The concept of desktop virtualisation is becoming more familiar to business decision makers. Managed desktop platforms such as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) or Remote Desktop Services are giving businesses more reliable, stable and cost-efficient ways of running their business applications.
Desktop As a Service or DaaS takes this to the next level by effectively outsourcing the hosting and management of the virtual desktops. It is a cloud service that reduces the need for inhouse management and at the same time providing consistent/predictable spending to help Opex budgeting and an overall improvement in efficiency for the business.
Cloud desktops are accessed from anywhere over the internet and usually on any device, so you can very easily be running a Windows virtual desktop from an iPad, Mac, Chromebook or Android tablet as well as a Windows PC or laptop.
So, how do you choose a good DaaS provider, what are the things you should look for when comparing one Desktop As A Service supplier with another.
How is the DaaS platform supported, what is included?
The most important bit of Desktop As A Service is the “Service” part. You need to look for a fully managed service, a company that will look after every aspect of the infrastructure in the same way an IT department would if you had an on-premise platform. Support should not be an optional added extra.
The provider should support the operating system, manage patching, anti-virus, backup and recovery and security measures to ensure your data is safe, as well as manage desktop settings and configuration.
The provider should monitor the performance of your platform, give you advanced warning if you are running low on disk or need more system resource such as RAM or CPU cores.
The provider should also fix things when they go wrong. No matter how technology improves there will always be failures of hardware, or faulty software patches that can cause problem. The provider may not be at fault for the fact something has gone wrong with the infrastructure but they are responsible for putting it right; replacing hardware, rolling back dodgy Windows updates and so on.
The desktop as a service provider isn’t usually responsible for the support of your applications, that is the job of the application vendor. However, you need to be able to call upon them if you need them to do something for the software vendor. Discuss with your provider how this is paid for, is it all included or will there be additional costs.
Find out from your DaaS provider what implementation support is included, how they help transfer your data or install your applications.
What is the Desktop As A Service providers core business?
You want you DaaS provider to focus primarily on delivering that function. The last thing you want is a cloud services provider that just dabbles in DaaS when their primary function is something completely different like web hosting or software development.
A DaaS provider needs to be expert in what they do and be experienced in it. Find out how long they have been providing cloud desktops. Managing virtual desktop environments takes a lot of skills, experience and robust systems and processes. It may seem like new technology to you but desktop virtualisation has been around a long time and a good provider will have built up a wealth of knowledge so they can better support things if there are ever issues.
DaaS providers will also need good skills in related technologies such as how to manage Microsoft SQL Servers, IIS, Firewalls, Certificates as well as being knowledgeable on 3rd party services such as Microsoft 365 subscriptions.
Does your DaaS provider offer additional complementary solutions?
Without being a Jack of all trades, and not withstanding what we discussed above on DaaS being their primary function, it is useful if your Desktop As A Service provider can offer additional solutions or cloud services that complement the remote desktops so that you can have a one stop shop and know where to go for all related IT requirements.
Are they offering just a simple remote desktop solution or do they included full application streaming and the ability to run your applications on multiple devices.
Do they offer software licencing for products like Microsoft Office that you may need on your desktop? Do they resell Microsoft 365 subscriptions?
Can you also get other managed services through them such as cloud backup and recovery services, cloud storage, file sharing?
Is the DaaS platform high performing, scalable, reliable, secure and resilient?
Find out from any potential supplier what specification the desktops will be and how easy it is to scale, can you quickly add additional users, more applications, extra storage.
What is the providers uptime guarantee? Expect something around 99.95% or higher and make sure that it is financially backed up i.e. will you get any credit if uptime drops below that figure. Ask how the supplier manages and communicates planned or emergency maintenance.
You should look into what high availability measures the supplier has in place, expect things like multiple Internet feeds into their data centre, multiple power feeds, diesel generators, UPS batteries. Do they include hardware failover to keep your server running in the event of a hardware failure on a server? Do they “redundant” systems so that things carry on working when one “cog in the machine” falls off.
What is the providers disaster recovery plan in the event a data centre is out of action.
Security and Compliance
You should expect your data to be as secure as it can be, and if you are in a regulated industry then you will be expected to ensure compliance with security regulations. Check that the DaaS provider is certified to relevant standards such as ISO 27001.
Providers should also be able to offer additional security measures if required such as server encryption and multi-factor authentication.
Servers running your virtual desktops need to be protected behind enterprise grade firewalls.
There is always a danger that businesses will simply assume that the Desktop As A Service solution will protect them from malware, hacking and viruses, unfortunately hosted servers can still be susceptible to malware as local ones. If you have email on your virtual desktop and you click on a link in an email that takes you to a phishing site that delivers a zero day virus payload there’s nothing the DaaS provider can do to prevent that, even with the best Anti-Virus products. However, they can provide mitigation and contingency measures. They should be backing up your server and data as part of the service so that your desktops can be recovered in the event of a ransomware attack for example. They can also offer 3rd party cloud backups as another level of protection.
Find out what happens to your data when you leave, make sure the supplier is complying with GDPR.
Find out where the solution is hosted, is it in your local country, and if not is that an issue for you for compliance. Does the vendor use any third parties in the delivery of their platform or do they own all their own infrastructure?
Regardless of how good the DaaS provider is, or how secure, you should always develop your own disaster recovery plan in the event of any outage, large or small.
Do a full cost analysis before committing to a Desktop As A Service (DaaS) solution but take into account the hidden and unexpected costs of an on-premise alternative, things like Anti-virus licences, cloud backups, Windows licences, Windows CALs. Plan in costs of upgrades as operating systems go end of life and factor in paying for support when things go wrong, including costs to your business of downtime.
Choose a DaaS provider that can offer the most flexibility. Some may tie you in to 12-month (or longer) contracts but the better ones don’t need to. Make sure you can increase or decrease user numbers as your business dictates.
Some cloud computing providers will offer discounts for 12 months upfront payments. Look at the total cost of ownership of all options, factoring in risk.
What is the Desktop As a Service vendors target market?
It may seem like a strange question but who are the DaaS provider’s main customers. If you are a small business with 1 or 2 users then you may not get the service you need from a company who is aiming at customers with 500 seats. They may not even be interested in serving single user customers. Of course, if you are a customer with 500 seats then choose a DaaS provider with proven experience with implementations of that scale.
Often an after thought but if you implement a Desktop As A Service (DaaS) solution that your users don’t like then expect a hard time. Choose a DaaS provider that will give you free trials, offer a free test server, or even agree to fully implement the system risk free, you don’t like it then you don’t pay if you cancel in the first month.
Desktop As A Service should be a perfect accompaniment to Bring Your Own Device so make sure you test it on all the devices that your business uses, or expects to use.
Your Office Anywhere
Your Office Anywhere are one of the UKs longest established cloud computing providers and offer a Desktop As A Service solution called hosted remote desktops, often just called hosted desktops using a high performing Microsoft Remote Desktop Services platform rather than virtual desktop infrastructure VDI. It is a fully managed service aimed at small to medium sized businesses and, as recommended, they have been providing this service for over 15 years at the time of writing (2021).
If you are interested in finding out more about Desktop As A Service please call 01282 500318 or complete the form below.