There has been a lot of restrictions and changes that businesses have implemented because of the extraordinary situations that have grasped the world in the recent past. Work from home has become the new normal, and IT departments are having difficulty figuring out how to support the massive increase in the number of home workers.
Even though most of the applications today are relatively easy to access from home, other business applications can be difficult to get inside. When this happens, it can severely impact business productivity.
The ready for business cloud apps have become very popular to tackle this business situation. However, many security concerns remain unaddressed. Under such a scenario, it has become mandatory to look for Remote Access Solutions or Remote Working Solutions.
When we speak of remote working solutions, the two most popular services are the Virtual Private Network (VPN) and the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). While VPN has been the primary option for accessing internal networks for a long time, recent years have seen the rise of VDI.
One of the pertinent questions that businesses face today regarding business continuity is – What’s better: VPN or VDI? The answer is not that simple. In this article, we will explore the difference between VDI vs VPN to help you make your choice.
What is VPN?
VPN or Virtual Private Network serves to create a secure tunnel between an endpoint device and another network. It is usually used to give secure remote access to employees from various devices such as laptops and desktops.
The network that the users or the employees use is a private network and contains possible confidential data. It is hence important to ensure secure transmission of data from one network to another. The potential threats of transmitting data over the internet make it mandatory to create a secured tunnel to prevent corporate resources from falling into the wrong hands.
Administrators configure the VPN access policy and set up the shared resources. Hence, users only have access to the shared resources within the defined network. They can download and store their use data on their desktop or laptop and work on them offline.
Pros Of VPN
- It doesn’t require additional spending on server hardware.
- It does not need a lot of backend setup.
- You can implement a VPN remote access solution quickly.
- Users can still work on some tasks even if the VPN connection goes down.
Cons Of VPN
- Files and other data can be downloaded locally onto a user’s computer.
- User’s device needs to be powerful enough to run work apps.
- Updating user devices is a tough challenge for IT.
- Connections get bottlenecked, with numerous users joining the network.
What is VDI?
VDI is the abbreviated form for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. It defines a system in which hosted desktop environments are virtualized and transmitted to users over a network. Multiple virtual machines are run by a single dedicated server hosted in a data center or office. Each virtual machine runs a desktop environment and provides remotely accessible workstations.
The virtual network computing system provides dedicated workstations and resources that ensure high performance. Users can connect to their virtual desktop from any remote device. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is device agnostic, and it doesn’t depend on the end user hardware.
Administrators take care of the operating system updates and configuration in a Virtual Network Infrastructure through a centralized management system. It is simple to install new software and maintain workstations by utilizing the golden image. The golden image gets replicated across multiple desktops inside a cluster. Try our Azure RDS Remote Working Solution, allow your users to securely work in the cloud and access your internal applications and data.
Pros Of VDI
- Users can work on almost any device since they will be accessing a virtual desktop.
- Logging in to a virtual desktop is fast and easy.
- All data, files, and applications stay on the cloud or in the office servers.
- Troubleshooting and updating virtual machines can be completed faster.
Cons Of VDI
VDI vs VPN - Which is better (Use Cases)
Most office workers today use Windows OS based computers for their job. It is either the desktop computers at the workplace or laptops (which can be used inside the office, at home, or on the move) or virtual/remote desktops (either RDS or VDI), where the user’s Windows desktop runs as a virtual machine in a data center either on premises or in the cloud.
The question arises about what kind of access is to be given when workers work remotely.
Or should they use their device locally and then connect them back to the office through a VPN to access the relevant files, apps?
To define what is better, it is necessary to ascertain what your requirements are.
Do you want a service that is:
- Easiest to deploy?
- Cheapest to deploy?
- Fastest to deploy?
- Has the best user experience?
- Works for most users?
- Provides the best security?
However, you cannot select all the above. It depends on specific situations and requirements. Accordingly, you would choose VDI or VPN. Before selecting either of the services, remember to answer the below mentioned questions and choose the appropriate solution.
- What applications do you need to support? Are these all Windows apps or all web apps?
- Is everything on premises? Do you have cloud or Saas apps?
- Do you have the experience of managing remote Windows laptops, and are you sure of the engineering?
- Do you have the necessary experience with VDI? Have you already done engineering? Is there an already running VDI environment that you can expand?
- Do you have users ready with laptops they will be taking away from the office, or will they have to find a new device? Will such devices be company provided or their own?
- Do you already have a VPN? Do you have enough licenses for all your remote users?
- Do you have enough bandwidth for your remote users? Have you given it a thought about how your bandwidth needs will change? Can you support all that increase in corporate internet traffic?
- Are there any regulatory requirements dictating certain technology decisions? (For example, some regulations say that no customer data can be stored locally on a device, etc.)
When you answer all these questions, you may find that you need a mix of both. There might be some users or locations where the VPN option makes more sense and others where the VDI route is more appropriate.
While you need to answer the questions, you also need to know some basic differences between VDI and VPN.
VDI vs VPN - The differences
A VPN creates a more secure connection (through tunneling) between the device and the network. A firewall, in most cases, acts as a VPN terminator. Whereas in a VDI there is a pre configured desktop that sits on top of a data center. Through this image, the VDI delivers all desktops and applications.
VPN solutions are generally offered at a low cost. The simple reason being no extra hardware requirement for VPN. What’s more, all users can use their existing devices. But for a VDI, extra software is needed for VDI system hosting. This makes VDI expensive in comparison to VPN.
A VDI setup requires different virtual machines for them to function properly. This can often be challenging for the user as he would have to support and maintain these machines. While with VPN, the management can be done through the existing hardware. Hence, it needs the least amount of maintenance. Having said that, offsite resource management is not that simple. It is still better than VDI when it comes to maintenance.
The user experience with VDI is faster compared to a VPN. This is because of the resources that are shared and adjusted to each other. As a result, the overall experience when using the VDI system is quicker. It is hence the best choice for all people who are working with graphics intensive applications. VPN, on the other hand, depends on the speed of the internet connection and the hardware. Moreover, the data sent through VPN is encrypted. This makes the process of sending large files time consuming.
Since the data is encrypted in VPN, obviously the data sent from the user to its destination is secured. Despite that, the data has to be moved as the employee wants. Hence, extra precautions are needed to be taken for security. With VDI, nothing can be done except restricting the data flow. Therefore, VDI has to be configured in such a way that it never leaves the corporate network. Thus, when it comes to security, VPN is a winner.
All the processing of the applications takes place from the server in the VPN. Hence, the hardware used by the user is not important here. On the contrary, hardware is very important in the case of VDI. It is the hardware where all the processing of applications takes place.
VPN uses a secure desktop for storing data. The desktop that is used is kept isolated from the end users. There is no connection between the data and endpoint. In the case of VDI, there is no isolation. The data present is stored directly in the endpoint.
VDI vs VPN - Final Verdict
As you can see, VDI and VPN solutions for remote working solutions have their benefits and drawbacks that would make one or the other more suitable for your enterprise. You’ll need to consider your organizational needs as well as your employees’. Most small companies would likely find VPN more suitable, while large organizations should definitely consider deploying VDI services for greater accessibility.