VDI vs DaaS: What’s the Difference?

Virtual desktops give users secure remote access to applications and internal files. Virtualization technologies often used in these remote access environments include virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and desktop as a service (DaaS).

Both remote access technologies remove many of the constraints of office-based computing. This is an incredibly high priority for many businesses right now. A large portion of the global workforce is still working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many organizations are considering implementing permanent remote work on some level.

With VDI and DaaS, users can access their virtual desktops from anywhere, on any device, making remote work much easier to implement and support, both short and long-term. Understanding your organization’s needs and demands can help you decide which solution is right for you. This article describes the key similarities and differences between VDI and DaaS, and we explain what factors to consider when choosing between the two technologies.

What Is VDI?

VDI creates a remote desktop environment on a dedicated server. The server is hosted by an on-premises or cloud resource. VDI solutions are operated and maintained by a company’s in-house IT staff, giving you on-site control of the hardware.

VDI leverages virtual machines (VMs) to set up and manage virtual desktops and applications. A VM is a virtualized computing environment that functions as though it is a physical computer. VMs have their own CPUs, memory, storage, and network interfaces. They are the technology that powers VDI.

A VDI environment depends on a hypervisor to distribute computing resources to each of the VMs. It also allows multiple VMs to run simultaneously on the same physical hardware, each on a different OS. VDI technology also uses a connection broker that allows users to connect with their virtual desktops.

Remote users connect to the server’s VMs from their endpoint device to work on their virtual desktops. An endpoint device could be a home desktop, laptop, tablet, thin client, or mobile device. VDI allows users to work in a familiar OS as if they are running it locally.

What Is Daas?

DaaS is a cloud-based desktop visualization technology hosted and managed by a third-party service provider. The DaaS provider hosts the back-end virtual desktop infrastructure and network resources.

DaaS systems are subscription-based, and the service provider is responsible for managing the technology stack. This includes managing the deployment, maintenance, security, upgrades, and data backup and storage of the back-end VDI. DaaS eliminates the need to purchase the physical infrastructure associated with desktop visualization.

DaaS technology streams the virtual desktops to the clients’ end-user devices. It allows the end user to interact with the OS and use hosted applications as if they are running them locally. DaaS also provides a cloud administrator console to manage the virtual desktops and their access and security settings.

VDI vs DaaS: Similarities and Differences

Desktop as a service (DaaS) is a cloud-hosted form of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). The key differences between DaaS and VDI lie in who owns the infrastructure and how cost and security work. Let’s take a closer look at these three areas.


With VDI, the hardware is sourced in-house and is managed by IT staff. This means that the IT team has complete control over the VDI systems. Some VDI deployments are hosted in an off-site private cloud maintained by your host provider. That host may or may not manage the infrastructure for you.

The infrastructure for DaaS is outsourced and deployed by a third party. The cloud service provider handles back-end management. Your IT team is still responsible for configuring, maintaining, and supporting the virtual workspace, including desktop configuration, data management, and end-user access management. Some DaaS deployments also include technical support from the service provider.


The cost for VDI and DaaS depends on how you deploy and use each solution.

VDI deployments require upfront expenses, such as purchasing or upgrading servers and datacenters. You’ll also need to consider the combined cost of physical servers, hypervisors, networking, and virtual desktop publishing solutions. However, VDI allows organizations to purchase simpler, less expensive endpoint devices for users or shift to a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy. Instead of buying multiple copies of the same application, you need only one copy of each application installed on the server.

DaaS requires almost no immediate capital expenses because the cost model operates on ongoing subscription fees. You pay for what you use, typically on a per-desktop billing system. The more users you have, the higher the subscription fee you’ll have to pay. Every DaaS provider has different licensing models and pricing tiers, and the tiers may determine which features are available to the end user.


Both solutions move data away from a local machine and into a controlled and managed datacenter.

Some organizations prefer VDI because they can handle every aspect of their critical and confidential data. VDI deployments are single tenants, giving complete control to the organization. You can specify who is authorized to access data, which applications are used, where data is stored, and how systems are monitored.

DaaS is multi-tenant, which means your organization’s service is hosted on platforms shared with other organizations. DaaS service providers use multiple measures to secure your data. This commonly includes data encryption, intrusion detection, and multi-factor authentication. However, depending on the service provider, you may have limited visibility into aspects such as data storage, configuration, and monitoring.

How Do You Choose What’s Right for You?

Both VDI and DaaS are scalable solutions that create virtual desktop experiences for users working on various devices. Choosing between the two depends on analyzing your business requirements to determine which solution best fits your needs.

DaaS is a good solution for organizations that want to scale their operations quickly and efficiently. The infrastructure and platform are already in place, which means you only need to define desktop settings and identify end users. If you want to add additional users (such as contractors or temporary workers), you can add more seats to your subscription service and pay only when using them.

An in-house VDI solution is a good fit for organizations that value customization and control. Administrators have complete control of infrastructure, updates, patches, supported applications, and security of desktops and data. Rather than using vendor-bundled software, VDI gives the in-house IT staff control over the software and applications on the virtual machine.

DaaS operates under a pay-as-you-go model, which is appealing for companies requiring IT services but lacking the funds for a full-time systems administrator or the resources to implement a VDI project.

DaaS is suitable for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and companies with many remote workers or seasonal employees. However, DaaS subscription rates may diminish its cost-saving appeal, especially for premium services. With VDI, you must pay a high upfront cost, but the organization will own the infrastructure. Careful forecasting can help fix long-term costs for virtual desktops and applications.

Why Is Parallels RAS an Ideal VDI Solution for Businesses?

Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS) is a VDI solution that provides secure access to your virtual desktop and applications from any device. This gives users access to the resources, tools, and platforms usually confined to an office environment. Parallels RAS has auto-provisioning capabilities, making it easy to scale your IT infrastructure to meet user demands.

Parallels RAS supports on-premises, cloud, and hybrid access to virtual desktops and applications. Its scalable and flexible architecture makes it easy for organizations to adapt to workplace changes and demands for new applications or operating systems.

End users can access virtual desktops and applications securely from laptops, PCs, tablets, thin clients, smartphones, and any HTML5 web browser. This creates a seamless user experience regardless of the user’s connection or device. Parallels RAS is an all-in-one solution that saves resources, reduces the hardware footprint, and lowers overhead costs.

Note that Parallels RAS also supports DaaS deployment. Deploying Parallels RAS via VDI is likely the ideal solution if your company plans to implement the solution independently. At the same time, DaaS deployment may be a better choice if your company uses a managed service provider (MSP).


There’s no right or wrong answer when choosing VDI or DaaS. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and both may be easier to deploy or more cost-effective depending on the circumstances.

Choosing VDI and DaaS doesn’t have to be an either-or decision. Organizations may benefit from using VDI on-site and supporting remote or seasonal work with DaaS. With Parallels RAS, companies can leverage both solutions as a hybrid deployment without integration complexity.

Learn more about how Parallels RAS can benefit your organization.

Download the Trial