VDI vs RDS: Which One Should You Choose

December 22nd, 2021
05 mins 12 seconds

Author: Denis Tumuhaise

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More organizations are inclining towards permanent work-from-home arrangements to ensure business continuity. However, a major challenge they still face is choosing the right remote access solution.

Despite the multiple remote technologies available in the market, finding the best fit includes considering factors like cost, ease of deployment, efficiency levels, etc. Depending on their specific virtualization needs, some organizations mix and match VDI and RDS technologies.

This brings up the question of VDI vs RDS when deciding which solution is the right one for an organization’s virtualization requirements. So, without further ado, let’s unpack the key differences between VDI vs RDS. And maybe help you choose which solution you should opt for.

What is RDS?

Remote Desktop Services (RDS) is a Microsoft Windows Server capability that enables remote computers to access Windows apps and desktops with a graphic user interface via a centralized server.

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This centralised server can be on-premise or a data center. However, the client device needs an RDS client, while the RDS server needs a Windows Server OS to establish a remote connection with RD Session Hosts (Terminal Servers). To facilitate communication between the terminal servers and the server Clients, RDS utilises the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).

Benefits of RDS

  • It provides reduced licensing expenditure.
  • It delivers high security.
  • It is relatively cheaper than comparable solutions.
  • It offers SPM (Single point of maintenance).
  • It requires only one installation for many uses.

What is VDI?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a technology that enables the configuration of virtual desktops on a remote server setup (virtual desktop environment). These virtual desktops are then accessible via the personal devices of end-users from any location. Each virtual desktop can be personalized to the unique needs of each user.

Furthermore, VDI involves the setting up of virtual machines hosted on data centers. In essence, within VDI environments, each user maintains a dedicated virtual machine (VM) running an operating system. Therefore, providing enhanced flexibility in an isolated environment.

This means that each user can install/uninstall apps with full or partial administration rights within their VM as an RD Connection Broker manages the VMs. VDI is specifically helpful when businesses handle critical and confidential data that requires segregation

Benefits of VDI

  • Its processing moves to a VDI server from individual workstations.
  • It is easier to troubleshoot issues.
  • It allows the same image to be utilized.
  • It offers the ability to manage a single operating system (OS).
  • It provides enhanced data security.

VDI vs RDS: Key Differences

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Performance
End-users access desktop sessions via the Windows Server Operating System. Therefore, it’s not recommended for apps that demand high graphics resolution. When it comes to operating graphic-intensive applications or multimedia, VDI is a better solution. VDI delivers performance comparable to desktop PCs, as virtual desktops tend to work on dedicated resources and can also be GPU-enabled.

User Interface
RDS users typically experience an interface that is the same as the Windows Server OS. As such, it feels like one is accessing a server remotely. The only difference is that you’re accessing desktop instances instead of the entire server. VDI solutions provide end-users with the same experience as an ordinary laptop or computer. Unlike RDS, VDI delivers a Windows Desktop OS experience, for example, Windows 10, to users. Therefore, users get virtual desktops with exactly the same desktop experience, across their end-point devices.

Cost
RDS is relatively cheaper than VDI since it facilitates remote access to a centralized server. Essentially, businesses are required to purchase and manage servers at the backend, and end-users can simply access the desktop instances via client software. VDI technology is more expensive than RDS. On-premise VDI typically requires deployment and maintenance of sophisticated server setups. Furthermore, a dedicated IT team is required at the facility at all times to cater to any issues.

Security
Data is stored on a remote server and not on an end-point device. Thus, any threat to the end-point device doesn’t cause any data loss. However, there can be data threats if the remote server malfunctions. Resources, and desktops are typically virtualized over a cluster of cloud servers. Therefore, even when a server malfunctions, virtual desktops can be shifted to redundant servers.

Which One to Choose Based on the Above Factors

To answer this question, you have to carefully consider what you’re looking for in a remote access solution. Business requirements largely differ when choosing a remote access solution. For instance, a company with few users with limited needs, can choose RDS. Furthermore, RDS is preferable in situations where the users of remote desktop sessions are in the same physical location as the RDS server.

On the other hand, if performance is a priority, then VDI is the best choice as it delivers optimal performance with graphic-accelerated apps.

What’s a Simpler Option with Added Benefits?

Typically, a large workforce with graphic processing needs will require a VDI solution to deliver the user performance required. However, though quite similar, VDI and VPN differ and provide different services. While VDI enables access to a remote desktop for users to work from, VPN creates a tunnel between end-users and an organization’s private network.

Despite the benefits of VDI, VPN, and RDS, a simpler solution for organizations seeking accessible hands-off remote-desktops might be desktop as a service (DaaS). DaaS requires the minimal deployment and maintenance effort while serving VDI using a multi-tenant delivery model.

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Furthermore, DaaS deployments enable organizations to quickly deliver virtualized desktops quickly for any urgent needs. Additionally, DaaS typically requires no upfront investment, but ongoing subscription fees. Not forgetting, because DaaS cloud providers typically have data centers worldwide, end users in multiple regions can easily be supported.

Key Takeaways

In conclusion, remember that unlike RDS (which is limited to Windows Server), VDI isn’t limited to a single operating system or application architecture. Furthermore, when employing VDI, a pool of virtual desktop servers is configured via virtualization software.

Additionally, RDS operates from a single server and is accessed by users through a network connection and the Remote Desktop Protocol. On the other hand, with VDI, each user receives their own virtual server.

Lastly, administration is simpler with VDI, as a single master image is configured and updated. In contrast, with RDS, desktop images are configured on the server, cloned and presented to users with all of its associated apps and data.

Read more: VDI or VPN: what’s the best solution for remote work

Written By: Denis Tumuhaise

Denis is a Professional Computer Engineer, Technical Writer, and Software Product Manager. With over six years of experience, he is exorbitantly passionate about helping businesses create software products and succeed with technology by simplifying complex tech topics.