Five considerations for hosted virtual desktops

What questions should I ask when investigating Desktop as a Service?

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If you're interested in hosting desktops in the cloud, you need to take performance, cost and licensing into account. To help you prepare, here are five questions you should ask before diving into Desktop as a Service (DaaS). 

What are Microsoft's licensing requirements and prices?
The acquisition costs of Microsoft desktop operating systems are put on the customer and are not usually included in the cost of the Desktop as a Service offering. These costs must be factored in to accurately compare hosted virtual desktops with an on-premises internal solution. There may be significant Microsoft price differences when comparing DaaS products using Windows Server versus desktop Windows.

Whose desktop virtualization platform is used?
Remote display protocols, client software and features will be directly affected by an organization's DaaS vendor choices. Many DaaS providers use products that are available to customers as well as service providers. Know which software your DaaS provider uses, and you'll be better prepared to answer questions about endpoint compatibility and features.

How is performance measured?
When performance problems occur with hosted virtual desktops in the cloud -- and they will occur -- what tools are available to help diagnose them? How are issues such as high latency, packet loss, slow back-end applications and profile bloat monitored, reported and diagnosed? Are these tools available to the customer? How does the performance monitoring system tie in to an existing monitoring system?

What is the cost for additional users?
When using a Windows desktop OS, hardware must be dedicated to individual customers so back-end infrastructure growth will come in chunks. What are these incremental costs, and when does the desktop infrastructure need to grow? For example, a DaaS provider may require a minimum of 100 virtual desktops to start, and desktop number 101 may require another $10,000 for back-end infrastructure. Know where these break points are and how they align with the way your business intends to grow.

What infrastructure am I sharing with other businesses?
If you choose a hosted DaaS solution that uses a Windows Server OS via Remote Desktop Session Host or XenApp, which permits the hardware to be shared, you should know what specifically you are sharing. Even in environments where you are using a hosted Windows desktop, you will most likely share components of the infrastructure (networking, storage, firewall, Internet bandwidth) with other user companies.

This was first published in August 2013

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