Skip to main content

What is a Virtual Desktop and how do they work?

What is a Virtual Desktop

What is a Virtual Desktop?

Remote and hybrid work environments have meant that idea of the traditional office has become increasingly outdated, and workforces have become progressively dispersed. As a result, employees now expect to be able to work across multiple devices from several different locations. And, in many organisations, they can.

That’s largely thanks to the efficiency of virtual desktops. Designed to enable remote access to your office machine, a virtual desktop allows users to access their computers or applications from anywhere that has an internet connection.

In this article, we’ll explain why your company should consider moving to virtual desktops and highlight the benefits of using different types of virtual desktops.

Why would you need a Virtual Desktop?

Changing from physical to virtual desktops is something lots of businesses are considering because the benefits are hard to ignore. Especially since virtual desktops add an extra layer of security and flexibility to organisations of all sizes.

Virtual desktops have also proved to be a great way of reducing costs. Whether that’s the cost of equipment and space for IT infrastructure, the cost of the energy to run it, or the cost of the staff to support and maintain it.

So, the argument for ditching the traditional desktop in favour of the hosted version has never been stronger.

How do Virtual Desktops work?

Gartner defines a hosted virtual desktop as ‘a full, thick-client user environment, which is run as a virtual machine (VM) on a server and accessed remotely.’

In simple terms, a hosted virtual desktop is a user interface that replicates the functionality of a standard desktop machine. But rather than having a physical machine, a software-based version of the desktop is stored in the cloud.

A Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) provides end-users with remote desktops, with all the benefits that provides. That means the convenience of remote working with a familiar desktop interface, and easy access to applications, software, documents, files, and data. In any location, on any device.

As such, multiple people can share an operating system that runs several desktops. So, there's an obvious cost-saving attached to hosted desktops too.

Types of Virtual Desktops

The three most popular types are Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) and Remote Desktop Services (RDS).


This allows businesses to run desktop operating systems on VMs using on-site servers. Businesses will need to commit a lot of resources (servers, hardware, software, and administrators) to make sure their VDI runs smoothly.


Offerings the same functionality as VDI, but in the cloud. DaaS shifts the burden of providing desktop virtualization to service providers, like Nasstar, which lessens the IT burden of providing virtual desktops through cost-effective solutions. 


Remote Desktop Services are often used when a limited number of applications need to be virtualized, rather than a full desktop. Microsoft Remote Desktop Services allows users to remotely access applications that are streamed to local devices which run their own OS. Since it’s just the apps being virtualized, RDS systems can offer a higher density of users per VM.

Benefits of Virtual Desktops

1. Work where you want

DaaS – also known as a hosted desktop – allows users to access the apps, files, and documents they use for their work, from any location with an internet connection. So, users can work just like they always do, from wherever and whenever they want.

2. Work on any device

DaaS is a real asset for remote working. It runs on any device and any OS. On PC or laptop, iPad, or tablet. So, employees can not only work where and when they want but also how they want. On a PC in their home office, on a laptop on their knees or on a smartphone on the train. It doesn’t matter what device they work on; they’ll find their desktop is the same as always.

3. Work more securely

Multi-factor authentication provides an additional layer of security. It ensures DaaS provides greater protection against cyberattacks than a traditional desktop which relies solely on a password for access. DaaS users must employ several ways of verifying their identity – such as a username, a password, and a PIN texted to a phone – before they can gain access to a network, an app, or a file.

4. Keep everything up to date

Applying security patches and software upgrades across an extensive I.T. estate can be time-consuming. DaaS makes it quicker and easier. Any patch, upgrade or other change carried out just once on the dedicated hosted desktop server will automatically go live for all users across all endpoints in the organisation’s infrastructure.

5. Enjoy more resilience and reliability

Only the very largest organisations can afford to invest in the most sophisticated hardware to meet the ongoing cost of keeping it up to date. However, by using DaaS, even the smallest business can benefit from cutting-edge, fault-tolerant, highly reliable infrastructure, in state-of-the-art data centres.

6. Lower your TCO

If you don’t own your server infrastructure, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is going to be lower. With the additional costs of the data centre space, the cooling, the licences, the power, and the people to run it, there are significant savings to be made from not bearing the whole cost.

7. Keep things simple

The one-off installation of patches and updates is just one way that DaaS simplifies desktop management. Because hosting allows virtually all management tasks to be centralised, IT support staff can spend less time on management and more time on supporting critical business processes or developing new projects.

8. Boost uptime, reduce downtime

For regular, day-to-day operations, DaaS reduces downtime. That’s because most maintenance and software installation is carried out in the data centre rather than on the physical machine on the desk. Even if a ransomware attack or a fire puts multiple desktops out of action, a hosted desktop environment makes it quicker and easier to get back to normal operations. So, workers can keep on working even if the worst happens

9. Reduce time to market

Whether it’s rolling out a new service or opening a new office, DaaS makes it faster. It eliminates the need to build, install, configure, and deploy multiple new desktops. Just do it once and download it as many times as required.

10. Be greener

DaaS allows one server and one set of back-office hardware to service numerous desktops across multiple organisations. That reduces the carbon footprint of every one of the businesses being served.

Hosted Desktop vs Virtual Desktop

If you want to operate at scale on a smaller initial investment, a lower IT administration burden, and increased security, then you’ll need to understand the difference between hosted desktops and virtual desktops. The differences result from the way the VDI is set up, compared with the way a hosted desktop operates.

As the VDI is essentially an in-house solution, it relies on in-house infrastructure and demands an in-house data centre (servers, hardware, and software). So, you’d need in-house IT expertise to manage and maintain them. Or you can use a third-party company to handle the management and maintenance.

The negatives of a virtual desktop infrastructure are the positives of a hosted desktop.

The VDI demands a sizeable upfront investment in on-site hardware and software – requiring businesses to invest in their own data centre. A hosted desktop solution doesn’t. Instead, it allows users to make use of the data centre hardware of the hosting company. Hardware which will be cutting-edge, enterprise-grade, and always expertly maintained for maximum uptime and reliability.


What is Azure Virtual Desktop?

Azure Virtual Desktop is a Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) virtual desktop management system offering that allows customers to run virtual apps and desktop services from the Azure public cloud. Admins deploy the solution through the Azure portal and can leverage Azure Active Directory and a host of operating system options to deliver resources to users.

How many Virtual Desktops are supported by Windows 10?

Windows 10 allows you to create as many desktops as you need.

Can you use a Virtual Desktop anywhere?

Yes, it’s remote working friendly. If you have a stable internet connection, you’ll be able to use it virtually anywhere.

Are Virtual Desktops wireless?

Yes. A Virtual Desktop Infrastructure provides end-users with remote desktops, with all the benefits that implies.

Do you need a PC for a Virtual Desktop?

DaaS runs on any device and any OS. On PC or laptop, iPad, or tablet. So, employees can not only work where and when they want but also how they want.


Your employees need the ability to work from home, on the move, via remote desktops or in the office from time to time. But no matter where or how they’re working they will always need a secure and reliable desktop environment with access to business applications and data.

Nasstar solutions for Virtual Desktop

Nasstar Virtual Desktop services provide your users with a virtual office hosted and managed in our private cloud. Our remote access solution provides a consistent, modern desktop experience regardless of the device they are using, which is not only fast and seamless but is also inherently safe and secure. 

Speak to a Specialist and find out more.