How Do DaaS and VDI Differ? A Complete Guide

Both Desktop as a Service (DaaS) and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) enable businesses to deliver virtualized desktops and applications to end users anytime, anywhere, and on any endpoint device. That makes both of them suitable for today’s hybrid work environments, where employees work onsite and remotely. But which one is better?

In this DaaS vs VDI post, we’ll be discussing the similarities and differences between the two, their advantages and disadvantages, and last but not the least, the use cases that each type of solution is best suited for.

What Is Desktop as a Service (DaaS)?

DaaS is a service that delivers virtualized desktops and applications from a remote hosted location—usually, a public cloud. As with all cloud-based services, DaaS follows a subscription and/or usage-based payment model. For example, to use a shared virtual desktop with 2 vCPU and 8 GB of RAM, a customer might have to pay $75 per user per month.

As with other cloud-based services, in DaaS, the customer doesn’t have to build the underlying infrastructure. All infrastructure components are acquired, deployed, built, and maintained by the service provider itself.

Although some DaaS providers are focused purely on delivering DaaS, the current field of DaaS providers includes large cloud providers like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS), virtualization companies, and even smaller third parties like managed service providers (MSPs) who have added DaaS to their line of services. Gartner’s Market Guide for Desktop as a Service, groups the DaaS market into three segments: client-defined, vendor-defined, and managed DaaS.

Client-defined DaaS offers more flexibility but also requires more technical know-how from the customer. Managed DaaS is more like a fully hosted offering wherein most of the components behind the service are managed by the provider. Usually, client-defined DaaS is offered by the large cloud providers, while managed DaaS is usually offered by MSPs, independent software vendors (ISVs), value-added resellers (VARs), and system integrators (SIs). Vendor-defined DaaS is somewhere in the middle.

Read our recommended white paper: Growth Opportunities for MSPs, ISPs, VARs, and SIs in the Post-Pandemic Era.

What Is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)?

While DaaS is a service, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI, is a product. Usually, it’s deployed in an on-premises datacenter and, like DaaS, delivers virtualized desktops and applications from a remote hosted location. A VDI solution is acquired typically through an upfront purchase and installed, deployed, configured, and maintained by the customer.

VDI can be thought of as the do-it-yourself version of DaaS. In fact, under the hood of most DaaS offerings is actually a VDI solution. Because VDI retains most of the underlying components that are abstracted in DaaS, VDI is often considered more difficult to own from a technical standpoint. There are, however, a few VDI solutions that have managed to simplify the processes associated with deployment and administration, and we’ll be featuring one of those solutions later in this post.

Although traditionally deployed in on-premises datacenters, some VDI solutions can be deployed on public clouds as well. Those that have this capability are easier to own and manage, as this deployment option eliminates the need to build and manage certain components of the underlying infrastructure (e.g., physical servers, storage systems, networking, and cooling systems, as well as hypervisors, to mention a few).

What Are the Key Differences between DaaS and VDI?

From the point of view of the end user, there are no noticeable differences between applications and desktops delivered by DaaS and those delivered by VDI. However, for the organization paying for the service/product and for the people in charge of managing these environments, it’s a different story.

Multi-tenant vs Single Tenant

Every DaaS environment follows a multi-tenant model. Meaning, its resources are shared among multiple customers/organizations. On the other hand, VDI environments usually follow a single-tenant model, wherein all resources in a VDI environment are consumed by a single organization. Although some VDI solutions do have multi-tenant capabilities, the feature is used (by MSPs, for instance) to deliver DaaS to customers.

Infrastructure Construction and Management

DaaS customers don’t need to build, deploy, and manage the underlying infrastructure, which may consist of an on-premises datacenter, networking apparatus, physical servers, storage devices, cooling systems, hypervisors, the VDI control plane, etc. These responsibilities are all absorbed by the DaaS provider. It’s the exact opposite for VDI customers, who must take charge of all these responsibilities.

As noted earlier, there are VDI solutions that can be deployed in the cloud. For these deployments, a substantial portion of the infrastructure-related responsibilities (e.g., construction and management of datacenter, networking apparatus, physical servers, storage devices, cooling systems, and hypervisors) are offloaded to the cloud provider. However, deployment, administration, and maintenance of the VDI control plane is retained by the customer.


As with all cloud-based services, DaaS costs are based mostly on operating expenditures (OPEX). By contrast, VDI costs are based mostly on capital expenditures (CAPEX). This means that DaaS customers are more concerned with ongoing costs, while VDI customers are more concerned with upfront costs.

Digital Asset Control

Since DaaS environments are managed by third parties, you, as a customer, don’t have complete control of your digital assets. It’s different in a VDI environment deployed on-premises where, for example, your IT administrator may know exactly which rack your VDI solution is running on or which storage device holds your most confidential files.


DaaS environments are just like any cloud environment—they’re highly scalable. You can expand and contract your fleet of virtual desktops on-demand with ease. VDI environments? Unless they’re deployed in the cloud, not so much. Although the VDI solution itself might be scalable, that scalability can be limited by the underlying physical infrastructure (i.e., physical servers, storage systems).

DaaS:  Advantages, Disadvantages, and Use Cases

Now that you know the key differences between DaaS and VDI, let’s talk about their advantages, disadvantages, and the use cases they’re each best suited for. Let’s start with DaaS.


DaaS has many advantages. It provides:

High scalability. DaaS inherits all the benefits of cloud computing. That includes having a high degree of scalability. DaaS environments can be rapidly expanded and contracted depending on demand. You don’t have that scalability with VDI. That’s why, before building your VDI environment, you need to forecast potential peak demand in order to build the right capacity. You just can’t add physical servers in VDI as easily as you could add virtual servers in DaaS.

Lower administrative overhead. Because your DaaS provider absorbs a substantial portion of the administrative responsibilities already, your IT team can take on more strategic endeavors that add value to your core business.

CAPEX savings. With DaaS, there’s almost zero upfront cost. Due to this low barrier to entry, businesses can reap the agility and productivity benefits of using remote applications and desktops quickly. It also means, because you no longer must drain your wallets to meet a huge capital outlay for infrastructure, you can enjoy a healthier cash flow.

Predictable costs. Although the bulk of your expenses are concentrated in the building phase of your VDI infrastructure, it doesn’t mean you can’t incur additional costs later on. Some costs, such as those for hardware replacements or repairs, can come when you least expect them. In DaaS’s subscription-based billing model, costs are more predictable. As long as you know how many users you have, you can estimate how much you need to spend every month. This can make budgeting easier.


Daas also has some disadvantages such as:

Use Cases

Due to the characteristics mentioned above, DaaS is best suited for the following use cases:

VDI: Advantages, Disadvantages, and Use Cases

Let’s now move on to VDI and talk about what it brings to the table.


VDI has several advantages. They are as follows:


Of course, there are a few disadvantages to VDI. It can require:

Use cases

VDI lends itself to these use cases:

Enhanced DaaS Capabilities and VDI Solutions with Parallels RAS

Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS) is an all-in-one VDI solution that integrates with Azure Virtual Desktop and supports both on-premises and cloud-based deployments. For cloud deployments, Parallels RAS supports all major cloud providers with ease, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. This hybrid deployment capability (which combines on-premises and cloud-based deployments) plus the integration with Azure Virtual Desktop allows businesses to reap the benefits of both VDI and DaaS.

Virtual desktops and applications that need to take advantage of cloud characteristics such as scalability, global reach, and minimal administrative overhead can be sourced from Azure Virtual Desktop DaaS. On the other hand, those that need to be kept on-premises to, for instance, meet regulatory requirements, minimize ongoing costs, or enable greater control can be sourced from an on-premises VDI deployment.

IT administrators can provision, deploy, monitor, and manage Azure Virtual Desktop workloads and components, including workspaces, host pools, templates, and application groups, from within Parallels RAS. Similarly, end users can view and launch both Parallels RAS-based and Azure Virtual Desktop-based desktops and applications from Parallels Client, which integrates with the Azure Virtual Desktop client.

Azure Virtual Desktop desktops and applications acquire Parallels RAS features such as Universal Printing and Scanning, AI-based session prelaunch, accelerated file redirection, auto-scaling, FSLogix Profile Container configuration, and automated VM image optimization, among many others.

Built with a simplified architecture, Parallels RAS does not require the same level of administrative overhead and technical expertise needed in most VDI solutions. Thus, even if your organization has to manage it, your current IT team can take on that responsibility easily.

Parallels RAS has a remarkably low barrier to entry and total cost of ownership (TCO), VDI capabilities, and Azure Virtual Desktop integration making it suitable for any type of business, regardless of size and industry.

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