Expert Blog: VDI vs. VPN

As the trend to work from home increases, organisations have had to look for a reliable and new solution for their employees. Many businesses have had to choose between utilising a VDI or VPN solution in order to make this transition work. But which is best? For many years, VPN has been the primary option until the recent rise of VDI technology. We asked IT expert and PCS Professional Services Director, Steve Shields for his opinion on which of these solutions best supports your remote workers.

“VDI vs VPN? Firstly let me explain what the two different acronyms mean. They are not the same.
The end result is the same, but the technologies are different and come with their own features and benefits …”

What is VDI?

“VDI (Virtual Desktop Instance) can also be referred to as DaaS (Desktop as a Service). This is a cloud based technology that is charged on a monthly or annual per user basis.

Rather than accessing your files and software packages from your desktop these are now housed in secure resilient data centres and are accessed via an internet connection. With VDI / DaaS a user can access their files and software packages from any location and via any device including, Windows, MAC, Android or Apple devices.

This technology enables remote & flexible working for any business & also removes the need to buy expensive servers, laptops and PC’s.”

WHAT IS VPN?

“A VPN (Virtual Private Network) delivers a secure private tunnel across the public internet or a shared network and it operates as if the user was connected directly to their network in the office.

This connection allows you to access your local network applications and resources out of the office as if you were in the office.

These applications need data to be able to be of any use. This data is critical and is often valuable or sensitive in nature (GDPR). It is sometimes stored in a central location such as a server room or a data centre.

To allow the applications to work we need to ensure several checks are completed and the route the data takes is secure. When working remotely we complete this by setting up a VPN.”

So which is best?

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ in answer to this question. What may be best for one business is not the best approach for another. Each way of working has its own benefits, so we need to decide what ‘best’ means. For some, this may be the solution that is:

– Fastest to roll out
– Easiest to roll out
– The most cost effective
– Suited better for user experience
– Offers the most security

All these factors are important so take time to understand each solution and how your people work before making a decision.”

Some of the points to consider for both solutions are listed below, the list can sometimes seem never ending so I have picked just some of my top points.

VDI ConSIDERATIONS

1. Not Device Dependent
Anything with an up to date browser and internet access can use VDI, from the latest laptop, to that 10 year old machine.

2. Easy to Access
No need for that endless conversation with the IT department, just click the correct URL enter your credentials and you are ready to go.

3. Built in Security By Default
Business data stays in the core data center, so it can be easily maintained, monitored for threats and  managed.

4. VDI is Future Proof
VDI is new technology and is likely to be utilised for years to come. Plus, you get regular OS upgrades are included and the supplier provides hardware upgrades.

5. Not All Applications Are Supported
Take the time to ensure it’s the right technology for your software.

6. Internet Speeds
Some very graphic intensive applications will need a good internet speed to allow the user to have the same office experience.

7. The Core is Critical
Ensure the servers at the centre are up to specification. These servers will be running all the applications for all the users make sure they are up to the job.

VPN COnsiderations

1. Easy Set-Up
Most users will have a work machine/laptop. In this case you just set up the VPN back to the corporate data.

2. IT Team Required
Getting a new user online requires a lot of input from the IT team ensuring all the specifications are met.

3. No Need For Internet
In some instances users can work on files without an internet connection.

4. Time Installing Applications
Applications have to be installed on the local machine – This can increase the roll out time for a new user or a new machine.

5. Local Storage
Some company data will be stored on user’s machines and this could leave you open to vulnerabilities – are you meeting GDPR?

6. Keeping Machines Updated
Making sure user machines are up to date and patched can sometimes be hard for remote workers.

7. Choose a Good VPN Application
Some VPN applications will check the user is up to date before they connect. This is great but sometimes delays the time it takes to connect users and get them working.

So what do we do?

“The biggest argument for me is the age of the technology. VPN is an easy solution and has been around a lot longer than VDI. VDI is the way forward for remote workers, but it needs to be planned and done correctly to be effective.

We are more dependent on data and our desktop than ever so securing that data in the correct environment with the correct security protocols is also essential. Maintaining control of who does what and when is always easier in a single place. With data centers popping up all over the place there is a one stop shop for the perfect location for servers.

Not to mention that the price of server collocation is coming down all the time, especially since Covid-19 has made businesses look at remote working as a long-term solution that works and forced us all to take it seriously. End of life hardware is also another factor to consider, and if we are having to change hardware anyway, why not roll out VDI for certain users? But that’s just my humble opinion, what’s yours?”

SO VDI OR VPN?

Whatever solution you decide to implement we can help you every step of the way. We understand that change can feel worrying and ultimately, we want to make sure that you are well supported so you can continue to operate as you normally would whether you choose VDI or VPN going forward.

Get in touch to benefit from industry advice and support from our experts. Call us on 0333 150 6780, email us on or fill out the contact form below and a member of the team will be in touch.

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