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New research highlights the shift from virtual desktops to digital workspaces

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional)

A new report by Enterprise Research Group (ESG) reveals that while 4 out of 10 organisations are currently using virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or Desktop as a Service (DaaS) products to enable remote work, the top challenges those organisations experience with those products are cost, complexity, and security.

Over the past 3 months, many IT organisations were put in a situation where they needed to quickly deploy products to help enable remote work - so adoption of VDI and DaaS rose sharply. But this report reveals that in many cases those were band-aid fixes that were meant to be a short-term solution. With as many as 82 per cent of remote workers suggesting they’ll never return to a physical office setting, working from home is part of the new normal for most companies. And it is becoming clear that VDI and DaaS are not viable long-term solutions for this new normal.

As Mark Bowker, Senior Analyst at ESG and author of the report states:

“With the dramatic increase in organisations that have enacted mandatory remote work policies, the demand for remote access to critical applications has skyrocketed. Organisations need solutions that can be deployed quickly and cost-effectively while also ensuring security. These survey results show that, despite the benefits of VDI and DaaS, those who have deployed those technologies continue to be challenged with the overall cost, management complexity, and security issues of those technologies.”

The report highlights the fact that further adoption of VDI and DaaS for remote work will be hindered if the challenges that these existing customers face aren’t addressed. Especially in a pandemic landscape where organisations need to deploy solutions quickly, securely, and cost-effectively - neither VDI or DaaS fits the bill.

The hidden costs of virtual desktops

In the new normal of the Covid-19 era, organisations need to enable remote access to business-critical apps for far more people than they used to - which can add up to a lot more cost depending on the approach they take.

For example - VDI requires significant investment in hardware, and also requires IT to manage servers, gateways, loads balancers, and other infrastructure (all of which equates to additional cost). And while DaaS sought to disrupt VDI by moving certain aspects of virtual desktops to the cloud, it still relies on the same costly and complex underlying infrastructure.

But what’s interesting is that these traditional ways of measuring the overall cost of a solution - upfront cost of hardware, ongoing licensing costs, cost of management and updates, etc. - don’t even provide the full story of the cost of VDI and DaaS. The ESG survey revealed that there are also significant hidden costs involved in VDI and DaaS deployments.

The first hidden cost revealed by the report is the cost of staffing. More than 50 per cent of survey respondents revealed that their VDI & DaaS deployments require more than 10 full time employees (FTEs) to manage the complexity of those deployments on an ongoing basis. That’s an incredibly high recurring, annual cost - and that’s in addition to the already high costs of VDI and DaaS solutions themselves.

The next group of hidden costs that this survey revealed all fall into the “third-party services” bucket. This report reveals that a high percentage of VDI and DaaS products require third-party services either to set them up & configure them and/or to manage them on an ongoing basis. For example:

  • 47 per cent of all VDI and DaaS deployments required third party implementation services just to get the products up and running
  • 44 per cent of VDI and DaaS deployments require ongoing third-party managed services to manage and maintain the deployment
  • 43 per cent of VDI and DaaS deployments require third-party consulting services

It’s no wonder IT teams are fed up with the cost and complexity of VDI and DaaS. The high upfront cost and the high ongoing licensing costs combined with the large amount of personnel required to manage the deployments AND the cost of third-party services - that all adds up quickly.

A new category of remote work solutions emerges

VDI is pre-cloud technology, and DaaS was the evolution of that legacy technology into a cloud environment. The reality is that both of those approaches are based on legacy technology that are not capable of delivering the Digital Workspace experience needed to support the new normal of remote work. Even though VDI and DaaS providers are putting a lot of effort into re-branding their products as Digital Workspaces, the reality is that it is the same underlying legacy technology, and they are incapable of providing the user experience, cost-effectiveness, simplicity, and security that today’s organisations need.

Hence the current sea change in the industry where “virtual desktops” (VDI and DaaS) are being replaced by truly built-for-the-cloud Digital Workspaces. 

Digital Workspace solutions enable organisations to provide their people with access to all of their business-critical applications - both Windows desktop and internal web apps - from any device, from the browser. This enables organisations to empower all of their employees to be just as productive from home as they would be in the office, all without the high cost, complexity, and security concerns of VDI and DaaS.

The benefits of digital workspaces over VDI and DaaS include:

  • Faster Deployment - Especially in today’s environment where IT departments need to support remote workers immediately, solutions that can be quickly and reliably deployed are critical. VDI and DaaS deployments often take months to deploy, whereas cloud-native Digital Workspaces can have organisations up and running (i.e., providing all of their people with remote access to all of their business-critical apps on any device) within hours.
  • Reduced Costs - When compared with VDI and DaaS, Digital Workspace solutions provide significant savings in upfront infrastructure costs and ongoing licensing fees. In addition, the ESG report reveals several hidden costs of VDI and DaaS that increase the total lifetime cost. For example, more than 50 per cent of VDI and DaaS implementations require more than 10 full-time employees (FTEs) to support it on an ongoing basis.
  • Improved Security - For many organisations, VDI and DaaS entail an entirely new subset of IT infrastructure that has to be licensed, administered and maintained - which is not only expensive and resource-intensive - but it increases your attack surface. Digital Workspaces enable you to deliver any Windows desktop or internal web apps to any device, from the browser, without the security concerns of patching and managing legacy infrastructure. Some Digital Workspace providers even enable organisations to give remote workers secure access to all of their apps from behind the corporate firewall without the cost and user-experience compromise of VPNs so that people can access business-critical applications from anywhere in the world just as productively as if they were in the office.

The complexity, cost, and security concerns around legacy VDI and DaaS products make them untenable for many organisations who are preparing long-term solutions for remote work. When it comes to protecting your people while also enabling them to be productive from any device, anywhere - VDI and DaaS are not up to the task, and this ESG survey reveals that the cost, complexity, and security concerns aren’t worth the risk.

The shift from virtual desktops to Digital Workspaces had already begun, but enabling productivity in the post-Covid world will accelerate this transition as organisations of all sizes need to provide all of their people - regardless of location - with secure access to their business-critical applications on any device, from the browser.

Robb Henshaw, Co-Founder, Cameyo