Our price for a Hosted Desktop is probably the best in the UK, so I was very surprised when a potential customer asked if we could come up with a better price for a Hosted Desktop, as he had been quoted what appeared to be a substantially cheaper rate. As we always try and beat any like for like quotation I asked the customer to give me some more details of the competing offer.
It turns out the offer was for a hosted server rather than a full Hosted Desktop solution but it highlighted that for businesses looking to host their applications in the cloud it may not be obvious what the differences are, so this article sets out to help rectify that.
A hosted server is just that, a virtual or physical server hosted in someone else’s data centre, it could be running Windows, Linux or another operating system. Hosted servers are designed for IT professionals to replace some or all of the physical on premise servers with something hosted “in the cloud”.
With a Hosted Desktop you still get a hosted server but on top you get everything else you need to logon and run your applications anywhere in the world over the Internet, and on any device. It’s a complete, managed service, solution not just a component, and critically you don’t need an IT professional to start using it. In fact you don’t need any IT skills whatsoever.
The difference between Hosted Desktops and Hosted Servers is a bit like the difference between a train and a car. If you don’t know how to drive a car you aren’t going to get to your destination, with a train you don’t need to know how to drive it, you just use it.
If you are looking to have your business applications running in the cloud, maybe to save money, reduce risk or increase mobility these are all the things a Hosted Desktop solution will give you above and beyond what you may get with most hosted server offerings:
- Windows Active Directory to provide secure logon to the server and any other management of resources you require such as restricting access to files or folders. You want multiple domain controllers for resilience.
- Remote Desktop Services correctly configured on the server to enable multiple users to run their client applications. This includes the licencing server.
- Remote Desktop Gateways to allow connection to the hosted server over the internet using https (secure web access) avoiding the need for complicated VPN solutions. We have about a dozen gateway servers for load balancing. This also enables you to run the applications from a web browser or as a remote application (also known as WebApps and RemoteApps)
- Certificates to ensure communication to your server is secure and encrypted
- Backups of not only the server but also your database and any other files/documents on the server. Our backups are offsite for resilience and kept for a minimum of 20 days.
- Managed anti-virus on your server
- Managed Windows updates on your server
- Installation of your applications, databases and documents to make sure everything is working properly for you.
- All the relevant Microsoft licences included and declared to Microsoft on your behalf. This would include Windows CALS and Remote Desktop Services (Terminal Services) CALS, and optionally licences for applications such as Microsoft Office, Project or Visio.
Hosted servers are about moving part or all of your IT infrastructure to the cloud, but they still need to be configured, maintained and managed by somebody. Hosted Desktops are about forgetting about IT altogether and just running your business wherever and whenever you need to.