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Which VDI client has the best long-term viability?

Using physical desktops, thin clients and HTML5 browsers are all good options for delivering VDI. Organizations are best off choosing the most cost-effective approach.

Using an HTML5 browser is the best option for delivering virtual desktops because it's cheap and will remain widely available long into the future.

Choosing a VDI client can be confusing because of all the options out there, and the differences between clients are generally subtle. First you have thin clients, which are hardware terminals that include minimal storage and applications. Zero clients take it a step further and contain no local storage, existing solely to connect to a host server. You can also repurpose traditional PCs and laptops into thin clients by installing software that creates a separate remote desktop environment. HTML5 clients, which reside on a server instead of locally on the device, provide remote desktop access through a Web browser.

Now that you know the options, let's take a look at the pros and cons of these clients and how HTML5 browsers come out on top.

Comparing the VDI client options

All VDI clients should be able to restrict corporate data storage on the client device, provide consistent desktop availability to the user and perform as well as a physical PC would. Most clients on the market today meet those requirements, so the major differentiators left among VDI clients are price and how long they'll last.

Repurposed PCs are the most expensive VDI client to manage, given the cost of the PC and the fact that IT still has to maintain and update traditional computers that may no longer be in tip-top shape. Thin clients and zero clients are less expensive, but you don't get the best bang for your buck because they aren't manufactured in the same volume as PCs.

For the best virtual desktop performance at the lowest price, the clear winner is an HTML5 client. HTML5 clients provide a device-agnostic approach, allowing users to access virtual desktops through HTML5 browsers, which nearly all computing devices have access to. In fact, any display with a browser capability is often good enough, so we'll even see TVs, monitors and projectors capable of displaying virtual desktops. Although using an HTML5 browser is a newer approach than the rest of the options, most VDI products support HTML5 clients.

The low price and compatibility with mobile devices make HTML5 browsers the best option for delivering VDI. Companies such as Google support the HTML5 approach, offering virtual desktop access through Chrome Remote Desktop. Plus, HTML5 clients still provide enough power to run resource-intensive programs such as Adobe Creative Cloud.

HTML5 browsers are so mainstream today that they will certainly keep up with network capabilities, making them a strong option for the future.

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