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Choosing a DaaS provider: Five questions to ask before committing

Before hiring a babysitter or taking on a new roommate, you'd ask them a few questions about themselves first, right? The same goes for DaaS providers.

When IT pros talk about cloud-based services, security is usually the top concern. But when you're choosing a DaaS provider for your virtual desktops, there are many other considerations you need to take into account.

Before adopting cloud-hosted virtual desktops, or Desktop as a Service (DaaS), you need to consider business continuity, hardware compatibility, flexibility options and more. Different DaaS providers offer different capabilities, so take a hard look at the vendor's offerings first.

Here are five questions to ask the DaaS provider before you hand over your virtual desktops:

What happens in the event of an outage?

One of the first things you should consider is business continuity. Most reputable DaaS providers offer a financially backed service-level agreement (SLA), which states that the desktops will be continually available and that customers will be financially compensated in the event of an outage.

However, finding a DaaS provider with a good SLA is only part of the process. You must also consider what would happen if your Internet connection were to fail. Internet connectivity problems tend to be more common than DaaS provider failures. If that happens, your users could be left unable to use their desktops until Internet connectivity is restored.

How do you provision resources among virtual desktops?

Another consideration is how powerful the hosted virtual desktops need to be. There are some providers that provision virtual desktops with barely enough CPU and memory resources to run Windows, let alone complex applications. If you have users with high-demand applications such as video editors, desktop publishers or CAD software, make sure the DaaS provider that you're considering can deliver the desktops with adequate resources.

What about hardware compatibility?

Just as it's important to make sure the virtual desktops are powerful enough to meet your needs, you don't want to pay for resources that you're not using. Don't go with a DaaS provider that takes a one-size-fits-all approach to virtual desktops. You should be able to categorize users according to their desktop hardware needs and create hardware that meets those needs rather than being forced to allocate identical hardware to each user.

You also need to make sure your hardware is compatible with the hosted desktop service. Here are some important hardware considerations:

  • Some DaaS providers only offer basic remote desktop connectivity. That's fine for users who occasionally need to access a virtual desktop session from a PC or tablet, but basic connectivity won't be enough for day-to-day use.
  • Make sure your DaaS provider supports USB devices. Some providers don't support USB devices at all, and others only support a limited number of device types (such as external hard drives).
  • Check out the printer redirection capabilities. Your users need to be able to print from printers in your facility even though their desktops are located in the cloud. Printer redirection isn't usually a problem, but I've seen some cut-rate providers that don't offer printing capabilities.
  • Determine whether the DaaS provider offers multi-monitor support for remote desktops, even if you don't actually need multi-monitor support. DaaS providers that support the use of multiple monitors are likely to offer better overall hardware compatibility than providers that don't.

What happens to the user profile?

Desktop Windows operating systems employ a user profile. In an on-premises deployment, the user profile exists in the C:\Users folder, but it is typically redirected to a network share. When choosing your DaaS provider, find out where the user profile is stored. Some providers force you to use a mandatory user profile, which means users can't make any changes to it. Others might store the user profile locally within the virtual desktop (which can make backing up user data difficult) while other DaaS providers let you redirect user profiles to your own file servers.

What management capabilities do you provide?

Finally, you should consider to what degree you're allowed to manage the virtual desktops. Most DaaS providers don't allow customers to handle their own patch management, but there may be other unexpected surprises. I've heard of a DaaS provider refusing to allow customers to use their own antivirus software, for instance.

Subscribing to a DaaS provider is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. Get a pilot subscription so you can get a feel for the provider's service before you commit to moving all your desktops to the cloud.

Next Steps

Five DaaS challenges holding up enterprise adoption

Cloud-hosted desktops and applications guide

Dig Deeper on Virtual desktop management

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Good and informative post. I would add a few additional considerations:

1. Which end points are supported? In this world of BYOD, IT must make sure that all devices users currently use, or will use in the future are supported. In this context HTML5 remote access is a good option to have, at the very least as a fallback.

2. Remote access performance is as important, if not more important, the performance of the VMs. Nothing kills remote access initiatives faster than poor remote access performance.

3. Cost and licensing models - obviously.

4. Friendly and competent service and support.