VDA (Virtual Desktop Access) definition

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: What you need to know about cloud desktops and DaaS providers
Contributor(s): Alyssa Wood

Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) is an authorization strategy that requires each device seeking access to a Windows virtual desktop in a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to be licensed.  

The goal of Windows Virtual Desktop Access is to simplify licensing requirements in a virtual environment by licensing the devices that seek access to virtual desktops, instead of licensing the virtual desktops themselves. 

Because VDA is included as a feature of Software Assurance (SA), primary users of devices covered by SA can access their virtual desktops at no extra charge. Microsoft defines a primary user as someone who has used the computing device for more than 50% of the time in a 90 day period. 

If the user wishes to access a Microsoft VDI from a device that is not covered by Software Assurance, however, a separate Windows VDA license is required. Such devices include thin clients, zero clients and third-party devices such as contractor-owned PCs. As of this writing, a separate VDA license costs $100 per year, per device.

This was first published in July 2013

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