This content is part of the Essential Guide: What you need to know about cloud desktops and DaaS providers

Desktop as a Service explained: What DaaS customers need to know

If you're considering Desktop as a Service or you've already implemented cloud-hosted desktops, remember that the long-term costs are similar to VDI.

Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is a desktop delivery model in which virtualized desktops are hosted and delivered by a public cloud service provider. As cloud services and the mobile workforce grow, this type of delivery is becoming more popular.

There are numerous reasons companies choose DaaS over an in-house virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Organizations may want to circumvent the upfront capital expenditures associated with VDI, or their user base may be too small to justify the expense of virtual desktop software and the infrastructure requirements.

DaaS customers say their help desks become more efficient.

DaaS customers essentially pay a hosting service provider a monthly subscription fee in exchange for virtual desktops that their end users can access anywhere with an Internet connection, on any device. The provider handles all the back-end infrastructure costs and maintenance, but customers typically still have to manage the desktop images, applications and security, unless those desktop management services are part of the deal. DaaS customers also have to ensure that they have the level of Internet access that can support cloud-hosted desktops with good performance.

DaaS subscription fees can range from $15 per user per month to over $200 per user per month, depending on the type of desktop (persistent or nonpersistent) and the services bundled in. In addition, customers must pay their own Microsoft Windows licensing fees.

DaaS pros and cons

While using a cloud provider eliminates the upfront Capex of VDI, the long-term costs of paying a provider for DaaS and of maintaining and supporting desktops in-house are probably comparable.

However, DaaS customers can reduce their hardware costs by moving from PCs to lower-cost and longer-lasting thin clients or zero clients. In addition, DaaS customers say their help desks become more efficient: Desktop replacements are rolled out quickly in the virtual world, compared to the hours or even days it takes to fix a physical laptop with a problem.

There are tradeoffs with cloud-hosted virtual desktops. The biggest issue is periodic performance problems associated with latency. That means that companies that rely on graphics-intensive applications probably can't use DaaS today.

As companies become more comfortable with cloud computing, the demand for DaaS is beginning to increase -- albeit slightly. Just over 6% of the 1,200 respondents to TechTarget's 2013 Cloud Pulse Survey said they use DaaS now, and 15% said they might use it later in the year.

There are many DaaS options, including platforms from Desktone Inc., dinCloud, LeoStream, tuCloud, Virtual Bridges and others. Hosting providers also offer DaaS, or Windows as a Service, using virtual desktop software from Citrix Systems Inc. and VMware Inc.

Dig Deeper on Virtual desktop management