Best Remote Access Solutions for SMBs: VDI vs Remote Desktop Software

Whether you have a full-time remote workforce or occasionally need to work from home, remote access tools will help ensure you have access to everything you need from any location. There are, however, different kinds of tools to consider based on your business’s unique needs. In particular, VDI and remote desktop software are two of the most popular tools businesses use to access resources on a remote system.

What is VDI?

Virtual desktop interface (VDI) software is an enterprise-grade remote access solution that segments multiple desktop environments on a single server. Desktop virtualization separates the desktop resources—memory, CPU, hard disk, etc.—from the underlying hardware so it can be used more efficiently.

Effectively, end users can access another PC or a dedicated virtual machine (VM) with dedicated resources on a remote server. This is ideal for situations where you would need to access and work with large amounts of data—far more than the average PC would be able to accommodate alone.

Most small businesses, however, don’t have the need for a dedicated server, so VDI doesn’t really make sense as a remote access solution. As a workload, VDI is typically run in a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) environment, which usually costs more than a small business can afford to invest up front.

Examples of VDI software include:

  • VMware Horizon
  • Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops
  • Amazon Workspaces
  • Azure Windows Virtual Desktop

What is remote desktop software?

Remote desktop software, as the name suggests, is a software for accessing another computer’s desktop remotely. It’s essentially a simplified version of VDI; you can use it to access and control data and software that exist on another computer from the one in front of you.

There is one major distinction to make between VDI and remote desktop software, however. While VDI segments a separate VM with dedicated resources for each user, remote desktop software makes it possible for multiple users to access the same desktop while sharing its resources. This is helpful in a number of situations, including:

  • Remote troubleshooting
  • Accessing files while out of office
  • Sharing access to large files with a large team without needing each person to download them locally

Examples of remote desktop software include:

  • GoToMyPC
  • Zoho Assist
  • Remote PC
  • Chrome Remote Desktop

To compare these vendors in more detail, check out our list of Best Remote Access Software.

Remote desktop software vs. Remote Desktop Services

You may be wondering how Remote Desktop Services (RDS) fits into the equation given the name. RDS is a type of remote access software that can be added to the Windows Server operating system for an additional fee. Because it runs on a dedicated server, RDS functions most similarly to VDI. It’s a strong choice for businesses that operate in an exclusively Windows client-server environment. For our purposes, remote desktop software is an entirely different category of software that serves simpler needs on a much smaller scale.

The best remote access solution for SMBs

If you’re looking for a way for you and your team to be able to access files and applications on another computer, you have a few options to consider. Usually, remote desktop software will meet your needs with more flexibility and lower cost. If, however, you run your own servers and have more complex needs for remote access, VDI might be the better choice for you.

Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton is the editor of Small Business Computing. She is passionate about creating relatable, research-based content that helps small businesses thrive.

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