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Defining Cloud Desktops

November 20, 2013 - Article

Jo Peterson Donna Kruse**Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the Digital Issue, " Virtualizing Desktops in the Cloud," which is available for download from Channel Partners Cloud Insights .**

By Jo Peterson and Donna Kruse

Cloud desktops, known as hosted virtual desktops (HVD) or desktops-as-a-service (DaaS), is the outsourcing of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to a third-party service provider. Typically, DaaS features a multitenancy architecture and the service is purchased on a subscription basis. The service provider manages the back-end responsibilities of data storage, backup, security and upgrades. Meantime, the customer's personal data is copied to and from the virtual desktop during logon and logoff, and access to the desktop is device-, location- and network-independent.

How It Works

In the simplest form, DaaS is like remote desktop protocol (RDP), virtual network control (VNC) and similar setups dating back to the PCAnywhere days. In this model an end user had a screen, keyboard and mouse (at minimum) connected to a remote computer, so as to use that system as though they were sitting comfortably nearby. 

Today's iteration includes those basics plus sound, local drive and local ports, such as USB. DaaS's selling points are hosted external applications, shared storage resources, extended existing (or new) Active Directory infrastructure and extended device compatibility for a mobile workforce. For the administrator, rolling out a new desktop user is simplified since the user profile is created in the cloud and accessible from any device. Additionally, since client data is not stored at the device level, it is secured in the event of theft, loss or failure.

Note that DaaS works best for clients with Windows 7 and Windows 2008R2 terminal sessions. Mac OS is not supported due to Apple's licensing constraints and hosted Linux is difficult to find.

How It's Sold

DaaS pricing is based on the amount of desktop RAM, CPU, bandwidth and persistent storage, and ranges from $30-$80 a month per user. Some pricing will not include Microsoft licenses, so it's important to verify with the provider.

Some providers have different pricing packages for users based on the resources needed. An example of this model is offered by TuCloud, which breaks users down into three distinct categories:

  • A Cloud User Desktop is a very small footprint, light desktop meant to run only Web browsers, document readers (Adobe Reader, Microsoft Reader, etc.), light applications suck as Skype or MSN, streamed virtualized applications or browser applications (SaaS). This desktop is non-persistent, meaning that every time the user logs out of his desktop, it is refreshed back to its "virgin" state. This prevents a virus or malware infection and "illegal" applications cannot be installed for any longer than a session.
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