  • Internet Connection Requirements: The use of HDX as a data compression mechanism also helps run XenDesktop effectively, even if the internet connection is relatively poor.

3- Scalability

RDS

  • Server Usability: RDS does not scale well. RDS forces users to work on a single server. As the number of users increases, a limited number of resources have to be utilized by everyone.
  • Resource Scarcity: Not only does performance degrade, but a growing number of users have to work with a smaller resource pool. In addition, when we reach maximum capacity for resources, users start getting disconnected.
    These issues hold down RDS in terms of scalability.

XenDesktop

  • Server Usability: In comparison, XenDesktop scales very effectively.
    When you start reaching maximum capacity for server resources, you don’t get forcefully disconnected. Instead, you can purchase more resources and increase capacity.
  • Resource Scarcity: This helps accommodate a growing number of users. Because adjusting resources according to requirements is in your control, you can scale up and down.

4- Reliability

RDS

  • Connection Reliability: For those who have read the performance and scalability points, it’s pretty evident that RDS isn’t that reliable. To recap, you can get forcefully disconnected without warning.
    You’re not that much in control. Adding more users to the server decreases reliability. In addition, a slow internet connection can spell trouble.
    Users can again get disconnected without warning due to a poor internet connection.

XenDesktop

  • Connection Reliability: In comparison, XenDesktop is more reliable. It can accommodate new users effectively.
    It would help if you still had a stable internet connection. But relative to RDS, XenDesktop handles poor internet connections much better.
    There’s a feature called “Session Reliability.” The feature saves your working data in case of any disconnect. You can resume the work once you connect again without any data loss.
  • Connection Reliability: In comparison, XenDesktop is more reliable. It can accommodate new users effectively.

5- Pricing

RDS

  • Ideal for SMBs/Individual Users: While the features that come with RDS are limited, Microsoft appropriately prices it lower.
    If you’ve read everything so far, it’s pretty easy to consider XenDesktop as the better option.
    Some might even think this is a promotional blog post for Citrix. Rest assured, that’s not the case.
    It’s just that RDS is better suited for simpler use-cases. Consequently, RDS is ideal for Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) that require limited features.

XenDesktop

  • Ideal for Medium/Large Enterprises: In comparison, Citrix comes with a noticeable price tag.
    XenDesktop is rich in features but costs higher accordingly. Consequently, large enterprises that require the added features benefit the most. Almost 99% of Fortune 500 companies are Citrix users.

6- Usability

RDS

  • Application Usability: With RDS, users can only run one application at a time.
  • OS Usability: RDS often requires disabling certain features in your Operating System. And because RDS is a Microsoft product, its usability across different operating systems is limited.
  • External Application Requirement: In many cases, users have to rely on external applications to meet their needs in combination with RDS.
  • Other Limitations: It’s not that you can’t manage desktops remotely with RDS. However, there are limitations involved. This is why RDS is better suited for running remote applications than entire desktops.

XenDesktop

  • Application Usability: In comparison, XenDesktop has better virtualization technology working in its favor. It can run multiple applications at a time.
  • OS Usability: XenDesktop works well with almost all operating systems. The list includes Windows, MacOS, Linux etc.
  • External Application Requirement: XenDesktop does not require any external applications.

7- Ease of Use/management

RDS

  • Human Resource Requirement: RDS requires a trained IT staff member to operate. Especially in the event of a failure.

XenDesktop

  • Human Resource Requirement: XenDesktop has a better UI but it still requires skilled IT staff.

Summary

RDS XenDesktop
Performance
  • Poor performance if internet connection unstable
  • Performance degrades as more users join
  • Users can forcefully get disconnected if resources are overused
  • Relatively better performance even with poor internet connection
  • Performance does not degrade with more users joining
  • Users do no get forcefully disconnected
Pricing
  • Cheap
  • Free version available
  • Expensive
  • No free version availabe
Scalability
  • Not easy to scale
  • Easier to scale
Reliability
  • Relatively unreliable
  • Relatively reliable
OS Support
  • Doesn’t easily support OS other than Windows
  • Supports all OS i.e. MAC, Windows, Linux etc.
Usability
  • Can run only one application at a time
  • External applications are sometimes required in combination with RDS
  • Can run multiple applications at a time
  • No external applications required
Ease of Use/Management
  • Requires skilled staff in case of any technical issue
  • Relatively easier to use
  • Requires skilled staff as well

What Does It All Boil Down To? The Main Difference Between Citrix vs. RDP

Based on what we’ve seen, we can say RDP offers a simple and cheaper option. It doesn’t come with the rich features we get with Citrix. But, it is ideal for users that have simple requirements.

Large enterprises or users that require advanced features should opt for Citrix. It might cost more. But, it’s more effective, especially if you have a large team. It’s also easier to scale with Citrix.

The Bottom Line: How to Choose the Best Remote Desktop for Your Business

We’ve weighed both Citrix and RDP against several essential factors. Factors such as Performance, Price, Usability, Ease of Use, etc., are crucial, as they reflect what you should consider when making the final decision.

Not only that, but you can weigh each factor against your internal requirements. For some, the price might be the differentiating factor, and for others, it might be performance.

However, both cases represent a different extreme. With XenDesktop, you’re forced to go for an expensive option to get a decent remote desktop access solution. With RDS, you’re forced to compromise on many important features to get an answer within a reasonable budget.

This is where V2 Cloud comes in. Like Citrix, Our remote desktop virtualization solutions offer rich features such as high performance, easy scalability, ease of use, and much more. And like RDS, V2 Cloud’s virtual desktop solution has a competitive price and is made considering Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs).

We’ve placed ourselves in the middle and offer the best of both solutions. We’re not limited to any one Operating System, such as choosing Windows with RDS. V2 Cloud does not tie you down by forcefully disconnecting you from the server.

And most importantly, we have a dedicated team that can give you personal recommendations. You book a free meeting with someone from the V2 Cloud team. Our team member listens to your requirements and provides recommendations best suited for your business.

Written By: Haziqa Sajid

Freelance tech writer and content marketer for tech, SaaS, and AI companies | Helped 50+ tech businesses with engagement-driven content.