The beginners guide to Desktop as a Service (DaaS)

The consumerisation of IT and the rise of mobile technology have dramatically changed the dynamic between IT and end users. Workers increasingly expect rapid response times from IT departments and an agile workplace to take advantage of new user trends and mobile work styles.


Whether innocently or not, they’re using their own devices to access corporate networks, data and resources, potentially exposing organisations to significant risk. Businesses face the challenge of enabling this new mobile workforce without sacrificing security and control. Luckily for IT managers, desktop as a service is to the rescue.

DaaS explained

Desktop as a Service (DaaS) refers to a virtual desktop hosted in the cloud. DaaS enables organisations to rapidly deploy desktops and applications as a cloud service to any device, anywhere. Unlike physical PCs or VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), which require large upfront investments and are complex to manage, DaaS delivers a complete virtual desktop from the cloud. This means organisations get all the benefits of a local network VDI – centralised desktop control and security, backup and disaster recovery – but without the hassles and capital expenditure. Rather than buy all that equipment, it is utilised from the cloud provider on a subscription basis. And with data in the cloud instead of the individual device, it’s a major advantage from a compliance perspective. If an employee leaves the organisation, the cloud account can simply be disabled; if an employee loses a device, it remains safely secured using the controls in place. 

As research director at Gartner, Mark Lockwood, told CIO Magazine recently, “VDI often costs more and delivers less value than expected … you have to pay for the infrastructure up front and depreciate it over time; you also have to buy infrastructure for your peak level of usage. You’re going to spend a ton of money on storage, on compute, on data centres; and if people don’t use it, you still have to pay for that. With DaaS, you only buy what you need” (and you pay for it accordingly).

Do your research

However, despite all of its advantages, DaaS is not without issues. First and foremost, DaaS requires a fast and reliable internet connection, so it’s not suitable for some locations. Secondly, while the pay-as-you-go system is a major draw card for many cash-strapped businesses, the ease of deployment means costs can add up quickly if IT managers aren’t vigilant. Lastly, DaaS is still a newer technology, and it's maturing along with the rest of the ‘aaS’ world. IT managers considering this option should engage an external partner who is experienced in this space to ensure they are getting a business-grade service. Most DaaS providers will offer a trial, so try before you buy if you can.

It’s important for IT managers to understand that DaaS isn’t for everyone – it’s a solution that works for specific scenarios. Three common use cases for DaaS include:

  • Small and medium size organisations – DaaS is ideal for businesses that don’t have the in house IT resources required to deploy and manage physical or traditional virtual desktops.
  • Remote and mobile workforces – DaaS supports geographically dispersed workers in a cost effective and secure manner. Contractors can access the corporate environment from their personal devices and employees can access their desktops when they are at home or on the road. Overseas workers can be granted access to the corporate network without concern that sensitive data will be at risk since it is not stored locally.
  • Elastic and flexible needs – Many organisations need desktops for unique tasks or one-off projects. DaaS enables rapid scaling of desktops to accommodate evolving needs, even for temporary purposes, without the need for major infrastructure changes or upgrades.

Balancing act

Many IT managers are struggling to balance the conflicting goals of worker flexibility and choice against manageability, security, and cost. DaaS is an effective means of managing the range of devices required by an increasingly mobile workforce. Most IT managers don’t want to be in the business of desktop management, preferring instead to focus on more value added activities and have a more strategic role. In these cases, outsourcing to a cloud or IT service provider makes sense, provided the organisation is a good fit for DaaS.

If you do choose to engage a managed service provider, the service is bound to come with additional perks. Unlike public cloud providers which operate on a transactional basis, an IT partner will do more than host your desktops in the cloud. They’ll also provide services such as image management and network configuration, application management, patching up to the Operating System and End User Desktop Management and you’ll benefit from ongoing consultation, all as a predictable, operational expense item.

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Topics: Cloud As A Service, Cloud Computing, DaaS

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