DaaS Providers – Compare DaaS Solutions and Desktop-as-a-Service Providers

Comparing Virtual Desktops, Desktop-as-a-Service and Hosted Applications in Digital Workspaces

DaaS Comparison Guide

This virtual desktop / DaaS comparison guide is designed for those who are looking into hosted virtual desktops or desktops as a service (DaaS) as well as alternate solutions for hosted applications via digital workspaces.

Evolve IP is a DaaS provider with well over a decade of experience deploying Desktop-as-a-service solutions and is the largest multi-tenant VMware DaaS provider in the United States.

We have helped hundreds of enterprise and midmarket clients migrate their servers and desktops to the cloud in almost every vertical market.  We also partner with Citrix and have deployed virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for many clients.

DaaS Solutions in the Marketplace

Major DaaS Technologies Available

XenDesktop, now known as Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop, and VMware Horizon DaaS –  We have grouped these two together as they are both very robust solutions and, for the most part, their selection typically comes down to brand preference as opposed to having significant differences in performance. One important note is that both can be architected in a multi-tenant environment.

When we say multi-tenant, that’s not to say you are sharing the same space with other clients, it’s more like an apartment complex.  To continue the analogy, typically each customer is living on their own floor (vlan) and the building supervisors (platform engineers), are caring for the entire building. This gives you a personal, secure, private space.  To take it one step further, if Licenses and Inspections checks on the buildings, top providers, like Evolve IP, ensure their apartments are certified for major compliances like HIPAA / HITRUST, PCI-DSS, etc.

VMware Horizon View – This is the enterprise version of virtual desktop technology.  We note it here because there are providers building solutions on this technology. For service providers with a low number of clients, this can work.

However, as the providers’ customer counts grow, you can think of this as more of a single-family home community. The maintenance crew now has 100 homes to manage instead of 1 large building. Typically, at this point, the vendor’s economies of scale dry up and there are more things that can go wrong; there are more ways to break-in, more management portals to maintain, etc. VMware Horizon View was not designed to be multi-tenant.

Azure Virtual Desktops – Since Azure Virtual Desktops just became Generally Available (GA) in 2020, there isn’t a significant track record for this solution. It is, however, utilizing RDP as a protocol. While RDP has come a long way, it does not yet compare to the performance of ICA or PCoIP and still requires double authentication, potentially frustrating users who want a simple and immediate experience.

Amazon Workspaces – Amazon Workspaces is similar to Azure in that it’s a public cloud offering. However, it has been tested in the market longer. Also, as with Azure, the consuming organization needs to have a DIY state of mind. They will also need top DaaS technology talent on staff to navigate Amazon’s solution, implement the desktops, as well as tie in all the ancillary pieces their desktops will need like remote monitoring and management (RMM), Anti-virus, etc.

Questions for DaaS Providers

How do you recommend handling a mixed environment of DaaS users, non-DaaS users, and remote employees that still need access to Windows applications?

Evolve IP’s digital workspaces were designed to support this exact scenario. Most of our clients no longer required every employee to have a full virtual desktop / DaaS seat, so our solution aligns with the personas of workers – delivering only the applications that users need based on their job function. This is a very unique approach compared to other DaaS providers.

Solutions that allow enterprises to mix and match seat types is crucial. Research shows that typically over 50% of an organization’s applications are SaaS and expectations are that this will increase to 75-80% in just a year or two. SaaS is great for flexibility and business continuity and allowing users to work the way they want, where they want, on the devices they want.

But it’s creating 2 major issues:

  1. How do you control access to browser-based SaaS applications and keep data secure?
  2. How do you untether and deliver Windows applications that are residing on servers in the enterprise? How do you make this seamless and easy for your employees to access and for IT to manage?

Evolve IP’s digital workspaces solve these issues:

  • Users log into a Single Sign-On (SSO) Web portal that includes Multi-factor Authentication (MFA).
      • The portal gives IT a centralized point for enabling or disabling user access to SaaS and legacy applications.
  • Once in their portal, users simply click to be passed into SaaS applications without needing to log in again.
  • If users need access to Windows applications (e.g. Encompass, Fiserv), those applications also appear as a tile to click and launch from the Evolve IP data center.
    • This makes those hosted, line-of-business applications look, act, and feel like a SaaS app.
  • If the user needs an entire virtual desktop experience, they simply click a tile to launch their desktop, all within their user Web browser.

Digital workspaces break the “one size fits all” of other DaaS providers and give users just the right tools for their job while reducing overspending by the company.

What end-user devices would you recommend?

This is one of the most common questions we get as customers are not only considering device price points but also ways in which they can possibly reduce the management overhead of local devices.

Essentially there are two options in the DaaS provider space.  But before getting to that, we will point out that the cheapest endpoint is the one you already have.  All desktops and laptops are typically compatible with a DaaS solution, so using existing infrastructure until it dies is always a possibility.

  • Option 1– Thin Client: A thin client is a simple (low-performance) computer that has been optimized for establishing a remote connection with a server-based computing environment. The server does most of the work, which can include launching software programs, performing calculations, and storing data. Thin Client devices use a stripped-down operating system (OS) and a browser of your choosing. These devices are great for using either VMware’s DaaS, Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop, and digital workspaces.
  • Option 2– A zero client. Zero clients are slightly different in that there is no OS and no local storage. With Zero Clients, all desktop applications are provisioned and centrally managed from a remote server. The devices boot directly to the login prompt of the virtual desktop provider. For a one size fits all approach, where you’re looking to lock devices down to only a virtual desktop, this is a great solution. It’s important to note, though, that zero clients sometimes do not support peripherals like check scanners, printers, and other USB devices.

Finally, there are different flavors of these client types and it can be VERY confusing.  For instance, some are VMware and Citrix certified, some aren’t. Before you land on a DaaS provider and DaaS solution make sure you know if the service supports PCoIP, ICA, or RDP and buy the appropriate thin or zero client.  You can also Contact Us and we’ll assist you with the selection.

How do digital workspaces improve security?

Every week it seems that news of a new malware or ransomware attack floods the chat rooms and airwaves.  DaaS solutions greatly reduce your threat cross-section and allow IT to focus on protecting the DaaS instances in the cloud since client devices cannot transmit infections into the environment.

With the explosion of SaaS, one particular area of concern, however, is an increase in users that are not accessing Windows applications and simply logging directly into browser-based SaaS applications. This presents security risks along with creating the arduous process for IT of trying to figure out what applications a user needs or has gained access to over their tenure and then disabling all those applications one by one during offboarding.

With digital workspaces, you can still provide a virtual desktop to those users that need them.  But you can also provide a secure, centrally managed way for users that only need SaaS applications to directly access those applications.  And, in an offboarding event, all access to SaaS applications in their single sign-on Web portal is removed. This provides a much more comprehensive way of managing user access to legacy as well as SaaS applications and securing the Enterprise.

What is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)?

TCO varies dramatically based on if your company requires all DaaS seats or has the flexibility to provide employees with digital workspaces that vary based on individual user needs.

The all DaaS seats pricing model is as follows: You buy a seat, then you outfit the seat with the ancillary parts and pieces needed to actually make the desktop work.

A typical DaaS provider price itemization would include:

  1. RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) – This is a tool used to manage desktops. At Evolve IP, we use N-Able.  However, we also allow customers to bring their own solutions to the table and use them in our cloud.
  2. Anti-Virus – Evolve IP utilizes Trend AV or allow our customers to bring their own solutions to protect their devices.
  3. Operating System – If customers have their own Office 365 OS they can bring that along, otherwise we use ours.
  4. Patching – This is not a requirement, but more and more clients are asking us to apply Windows, 3rd party, and AV patches/updates. We think this is a great move because it saves businesses time and maximizes IT productivity.

Here’s a virtual desktop pricing comparison chart that illustrates the difference in pricing between seat types:

  DaaS SaaS Only SaaS & Apps SaaS & DaaS
Desktop – 8G RAM $62 $6 $60 $75
RMM Tool $6 Included Included Included
Anti-Virus $6 Included Included Included
Operating System $7 Included Included Included
Patching $12 Included Included Included
Total $89 $6 $60 $70

Here is an example of 450 users comparing 100% DaaS to a model with flexible digital workspace needs.

  DaaS Workspaces
Seat Type DaaS SaaS Only SaaS & Apps SaaS & DaaS
User Count 450 50 200 200
Per Seat Cost $89 $6 $60 $75
  $40,050 $27,300

Questions Asked When Proposing a DaaS Solution or DaaS Provider to your Company

Q: Couldn’t I just do this with Citrix on my own and publish some desktops and applications?

A: You could, but that typically only addresses the delivery of 20% of your applications.  The other 80% are being delivered directly to your users, outside of your control mechanisms like Active Directory (AD).  By front-ending this solution with Identity and Access Management tools you can secure users and their access while providing a central location for IT to manage.

Q: Can’t I just buy OKTA and do this myself?

A: Technologies like OKTA will address Single Sign-On (SSO) and Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) but are more expensive to implement and pay for on a monthly basis.  They also don’t address Windows applications. Digital workspaces can put these applications into an SSO/MFA portal and deliver them from data centers directly to your end-users in a SaaS-like experience.

What are some DaaS-only use cases?

Here are some use cases that might still point you in the DaaS direction:

  • Zero client dominates your organization– If you have all zero clients today you can’t have users going to a browser to login first. DaaS would be a better fit.
  • You’re already on DaaS today– We move a healthy dose of customers from other DaaS providers to our platform. At times, it’s easier, or better, to keep them on a like-for-like platform from a user adoption or training perspective. However, we’d argue that it’s worth the effort to show your users a better way and that the adoption changes will pay dividends for you (and them) for years to come.

You’re a BYOT – Bring your own tools – business – From time-to-time a customer brings their own tools, such as RMM, AV, or desktop OS, to the party. In these scenarios, and in a combination of a one size fits all environment, the DaaS solution may end up being less expensive.

Successfully Deployed DaaS Solutions

Over the years, we have found that successfully funded and deployed DaaS solutions typically involve one or more of these four business outcomes.

  1. Security– Due to increasingly sophisticated security threats, the proliferation of remote work, and the growing popularity of BYOD policies, the need for a reliable, efficient, and secure service platform is greater than ever. IT also wants an easy way to ensure that operating system (OS) instances and varying software applications are up-to-date and secure. By using a DaaS solution, IT can protect and secure resources in the cloud and not necessarily worry about the devices being used.
  2. Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity– With DaaS, users are no longer dependent on a physical desktop computer to do their job. Therefore, if the office is no longer accessible due to fire, flood, even inclement weather like a snowstorm, users can simply switch to the device of their choice, their cell phone or tablet for example, and continue to complete tasks uninterrupted.
  3. Management– Are you trying to manage and maintain hundreds or thousands of desktops across dozens of offices? Evolve IP has helped many of our customers in similar situations solve this logistical nightmare quickly and effectively. By implementing DaaS, IT is able to give thin client or zero client devices to their users who can then simply log in to the cloud to start working anywhere, anytime.  When updates and patches occur, and we all know this happens all of the time, IT simply makes a few clicks, and the entire environment is updated in one shot.
  4. Enabling Remote Workers / Mobility–For businesses that have a remote workforce, DaaS improves productivity instantly (and securely) by enabling office-bound workers to become more mobile and leverage BYOD policies. DaaS also allows businesses to expand their hiring reach across geographies and attract a broader talent pool.

By now you probably have a better understanding of the value of hosted virtual desktops or DaaS for your business. After doing some additional research please feel free to contact us for a demo of our DaaS solution and digital workspace services!