Best virtual desktop solutions

Best Virtual Desktop Solutions for Business in 2022

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The pandemic-related social restrictions sway more and more businesses towards remote or hybrid work models. Desktop virtualization is the most efficient tool you can use to provide your remote work staff with a secure and convenient way to work from anywhere, making the best out of the popular Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) practices and even accessing iPads and Android devices from Windows computers.

This article is aimed to help you choose the best virtual desktop infrastructure software solution for your specific needs, keeping in mind all important factors, i.a., your business scale, budget capacity, the pluses and minuses of the most popular solutions on the market, and whether or not you have an in-house IT team.


Best desktop virtualization solutions for large businesses

Best VDI for large businesses

In this list, the main focus is on the on-premise virtual desktop infrastructure solutions. This type of computer virtualization software gives you more control and flexibility compared to hosted VDI services when it comes to the variety of apps and tools your end-users will see on their virtual desktop.

On the other hand, these VDI solutions require an in-house professional IT team to carry out various routine tasks, including software updates, data backups, disaster recovery, etc.


IBM Cloud

Best for: engineering-, construction-, and design-related businesses.

IBM Cloud is an advanced virtual desktop infrastructure tool that allows secure access to CAD applications and other graphics-intensive software from any Internet-connected device. Plus, thanks to the high-performance NVIDIA GRID GPUs, all the users can fully benefit from high-performance graphics acceleration.

On top of that, IBM Cloud encrypts all its traffic that contains only outgoing HID (human input devices) signals and incoming visual information. All the files are stored in highly-secured data centers. The needed changes are made in real-time, with no need for any copies on the client’s device. In this way, the risk of files being stolen or compromised is almost non-existing.

Top features: Watson-based machine learning for custom AI models, Turbonomic automation resources, Kubernetes container registry service, quantum systems access, cloud networking services (Firewall, VPN tunnels, etc.), activity tracking, IBM’s Blockchain Platform.

Benefits:

Pitfalls:

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Super flexible pricing policy;

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Poor client support;

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Ground-up security;

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No public info on pricing;

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Multitude of free services.

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Time-consuming setup.

💸 Price: is calculated individually.


Cisco VXI

Best for: contact centers, shared workspaces, and telework environments.

Cisco Virtualization Experience Infrastructure is one of the end-to-end VDI solutions that offer a wide range of fast and flexible tools for secure collaboration. Link the Virtualization Experience Client with the Virtualization Experience Media Engine to get an ultimate platform with all the voice, video, and virtual desktop capabilities needed for the top-notch virtualization experience on any Internet-connected computer.

With the help of the Validated Designs, you can build an infrastructure to perfectly fit your specific business needs. All the services and products offered by Cisco are easily integratable as a part of the Cisco Lifecycle approach that unifies networking and collaboration architectures integrated with the data center, support, additional services, and partner technologies.

Top features: Cisco Jabber™ phone manager, integrated VXME Software Client, Nexus® Switches for machine-level networking, WAAS technologies, IEEE802.1x for port-level authentication, encrypted VPN tunnels, single-point support service.

Benefits:

Pitfalls:

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Unified virtual workspace;

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No free trial;

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Easy scaling;

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Lack of flow differentiation;

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Great for collaboration.

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Video streaming issues.

💸 Price: starts at $ 1,895 per user/year.


SolarWinds Virtualization Manager

Best for: information technology and services industry.

SolarWinds Virtualization Manager is mainly aimed to help companies that rely on vSphere and Hyper-V virtual machines to track down and fix routinely occurring issues. Even more, this app can predict problems that you may face in the future on every specific VM configuration you are using and displays the information on a clear and informative dashboard.

On top of that, with SolarWinds Virtualization Manager, you can schedule automated virtual machine optimization and orphaned file removal to achieve top-notch performance and optimize resource utilization.

Top features: VM sprawl control, active alert system, Enterprise command center, application stack integration, cross-stacking of the data, resource planning, right-sizing, cloud monitoring, PerfStack Dashboard.

Benefits:

Pitfalls:

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Reduced downtime;

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No mobile version;

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Proactive monitoring;

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Windows-only solution;

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Informative reports.

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Cost-prohibitive.

💸 Price: starts at $2,995.00 per 8 sockets one time.


Parallels Remote Application Server

Best for: Software developers and IT service providers.

Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS) is a multipurpose cloud-ready on-premises VDI solution that delivers a complete workstation-like experience on a user’s PC, laptop, tablet, or any other electronic device regardless of the operating system it’s running.

Parallels RAS is completely compatible with all the popular hypervisors, including Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware ESXi, Citrix XenServer, and Acropolis AHV. And, to top it up, this service has one of the best security levels on the market thanks to a comprehensive set of measures and mechanisms in place, i.a. two-factor authentication, SSL encryption, and precise access policy.

Top features: Parallels Client, app publishing, autoconfiguration, automated image optimization, management portal, Amazon Elastic Load Balancer support, SSL/TLS certificate management, Apple iPad multitasking.

Benefits:

Pitfalls:

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Cross-platformity;

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Fiddly certificate installation;

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High usability;

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No multi-monitor on web version;

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Low failure ratio.

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Known issues with drivers.

💸 Price: starts at $99.99 per year for 15 users.


Citrix DaaS

Best for: design engineering bureaus and project divisions.

Citrix Daas (former Citrix Virtual Apps & Desktops) is best known for delivering a workstation-like experience to portable devices, i.a., tablets and smartphones. In addition to the significant enhancement of your workforce IT agility, this solution allows you to switch between different networks (both internal and external) with zero safety risks and no reduction in productivity.

Thanks to the seamless support for all popular graphics acceleration GPUs, including nVIDIA, Intel, and AMD, Citrix Daas is a decent option for those who rely on high-demand 3-D or 2-D graphic suits in their day-to-day routine. Plus, you can virtualize Cisco Jabber and Avaya One-X for easier collaboration.

Top features: multi-session Windows and Linux desktops, Citrix HDX, StoreFront app store, Turnkey DaaS wizard, power management, autoscale, image builder, ITSM adapter, FSLogix profile access, conditional policy-driven authentication.

Benefits:

Pitfalls:

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Robust security;

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Choky deployment;

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Cross-platform accessibility;

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No training provided;

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Centralized control.

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Poor backward compatibility.

💸 Price: starts at $210.00 per user/device one-time.


Top-5 of the virtual desktop providers for a mid-sized business

Best cloud VDI providers

A cloud-based desktop virtualization solution is considered the best option for a medium-sized business mainly due to its cost-effectiveness. Along with your subscription to the hosted virtual desktop, you will get access to other services, i.a., data storage, tech support, disaster recovery, information security, backups, etc.

On the downside, most providers offer standard digital desktops to all users, no matter their area of work. So a designer, an HR manager, and a tester will have to work on the very same non-personalized VM randomly assigned to them from a virtual desktop cloud pool.


Amazon WorkSpaces

Best for: customer service providers and retail companies.

Amazon WorkSpaces is a fully managed cloud-based VDI service from one of the best-known remote desktop services providers on the market. It can deliver a Windows or Linux VM on any type of computing device, including an iPad, Chromebook, and Amazon Fire tablet. Unlike many other solutions, it has an option for hourly billing, which adds to its budget-friendliness as you pay only for the services you actually use.

Besides that, you can save even more if you already own any software licenses, as AWS has the BYOL policy. And thanks to the use of two-factor identification, traffic encryption, and secure Amazon SDX protocol, AWS is considered one of the most secure cloud servers for virtualization.

Top features: Workplace app manager, Active Directory integration, SDX protocol, free 1-year plan, BYOL, RADIUS integration, PC-over-IP(PCoIP) streaming protocol, Active Directory integration, Amazon WorkDocs storage.

Benefits:

Pitfalls:

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Mobile-ready solution;

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Extra fee for non-standard apps;

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Cross-platform accessibility;

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Requires strong Internet connection;

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Ease of deployment and scaling.

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No live support.

💸 Price: starts at $7.25 per month.


Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop

Best for: service and maintenance companies.

Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop is a cloud solution that offers access to Windows 7, 10, and 11 VMs with a range of pre-installed apps (i.a., Office 365) to computers and portable electronic devices running all popular platforms. For extra convenience, AVD has HTML5 support, so that you can access a virtual web desktop server from a browser of your choice.

The cost of this service is calculated individually based on the number of apps and services used, uptime hours, platform, region, and an array of other factors. On top of that, AVD allows you to assign multiple users to any of your virtual machines and has a convenient automated user allocation feature to spread the workload evenly across the host pool.

Top features: AES 256-bit encryption, auto-backup, HTML5 support, encrypted backups, user auto-allocation, multi-session, Azure Diagnostics, RDSH, app streaming, Azure Sentinel, built-in firewall, intelligent security.

Benefits:

Pitfalls:

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Flexible pricing policy;

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Limited app offer;

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Operational stability;

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Relatively high price;

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Free services.

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Lengthy login process.

💸 Price: is calculated individually.


Nutanix XI Frame

Best for: developing companies and startups.

Nutanix XI Frame is marketed as the most straightforward way to get your first full-featured virtual desktop environment up and running for up to 10,000 users within less than an hour. All you need to do is choose the cloud platform and apps you will be using, then integrate your existing storage and add an authentication app.

With this DaaS solution, the virtual web desktops are accessible from any Internet-connected device via an HTML-5 capable browser. This service meets safety requirements and has all cloud-specific certificates, i.a., ISO 27001, 27017, and 27018.

Top features: Launchpad, 3D accelerator, drag-and-drop file sharing, HTML5 support, tech support hotline, IP address whitelisting, 2FA, traffic encryption, FIPS mode, zero-touch maintenance, workload manager, Frame Remoting Protocol.

Benefits:

Pitfalls:

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Clear pricing model;

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Hard to access demo;

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Zero-touch maintenance;

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Windows-only solution;

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No server footprint.

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Lacks native apps.

💸 Price: starts at $24 per user per month.


V2 Cloud

Best for: training and education field.

V2 Cloud is a very simple Desctop as a Service (DaaS) solution with an essential function set. For your money, you will get access to cloud-based Windows workstations with 24/7 professional tech support and admin rights to manage users and install any apps you need. You can assign up to 250 users to each of your virtual desktops.

Despite its simplicity, this solution is totally safe to use to power the BYOD policy in your company. All the data remains on the cloud VM server and leaves no footprint on users’ devices. Plus, the V2 cloud is completely compatible with Microsoft Active Directory, allows multi-factor identification via AD Connector, and has multiple data centers around the world.

Top features: Anti-virus, malware protection, drag-and-drop file transfer, multi-monitor support, built-in security, Access Manager, document comparison, Dashboard, network visualization, batch permissions and access, API, data import/export, Raspberry Pi support.

Benefits:

Pitfalls:

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Ease of operation;

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Connectivity issues;

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Good customer service;

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Poor access control;

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Affordable price.

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Unplanned log-outs.

💸 Price: starts at $40 per user per month.


Shells

Best for: education and training facilities.

Shells is another one of the beginner-friendly and cheap virtual desktop solutions. It offers quick and easy access to Windows or Linux VMs from any electronic devices, including TVs and gaming consoles, via the new cloud-specific SPICE protocol. All the data from a virtual desktop is stored in the cloud with automatic daily backups.

Shells has four standard plans to choose from and an easy-to-use constructor you can use to create a customized plan to fit your specific business needs. Plus, you’ll be able to switch between the plans with just a couple of mouse clicks to get an instant virtual workstation upgrade or save some budget funds.

Top features: end-to-end encryption, multiple firewalls, SPICE protocol, unlimited bandwidth, multi-tasking, automatic updates, system snapshots, dedicated resources and storage.

Benefits:

Pitfalls:

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Easy registration process;

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Requires fast Internet;

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Fast support response;

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No support for old OSes;

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No hidden fees.

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Lack of flexibility.

💸 Price: starts at $4,95 per VM per month.


Top free VDI solutions for small businesses

Best free VDI solutions

For those who have never used VDI before and are hesitant about whether or not it will benefit the business, there are solutions you can use free of charge for some time or even forever. Needless to say, none of these solutions can be scaled to accommodate a corporate-size business. But they will give you a good picture of what VDI is and how useful it can be.


Red Hat Virtualization

Best for: Linux-based software and hardware developers.

Red Hat Virtualization offers an open-source Virtual Desktop Infrastructure model for businesses and individuals. Though it’s a paid solution, they offer multiple two-month trials that, unlike most of the other demo versions you can get, are re-activatable once every 90 days. So, if need be, you can shift between the trials and use this service for free all year round.

This solution is built on Kernel-based VMs, so its operation is extremely fast. It is also considered the safest desktop virtualization solution on the market. The functionality is quite limited, but it can be easily integrated with other Red Hat products, as well as third-party apps.

Top features: Virtualization Manager, Web UI, Red Hat Secure Virtualization (sVirt), Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux), REST API, Central Management Dashboard, cross-platform migration.

Benefits:

Pitfalls:

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Ultra-fast operation;

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No mobile app;

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High level of safety;

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Requires good Linux knowledge;

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Helpful support team.

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Unstable work.

💸 Price: free 60-days trial every three months.


AWS Free Tier

Best for: startup owners.

AWS Free Tier is a whole array of free services you can get from Amazon WorkSpaces. Some of them will remain free forever, while others are basically 1-year of short-term free demo periods. For instance, you can get a free virtual Linux or Windows machine for 750 hours every month or a virtual private server for three months.

On the downside, most free tiers are for individual use only, so you won’t be able to scale this solution. Although, it is possible to make some use of it as a team or a small business if you get everyone to register your AWS account at the same time. Plus, AWS provides additional free 2000 credits for startup owners.

Top features: Workplace app manager, Active Directory integration, SDX protocol, free 1-year plan, BYOL, RADIUS integration, PC-over-IP(PCoIP) streaming protocol, Active Directory integration, Amazon WorkDocs storage.

Benefits:

Pitfalls:

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Free of charge;

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Not for corporate use;

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Safe to use;

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Limited functionality;

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Good customer support.

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Temporary solution.

💸 Price: free for one year.


Microsoft Azure Free

Best for: students and private entrepreneurs.

Microsoft Azure Free is a cloud machine you can use for a year and never pay a single dollar. Once you first register your Azure account, you will have 750 hours of access to a Windows or Linux VM, 250 Gb in Azure SQL database, 10 GB LRS storage, 20,000 transactions in Anomaly detector, 10 web, mobile, or API apps with 1 GB storage, unlimited access to Azure Advisor, and much more.

On top of that, you will get $200 in credits to spend on other Azure services that are not included in the free tier. But make sure to spend those credits within the first 30 days after registration, or they will expire.

Top features: Advisor, Anomaly Detector, App Service, Archive Storage, Azure Active Directory, Cosmos DB, Database for MySQL and PostgreSQL, Azure Kubernetes Service, Azure Lighthouse, SignalR Service, Blob Storage, Event Grid, IoT Hub, Network Watcher.

Benefits:

Pitfalls:

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Multitude of free services;

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Credits expire in 30 days;

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Top-level data safety;

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No Linux provisions;

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Simple to deploy.

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Requires credit card info.

💸 Price: free for one year.