At the beginning of the recent pandemic, we experienced a sudden, widespread transition to remote work. Companies did what they could to keep their teams connected to each other—and to the software and data everyone needs to do their jobs. And some leveraged virtual private networks (VPN) to enable remote work, while others upgraded to (or used existing) virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).
In the time since the pandemic’s early days, debate has emerged over VDI vs. VPN, and which is the better option for businesses with employees who do remote work. To help you determine if VDI or VPN makes the most sense for your company, let’s look at the pros and cons of each approach.
But first, definitions.
WHAT ARE VDI AND VPN?
- A virtual desktop infrastructure hosts desktop environments in the cloud. Desktop images run on virtual machines (VM), and remote workers access them over the internet.
- A virtual private network creates a private network over a public internet connection. This generates a data tunnel from an employee’s location to your business’s network, which hides activity from other internet users and your service provider, while masking IP addresses so what workers do online is untraceable to potential external threats.
VIRTUAL DESKTOP INFRASTRUCTURE: PROS AND CONS
There are many benefits of leveraging VDI, especially when employees need remote access to multiple software applications to do their jobs. This remote working solution provides secure access to end user devices for your team, especially if you implement single sign-on (SSO) and data encryption.
VDI also provides all your remote users with consistent experiences, no matter where they’re working. They just log in as usual, whether at home, in the office, or on the road, and can maintain their typical level of productivity.
This is more than just a pandemic stopgap. VDI has benefits even when your entire team is in the office. Because VDI runs in the cloud, there is less server hardware required on-site. In fact, it may only take a thin client to provide a desktop experience to the end user.
On top of your savings on server resources, VDI saves your IT team time and effort when desktop applications need to be patched or reconfigured. They can simply push updates to all users at once from a central server.
Additionally, no corporate documents or data is ever saved to the employee’s computer—it’s stored in the cloud. This means that if a user device is ever lost or stolen, it wouldn’t lead to fines, bad publicity, and other pain points associated with a data breach.
VDI is a logical step in the transition from on-premises infrastructure to the cloud, advancing your business’s digital transformation.
But there is a downside.
Depending on a remote worker’s internet service, VDI performance at home may not match its in-office processing performance (where the internet speed is often better). Employees who need to use multiple monitors or spend hours each day on video conferencing may feel this the most.
Another consideration is that the security baked into VDI solutions can lead to businesses dropping their guard and not ensuring the worker’s laptop (or other device) has endpoint protection for any possible confidential data.
Overall, moving from on-premises desktops to VDI for remotely accessible workstations is a big change. It takes time and investment to deploy—but you can ensure a smooth transition if you work with a cloud provider who has ample VDI expertise, like Virtual Systems.
VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK: PROS AND CONS
When businesses shifted to virtual desktop infrastructure during the pandemic, the majority used a virtual private network to give their employees secure remote access to the business network.
VPN solutions are endpoint device agnostic. That means they are highly versatile; you can use them with any remote device running any operating system, and they’re quick to deploy. This is a big advantage for a remote desktop.
If workers have company-owned laptops, they can just take them home and start working at their remote workstations. VPN connections are also secure, encrypting confidential data in transit and requiring user authentication before anyone can gain access.
Of the two options, VPN is the less expensive. Businesses may even be able to use a free trial to ensure it’s the solution for them before paying for a subscription.
But, as with VDI, there are drawbacks to using a VPN.
To start, some VPNs are slow. The user’s internet service speed and the geographic distance from the user to the service can contribute to the problem, slamming the brakes on productivity. Moreover, some VPNs aren’t optimized for speed, so it’s vital for your business to choose carefully.
Security is another issue to consider. The service itself is protected, but all applications are installed on the users’ laptops or devices, and all work takes place there. If a laptop is lost or stolen, so is the data.
Moreover, if you don’t issue company-owned devices, malware on an employee’s home computer (or other personal devices) could find its way into the data center or corporate network when it’s connected.
A VPN might also create more work for your IT team. Patching requires a plan that ensures employees have their laptops on and connected at a scheduled time, and the business network may be overburdened by having all client devices connected at once. And, because all applications run on the devices, IT will need to install them and update them for new users or when the software stack changes.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE?
As you review the pros and cons of VDI vs. VPN, you can see that there isn’t one clear choice that works for every business. But the good news is that there will be a best choice for your specific operation.
To determine the right approach for your business, consider:
- The applications your employees use
- Any regulations governing your industry
- The computing performance user roles require
- How much bandwidth remote users need
- What the respective options will cost
- Your IT department’s workload
All these factors play roles that could affect your decision. And while that is a lot to think about, it’s not necessary to make a decision alone. In fact, you may even find it easier to work with a cloud-first IT partner who has vast experience helping customers understand the ins and outs of the great VDI vs. VPN debate.
Virtual Systems Is Always a Smart Choice
If you decide to reach out to Virtual Systems for guidance here, you are connecting with a team who makes your IT easy and safe. As a trusted partner for businesses across the Midwest, we can help your company adapt to changing needs in the cloud workspaces arena.
Along with guidance into the VPN and VDI options—and which makes the most sense for your business—we provide world-class solutions for data storage and security. Our goal is to make sure your remote employees have access to off-site resources in the safest, most convenient way possible.
If you have any questions or want to learn more, feel free to get in touch. When you do, you’ll be connected with an IT expert who can walk you through everything – in a way that is easy to understand. To get the answers you’re looking for, simply take advantage of this quick form.
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