RDS Session or VDI?

Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) allows for multiple ways to provide remote working for you and your colleagues. You can provide a full virtual desktop to a user in one of 2 ways, a session on a shared server instance or an independent desktop instance unique to a single user. You can also configure applications only to be published to users via a shared server. The methodology used is based around your unique requirements.


The three ways you can present RDS services to end users are varied and should be chosen to suit your environment, users and their needs.


Session Based: This is probably the most common and has distinct benefits in providing a locked down, controlled environment for users to remotely access your local applications and data. Ideal when used from alternative locations to your main office resources (i.e. when working from home, branch office, on the go), or for low overhead users using standardised applications like Microsoft Office or a CRM package which needs a low latency connection to a database – users are working on a full screen session on the server instead of on their local device. The server hardware requirements for this are fairly low depending on the number of users and the resources required to effectively function. Multiple virtual RDS session servers can act as a farm, spreading the load as users connect giving redundancy and a good end user experience without needing massively spec’d hardware.


Application Publishing: This is similar to the session based way of working, where multiple users share server resources. However with published applications they don’t work in a full desktop scenario, they work on their local machines with only certain applications being published out to them from the RDS environment. This could be a web application or CRM package which is on their main server environment, users have an icon available to them that opens just this software on RDS and it appears to the end user as a local application but uses the power of the server farm and accesses data within the server environment. This has a more limited but specific use.


Virtual Desktop (VDI): This is a more resource hungry solution, requiring much more physical hardware to provide remote desktop services. However instead of users working in a session on a shared server they have a dedicated virtual desktop instance which only they work on. This means anything they work on which is resource heavy does not affect other users as they have isolated virtual machines to use. This is more suitable for heavy users, users who need more relaxed security permissions on their local devices or where users need more individual control of applications they run. VDI is a more desktop like experience for users, they can reboot their virtual desktop without impacting on other users, install applications, pass through external devices ie serial ports allowing for more flexibility for a power user while retaining the data and work process within the company data centre.


Utilising any of the above options allows you to centralise data and licencing which helps with compliance, security and data backup. As the work is done within the data centre / on premise server it reduces the load on the local end user device, with RDS you can access and work effectively from any number of devices (old hardware, phone, tablet, thin client). Database or latency sensitive applications can then be used from anywhere a user has an internet connection with all the work staying in-house.