Desktops-as-a-service: Finding the right DaaS for your enterprise

By Jonathan Crowl

Choosing the right DaaS for your enterprise involves understanding its features and asking the right questions.

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Traditional desktop devices remain commonplace in the enterprise office, but they have their limitations on several fronts, including security vulnerabilities, data storage space and the ability to efficiently use business resources.

As a result, some businesses are turning to desktops-as-a-service (DaaS) offerings to address the challenges of using desktops while maintaining the functionality and value these devices continue to offer. When implemented correctly, this service can be a cost-effective solution that saves businesses time and money, simplifies IT management of desktop devices, improves security across desktops throughout the organization and scales as necessary as your company grows.

Proper implementation requires that you understand the most important features of DaaS, and which questions to ask vendors before you make a financial commitment. Taking these steps will help business leaders build a framework for vetting and selecting the right desktop-as-a-service.

Know which questions to ask about DaaS

There is no shortage of desktop-as-a-service vendors to choose from, and what they offer can vary widely depending on your company’s needs and interests, especially industry-specific and regulatory concerns.

The first question is how maintenance and upkeep are managed, including service outages. It’s typical for vendors to oversee all server maintenance — this is a crucial benefit for enterprise IT, and without it, the appeal of desktop-as-a-service takes a big hit.

But there are specific details worth considering. Find out whether the vendor allows its clients to continue using their own antivirus software and enterprise security features. Most don’t, so businesses need to vet the security method the vendor uses, as well as how it handles patch management and other updates.

There also needs to be a protocol for how vendors manage service outages. Along those same lines, ask the vendor whether it will offer a financially backed service-level agreement (SLA), which should be a standard document that outlines how customers will be compensated for these outages. Most will offer an SLA, but if they don’t, consider this a red flag.

One size does not fit all

Businesses should grill prospective vendors on their hardware compliance, especially if they’re concerned about a vendor’s ability to keep up with their resource and power demands. A good desktop-as-a-service should feature customizable options to create a solution that meets your business’s software compatibility and resource needs.

Unless it’s an absolute perfect fit, steer clear of a DaaS that comes in a one-size-fits-all format and includes services you either don’t need or won’t serve your business. If you go with this type of service provider, you’ll be paying for features and functionality you don’t use, and you’ll inevitably face struggles when it comes to scaling or adding new features in the future. Customization is key to making sure the solution will serve the business now and in the future.

Taking industry compliance into consideration

If your business has specific industry regulations to consider — healthcare or banking, for example — then a traditional provider likely can’t meet your compliance needs while also offering high-quality cloud-based service. This is an extra wrinkle that will likely push you toward industry-specialized DaaS vendors.

Even then, finding the right provider can be difficult. As TechTarget points out, compliance isn’t just affected by industry; it’s also affected by work environment, and desktop-as-a-service invariably needs to be highly customizable and flexible to meet these compliance demands.

Compliance matters can range from data handling to regulatory reporting to required security elements. Security can be an especially tricky issue, since the aforementioned vendors typically aren’t built to run in conjunction with business-side security software.

In certain cases where vendors can’t provide complete compliance for every desktop-based activity, businesses may choose to operate some of their desktop devices outside the governance of DaaS, allowing them to maintain compliance manually while restricting certain activities to those computers. This isn’t an ideal scenario, but it might be a necessary step for businesses unable to find a suitable solution.

Given the complexities of implementing desktop-as-a-service, businesses should take their time vetting potential vendors and involve IT in asking questions to understand how the solution will be implemented. The right solution can upgrade your desktop devices overnight, but the wrong one can handicap your efforts to build a more efficient, scalable enterprise.