Opinion

Homing in on DaaS hurdles: Data storage laws and trust in providers

Some of the top disadvantages of DaaS include issues around data storage laws, resource access and the uncertainty of trusting a service provider.

In part one of this two-part series, I look at some of the advantages of Desktop as a Service (DaaS). But while DaaS brings some cost predictability and improved scalability, there are some key disadvantages.

Keep in mind that you can also find a way to describe other services as DaaS, but I'm specifically talking about DaaS as an alternative to in-house virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) -- essentially, VDI that you pay someone else to manage.

Trust in DaaS providers

Perhaps the biggest issue that companies have when considering DaaS is deciding whether they trust a certain provider. After all, if you're putting your desktops into someone else's data center and relying on them to maintain at least part of plumbing that connects users to those desktops, you're going to have to trust them.

There are several elements of trust that figure into this:

  • What if my desktops go down? Who will fix them? How do I know they're doing it right?
  • What if the company goes out of business? (You need an exit strategy.)
  • What if an employee steals my data?
  • How can I be sure that my desktops, storage and networks are kept separate from other customers?

If you're considering looking at DaaS providers, start thinking about ways that you can come to terms with some of these things.

Accessing local resources

Another aspect that's often not a problem with VDI is that with DaaS you have to figure out how you're going to get users access to local resources because, effectively, they're all remote users now.

Take files, for instance. If you leave everything else as-is and move your desktops to the cloud, users will have to access the file shares across the VPN. With a large enough Internet pipe, this might not be a big deal, but most companies are going to want to put a local replica of the data on site.

There's more to local resources than just files, though. Think about things like Active Directory. Do you put a domain controller on site or authenticate over the wire? Profiles? Same thing. And what about tiered applications that want to be closer to the data, not further from it? That's one advantage of VDI that you're actually taking away by moving to DaaS.

Locality rules

One disadvantage that doesn't occur to many organizations until much later in the process is that of data location. Many countries, and even companies, have data storage laws or regulations that dictate where their data can reside.

More on DaaS challenges

Five Desktop as a Service challenges holding up adoption

Quiz: How much do you know about DaaS?

Desktop as a Service FAQ

For instance, there are data sovereignty laws in Europe that prevent companies from storing data outside their country. If you switch to DaaS and locate your data at the provider, are you still compliant with those laws? What if you keep your files local, but the DaaS provider keeps a network cache as part of its WAN optimization?

Plus, the country where the data center resides has jurisdiction over the equipment in that data center. So, there's the possibility that something you do might violate a local law that could cause that country to seize your equipment. Even if another customer of the DaaS provider is in violation, that could mean that your equipment is seized if authorities seize the rest of that data center. A lot of this goes back to trust, so you can see why that is such a large issue.

Flexibility

Successful DaaS providers have managed to build a useful service for their customers based on a relatively consistent, repeatable deployment process. This predictability can be problematic for potential customers that are expecting a more flexible situation. With VDI, you can truly do whatever you want, but with DaaS you're limited to the framework that the provider has built.

Some DaaS providers are more flexible than others, but when you start taking advantage of that flexibility, you're throwing off their model of predictable, consistent, repeatable desktop delivery. That's fine, but be aware that with those "dollar-a-day" offerings, that price is for the "rack 'em and stack 'em" approach, not the flexible model you're after. If you want more, you'll likely have to pay for it.

You still have to manage desktops

Lastly, you pay DaaS providers a base fee to handle all the storage, networking, isolation and virtualization components. Some may throw in image management or updates, too, but at some point it's up to you to install applications, make tweaks, support users and so on.

So, if you think you can cut half of your support staff by moving to DaaS, think again. Of course, you can pay the provider (or someone else) to manage the desktops, too, but again, that's not what you get for $35 per month per user.

Finally, don't forget the disadvantages of VDI. DaaS does nothing to address many of the functional challenges inherent to VDI, so you still have to deal with application support via remote protocols, the fact that using Windows apps is not a great experience on a tablet, you have to have a good Internet connection, tricky peripheral support, printing and so on.

This was first published in February 2014

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