Remote Desktop vs Citrix

Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) 2019 is an up to date, highly configurable yet cost effective remote access solution allowing your employees and colleagues easy access to on-premises resources, data and where applications need low latency access to data / databases. Modern iterations of RDS make the previously desirable Citrix remote desktop solution less of a requirement for smaller scale solutions potentially saving £1000’s in maintenance and support costs. 


Especially in the current pandemic it has become very obvious that companies with no remote working solution in place were at a disadvantage when users were unable to safely attend their office. In normal times this could be due to something as simple as a snow day, or an injury causing someone to be unable to commute while otherwise capable of working. 


Cloud storage and email in the cloud certainly help but where you work with large files, an on-premise database or an application where it requires its data to be accessible instantly then you look to a remote working solution. This is where solutions like Microsoft Remote Desktop Services and Citrix XenApp come into the discussion. Historically RDS was a less mature product, where you wanted the fine level of control or additional features Citrix was the go-to product. Citrix XenApp actually sits on top of an RDS platform and as such added additional features and both a cost and increased level of complexity (you needed licencing for both products to use Citrix). Microsoft RDS has matured and now it is a much simpler solution to install, manage and in most cases provides all the functionality required for a business without the additional licencing and support costs of Citrix XenApp. 


XenApp is notoriously complex to setup and configure due to the level of options available, and when issues occur they can be more difficult and take longer to find and fix. The relative simplicity of RDS means a remote access server or farm of servers can be deployed and managed quickly and easily with the bulk of configuration controlled through Group Policies within your domain meaning admins don’t need to learn specific control panels.  


Both solutions are very capable and there are little to separate them in normal day to day use. However with its lower cost and support overhead, Microsoft Remote Desktop Services now makes a compelling case for the top spot. 


Food for thought: Remote Desktop Services can function in both a shared desktop mode (where multiple users work on a set quantity of servers in sessions, sharing resources), or a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) mode where each user has a unique virtual machine to work on. We will cover this more next month.