How Is VDI Different from Remote Desktop Services (RDS)?

Publication date: May 19, 2022

Last Published: Jun 09, 2022

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Work doesn’t happen only in the office anymore. In today’s connected world, all that employees need to get things done is an internet connection and access to their work desktops.

The first requirement is easy to satisfy thanks to ubiquitous Wi-Fi hotspots and 4G/5G cellular data connectivity, but what about the second one? One solution is to allow a computer’s desktop environment to be run remotely and displayed on a separate client device, such as an employee’s personal laptop.

Such remote desktop connections can be provided in a number of different ways, with Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Remote Desktop Services (RDS) being the two most popular solutions among organizations that rely on Microsoft products and services. Let’s take a look at the differences between them.

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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Versus Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

Both VDI and RDS are desktop virtualization solutions.

As such, they separate a desktop environment from the physical hardware used to access that desktop. In practice, this means that they make it possible to, for example, access a Windows desktop running on an in-house server or in the cloud.

The difference between VDI vs. RDS boils down to how the remote desktop experience is delivered.

With VDI, each user gets their own virtual machine (VM) with a desktop operating system and applications. The virtual machines can be either persistent (customization of the desktop environment is possible) or non-persistent (the desktop returns to its original state once the user logs out).

RDS is a feature of Microsoft Windows Server that lets users connect to a shared desktop environment or individual applications running on a remote server. A single server can support multiple active user sessions, but server resources are not dedicated to a particular user.

Regardless of whether the remote desktop experience is delivered as a host-based virtual machine or a shared desktop running on a remote server, the remote connection is realized using a Remote Desktop client, and Microsoft provides client applications for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and web.

Which Remote Desktop Solution Is Better for SMBs?

When selecting a remote desktop solution, SMBs should pay attention to its ease of administration, security, and cost. Use this table to see how a remote desktop will affect your small business.

 VDI – Virtual Desktop InfrastructureRDS – Remote Desktop Services
AdministrationVirtual machines can be deployed from a template in minutes, but their maintenance can be time-consuming unless only non-persistent VMs are used.Because users connect to a single shared desktop environment, there’s only one point of maintenance to deal with, which greatly reduces the administrative effort required.  
SecurityVDI gives each user their own virtual machine. This puts isolation between users, reducing the risk of information disclosure.The lack of separation of user data allows for internal lateral movement after initial compromise, but it can be prevented through server policy and configuration to isolate the users’ profiles from seeing each other.
CostEach virtual machine needs its own OS license, so the total licensing costs increase for every connected user.A single OS license is used to create a remote desktop environment that can be shared by multiple users.

Overall, RDS is almost always the better option for SMBs that are looking for an easy-to-implement solution that would allow a handful of employees to remotely access line-of-business applications, such as QuickBooks or customer relationship management software like Sage CRM.

While RDS can also be used for day-to-day computing, the user experience leaves a lot to be desired, especially when used for latency-sensitive purposes like audio/video conferencing using Microsoft Teams.

VDI is a good option for larger organizations, such as call centers, that want to take advantage of the ability to deploy new virtual machines from a template with a few clicks to support employees performing the same workflow functions and using the same applications.

However, VDI doesn’t really make much sense for SMBs that provide their employees with their own laptops because it can be both costly and difficult to maintain.

Conclusion on Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) vs. Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

The need to provide employees with remote access to work-related data and applications is growing, and organizations can already choose between several fundamentally different remote desktop solutions, including virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and Remote Desktop Services (RDS).

Each of these solutions has its own advantages and disadvantages that organizations should take into consideration before proceeding with implementation.

We at OSIbeyond generally steer our SMB customers toward RDS since it can meet their needs better than VDI, providing a cost-effective way for employees to remotely access specific applications.

If you would like us to help you select and implement the best remote desktop solution for your organization, then don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation.

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