VDI vs. RDS: What’s the Difference and How to Choose 

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) or Remote Desktop Services (RDS) are two components of desktop virtualization that offer you the flexibility to work remotely. Just because they perform a similar function, we can’t consider them the same.

It is difficult for businesses to survive by restricting their work to offices when the pandemic has made every industry realize the need for remote working. A recent survey by Gartner revealed that more than 82% of company leaders plan to shift to a flexible workplace. How will it work for your business? The answer is very simple, virtual desktop solutions

They can help you implement flexible workplace environments by offering remote access. For this reason, businesses are increasing the use of VDI and RDS technology in their workplace. 

But, how will you decide which virtual desktop solution is going to suit your business needs? Although both VDI and RDS solutions use the same technology that is virtualization, they are still distinct in the implementation, maintenance, and security. Read on to find out and understand the differences between RDS and VDI. 

Understanding Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) 

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a technology that is used for desktop virtualization.  VDI is the infrastructure that helps in desktop virtualization and the creation of virtual machines. These virtual machines (Or Thin Clients) operate on any end device. 

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VDI Advantages 

  • Allows the workforce to work from anywhere, anytime 
  • Offers you robust control over back-end infrastructure 
  • Gets you an effortless personalized user experience by choosing the relevant business applications
  • Offers you a scalable and highly secure infrastructure 
vdi vs rds

Understanding Remote Desktop Infrastructure (RDS) 

Formerly known as Terminal Services, Remote Desktop Services is a Windows-based client solution that enables users to take control of a remote system from different locations. In RDS, actively logged-in users can access the server-hosted applications and hardware resources with the help of shared desktops. 

RDS Advantages 

  • Saves time and money from tedious tasks such as installing, managing and upgrading software 
  • Your data is in the cloud. Therefore, any damage to your device does not lead to data loss. 
  • Reduces the expenses of housing an IT infrastructure and regular up-gradation 
  • Allows remote working on any device with valid authorization via the Internet 

Is VDI the same as Remote Desktop Services?  

VDI and RDS both offer remote access to users and work on virtualization technology, what makes them different is their infrastructure and some of their features. Hence, VDI and RDS are not the same. Let’s discuss how they differ from each other. 

VDI is a virtualization model that runs on the Windows Client Operating System, whereas RDS is a session-based model running on the Windows server.   

In RDS, a remote desktop connection is established on a centralized server that connects you to a remote Windows PC over the Internet or local network. On the other hand, the dedicated VDI model gives you an option to choose from a dedicated or shared desktop as per the business need.   

VDI vs. RDS: Which one should you choose? 

Comparing the potential user performance, costs, or flexibility, just to name a few — choosing between VDI or RDS can be daunting. As they are like two sides of a coin, you need to be specific while looking out for VDI vs. RDS.

Here’s an overview of the difference between VDI and RDS. 

  • RDS wins in terms of cost-effectiveness 

The VDI infrastructure requires the deployment of multiple virtual machines (VM). Setting up in-house hardware and servers is a cost-intensive process. Also, you need an IT team to upgrade, secure, and maintain the entire infrastructure. 

On the other hand, RDS uses a single operating system for many users. Here the users utilize resources running on a shared VM, saving you from hours of provisioning workstations. Remote desktops can be managed by a service provider who charges as per the subscription model.  

Hence, the cost of remote desktop infrastructure is much lower than maintaining in-house VDI. 

  • VDI has a better performance 

Virtual desktop infrastructure is a highly IT-intensive infrastructure. When we speak of performance, the users get dedicated desktop storage, giving them a better user experience. Here, the host can control the experience users have even before they log in. Also, you can experience graphical-intensive applications without any lag.

On the other hand, RDS shares a single deployment system, so using GPU-intensive applications is challenging. If your workforce requires the usage of similar applications, for instance, 50% of employees working on the same application, then you can go for RDS. 

  • RDS is more secure 

The VDI desktop session is hosted on a cluster of servers, giving access to all cloud data and applications. The data is hosted on the corporate network, so it never leaves the cloud. But in case the VDI desktop is infected, the malware spreads in the data center, harming your entire OS. 

In remote desktop connection, the data is stored on remote cloud servers. Therefore, in case of any damage to your device, your information is still safe. The data is encrypted with a private IP address and firewalls. It means that applications and data are assigned a private IP address, thus not allowing external users to access resources without permission. 

Suggested Reading: 9 Tips to Ensure Data Protection While Working Remotely 

Why Would You Choose VDI?  

You can go for VDI if you: 

1. Have a large workforce with constant demands for a dynamic user experience 

2. Can offer round-the-clock IT support to upgrade VDI for clients

3. Have the resources to customize the desktop per the customer’s needs or quickly resolve issues

4. Wish to implement a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy at your workplace, and you can design the security structure as per that

5. Willing to invest a significant sum in an in-house VDI server implementation and maintenance

Why would you choose RDS?  

You can go for RDS if you: 

1. Wish to minimize the costs associated with the set-up and maintenance of servers 

2. Need to scale resources or add new users with seasonal or dynamic demands

3. Don’t want to hire a vast IT support team to maintain servers

4. Don’t wish to depend on on-premise IT infrastructure to ensure data security

Final Thoughts on VDI vs. RDS 

The back-and-forths about RDS and VDI are never going to end as both technologies serve remote access to users but are based on different infrastructures. After going through their pros and cons, we hope you know which solution is right for you.  

With VDI, you gain better control over the apps and a better user experience. On the other hand, RDS is by far the most cost-effective solution for firms where most users operate on the same kinds of applications. Still wondering, what to choose? 

Learn more about the ins and outs of these services and how deploying them can be a game-changer for you. Our experts are here for you. 

About Julie Watson

Julie is a dynamic professional with over 16 years of rich experience as a VDI and Application Hosting expert. At Ace Cloud Hosting, she humanizes disruptive and emerging remote working trends to help leaders discover new and better possibilities for digital transformation and innovation by using cloud solutions with an enterprise-class security approach. Beyond work, Julie is a passionate surfer.
On the weekend, you will find her hanging out with her family or surfing around the North Shore of Oahu.

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