Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) software empowers organizations by allowing them to create, deploy, and manage virtualized desktop environments, unlocking a range of benefits including heightened security, streamlined administration, and enhanced scalability.
The significance of VDI software has been particularly magnified in the context of remote work. VDI emerged as a lifeline, enabling employees to work effectively from home.
In this article, we’ve curated the seven best VDI desktop solutions. These standout virtual desktop solutions have demonstrated exceptional capabilities in reshaping how businesses approach desktop management and remote accessibility.
- Microsoft Azure: Best for flexible VDI applications (Read more)
- Google Compute Engine: Best for large-scale operations (Read more)
- V2 Cloud: Best for small businesses (Read more)
- VMWare Horizon: Best for centralized desktop virtualization (Read more)
- Oracle VM VirtualBox: Best for developers (Read more)
- Citrix DaaS: Best for flexible desktop virtualizations (Read more)
- Amazon WorkSpaces: Best for fully managed cloud desktops (Read more)
Top virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) software comparison
The table below highlights the comparison of the features that helps organizations determine the best VDI software that match their needs.
|Desktop virtualization||Centralized management||Application virtualization||User profile management||Starting price|
|Microsoft Azure||✔||✔||✔||✔||$0.004/hr. for Linux VM (pay-as-you-go)|
|Google Compute Engine||✔||✔||✔||✘||$0.04/vCPU hour for C3 machine (pay-as-you-go)|
|V2 Cloud||✔||✔||✔||✘||$40.00/mo. for 50GB disk space, fast processors & NVMe drives|
|VMWare Horizon||✔||✔||✔||✘||$4.67/user/mo. for Windows and Linux virtual apps, single cloud deployment, & standard management|
|Oracle VM VirtualBox||✔||✘||✔||✘||Free|
|Citrix DaaS||✔||✔||✔||✘||$10/mo. for Citrix DaaS Standard (pay-as-you-go)|
|Amazon WorkSpaces||✔||✔||✔||✘||$23.00/mo. for 1 vCPU, 2GB memory, 80GB root volume, 10GB user volume|
- Key features of VDI software
- How to choose the best VDI software for your business
- How we evaluated VDI software
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Best for flexible VDI applications
Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is a cutting-edge, cloud-powered Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) innovation, enabling seamless accessibility to desktops and applications regardless of location or device. With AVD, users gain the freedom to connect to their personalized digital workspaces from virtually anywhere, using a range of devices.
This innovative solution redefines conventional workspace boundaries by fostering remote work efficiency, collaboration, and adaptability. By harnessing the power of cloud technology, AVD empowers organizations to optimize productivity while ensuring secure and flexible access to crucial resources, contributing to a more agile and dynamic work environment.
- AVD is offered as a free service to certain Microsoft 365 and Azure subscribers.
- The overall costs of running Azure Virtual Desktop are relative to the resources needed and can become expensive if not properly controlled.
- For example, Linux virtual machines start from $0.004 per hour in their pay-as-you-go structure.
- Azure Virtual Desktop provides personalized and multi-session desktops and remote app streaming.
- Full control over management and deployment, plus options for Citrix and VMware integration.
- Optimized for flexibility and provides a flexible consumption-based pricing model.
- Allows users to access their desktops and applications from anywhere, on any device.
- Provides a scalable structure, allowing businesses to pay only for what they use.
- Can become expensive if not properly controlled.
- Complex solution that needs strict controls.
For more information, read the full Microsoft Azure review.
Google Compute Engine
Best for large-scale operations
Google Compute Engine is a cloud computing solution, affording individuals the capability to deploy and oversee virtual machines (VMs) within Google’s infrastructure. This service offers a scalable array of VMs, ideally suited for orchestrating expansive compute clusters tailored to diverse objectives.
Managing Compute Engine is attainable through a RESTful API, a user-friendly command line interface, or an intuitive web console. Its pricing structure takes into account multiple determinants, encompassing the specific machine instance chosen, the duration of usage, and the geographical placement of the VM.
- Compute Engine pricing is based on several factors, including the type of machine instance selected, the duration of usage, and the location of the VM.
- No upfront fees or termination fees for Compute Engine.
- Google offers sustained-use discounts and committed-use discounts to help users save money.
- For example, a C3 machine instance costs $0.041924 per vCPU hour.
- Provides a scalable number of VMs to serve as large compute clusters for various purposes.
- Users can manage Compute Engine through a RESTful API, command line interface, or web console.
- Integrates with other Google Cloud services like AI/ML and data analytics.
- Comes with the VM manager, which helps users manage OSes for large collections of VMs.
- Compute Engine is user-friendly and easy to manage.
- Offers fast I/O and less access time.
- Cost-effective and offers sustained-use discounts and committed-use discounts.
- Most components of Compute Engine are based on proprietary technologies.
- May not be the best choice for users with specialized or highly customized needs.
Best for small businesses
V2 Cloud is an innovative desktop virtualization software, extending cloud-based desktops to small businesses, thereby fostering streamlined remote work and centralized control over published applications. This comprehensive DaaS solution is dedicated to prioritizing speed and ease of use.
Notably, V2 Cloud adopts an uncomplicated, all-inclusive pricing structure, free from hidden charges related to storage or data transmission. With a strategic orientation toward proficient users like forex brokers, business proprietors, and IT management teams, V2 Cloud is thoughtfully engineered to meet the distinct needs of these advanced, albeit smaller user groups.
- Starting from $40.00 per month, it comes with expandable 50 GB disk space, fast processors and NVMe drives, and more.
- Desktop virtualization platform for remote teams.
- Cloud desktops to facilitate remote work.
- Manage published applications on a centralized platform.
- Enforce various security policies such as two-factor authentication, ransomware protection, and HTTPS encryption.
- Simple pricing and offerings.
- Minimizes potential data breaches by enforcing various security policies.
- Flat pricing with no hidden fees.
- Not suitable for organizations with complex requirements.
Best for centralized desktop virtualization
VMWare Horizon is a VDI solution revolutionizing the way users connect with their desktops and applications. With the power to transcend geographical constraints, Horizon empowers individuals to seamlessly access their personalized digital workspaces from any corner of the globe, regardless of the device at hand. It enhances remote work, enabling effective collaboration regardless of distance.
Horizon’s scalability easily accommodates business growth. It reduces costs by eliminating extensive hardware investments while enhancing security. It’s not just a VDI solution, but a catalyst for transformative change, enriching remote work culture and bolstering security.
- Horizon Apps Standard starts at $4.67 per user, per month. It includes Windows and Linux virtual apps, single cloud deployment, and standard management capabilities.
- Remote access to desktops and applications from any device, anywhere.
- Centralized management of virtual desktops and applications.
- Enhanced security measures, including built-in encryption and secure communication between devices and VMs.
- High performance and stability, even with low-bandwidth connections.
- Simplifies IT management by centralizing desktop and application management.
- Allows for remote work and access to desktops and applications from any device.
- Provides cost savings by reducing hardware and maintenance costs.
- Cost of backend systems hardware (servers, memory, and storage) can be initially expensive.
- VMware support can be hit or miss in terms of finding knowledgeable support staff.
Oracle VM VirtualBox
Best for developers
Oracle VM VirtualBox is a desktop virtualization software that facilitates the simultaneous operation of multiple operating systems. As an open-source and cross-platform solution, it streamlines tasks, automates cloud deployments, and accelerates quality assurance, testing, and demonstrations, while enabling remote access.
Designed for x86-based systems, VirtualBox serves as a robust and versatile cross-platform virtualization tool. Its feature-rich nature lays the groundwork for accelerated software development, allowing developers to expedite coding processes through the execution of multiple operating systems on a single machine.
- Oracle VM VirtualBox is free to download and use.
- Cross-platform virtualization software for x86-based systems.
- Allows multiple operating systems to run concurrently.
- Automates deployments to the cloud.
- Allows users to organize VMs individually as well as collectively.
- Cross-platform virtualization software.
- Fast tracks quality assurance, testing, and demos.
- Free to download and use.
- May require a powerful computer to run multiple operating systems concurrently.
- May have compatibility issues with some hardware and software configurations.
Best for flexible desktop virtualizations
Citrix DaaS, previously Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, is a cloud-based virtualization solution providing IT teams control over VMs, applications, and security. It offers secure access to high-performance virtual apps and desktops from any device through a Citrix-hosted management service. This includes Windows and Linux apps from a central location, regardless of the endpoint’s OS.
It also allows hybrid management of on-premises data centers and public cloud workloads, connecting to Microsoft Azure, Amazon (AWS), Google Cloud, and hypervisors like Citrix Hypervisor, Microsoft Hyper-V, and VMware vSphere.
- Citrix DaaS Standard: $10 pay-as-you-go monthly subscription
- Citrix DaaS Advanced Plus: $13/user/month
- Citrix DaaS Premium: $20/user/month
- Citrix DaaS Premium Plus: $23/user/month
- Virtualization solutions that provide IT teams control of VMs, applications, and security.
- Various ways to deliver apps and desktops, such as Virtual Delivery Agents (VDAs) and Secure Private Access.
- Comprehensive security, superior experience, hybrid multi-cloud, actionable analytics, and simplified management.
- Secure workspace experience on any device.
- Managed capacity for delivering virtual apps and desktops.
- Easy installation, setup, and upgrades.
- May not be suitable for organizations that require complete control over applications, policies, and users
Best for fully managed cloud desktops
Amazon WorkSpaces is a completely managed cloud-based desktop computing service, facilitating the seamless provisioning of virtual desktops running Microsoft Windows, Amazon Linux, or Ubuntu Linux. By eliminating the necessity for hardware procurement or intricate software installations, WorkSpaces streamlines the entire virtualization process.
The convenience extends to user access, allowing virtual desktops to be reached through diverse devices and web browsers. Renowned for its array of features, Amazon WorkSpaces remains a favored selection for businesses and organizations.
- Pay-as-you-go pricing model, where you only pay for the WorkSpaces you launch.
- Amazon WorkSpaces pricing varies depending on the bundle, including hardware, software, and region.
- For example, the Ubuntu Linux Bundle option costs $23 per month which includes one vCPU, 2 GB memory, 80 GB root volume, and 10 GB user volume.
- Provide a secure, managed, cloud-based virtual desktop experience to end-users.
- Users can access their virtual desktops from multiple devices or web browsers.
- Access to the AWS cloud storage options.
- Eliminates the need to procure and deploy hardware or install complex software.
- Offers a fully managed service, so users don’t have to worry about managing a complex environment.
- Flexible pay-as-you-go pricing model.
- Uses Simple AD, AD Connector, or AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory to authenticate users, which may not be suitable for all organizations.
Key features of VDI software
VDI software includes several key features that make it an indispensable tool for organizations seeking to modernize their computing environments. From the virtualization of desktops and applications to robust security measures and centralized management capabilities, each feature contributes to a dynamic and efficient workspace ecosystem.
VDI software offers desktop virtualization, allowing users to access fully functional virtual desktops from their devices. These virtual desktops mimic traditional desktop environments, enabling users to run applications and perform tasks as if they were using a local machine. This not only simplifies device management but also facilitates the use of resource-intensive software on a variety of hardware.
Security and data protection
Security is paramount in virtual desktop solutions. It provides a controlled environment where sensitive data remains centralized in the data center rather than being stored on individual devices. This enhances data protection, reduces the risk of data breaches, and ensures compliance with security regulations.
Additionally, advanced encryption and authentication protocols bolster the safeguarding of data during transmission and access.
VDI solutions excel in centralized management. IT administrators can efficiently deploy, configure, update, and patch virtual desktops from a central console. This streamlines maintenance tasks, minimizes downtime, and ensures uniformity across the virtual desktop infrastructure.
Automated deployment tools further expedite the setup process and ensure consistency in virtual desktop configurations. Most VDI solutions also come with server management capabilities, further extending their benefits.
One of the standout features of VDI software is remote access. Users can securely access their virtual desktops and applications from anywhere with an internet connection. This feature is particularly valuable for remote workers, providing them with a consistent computing experience regardless of their location.
Moreover, multi-factor authentication (MFA) and session timeouts enhance security while accessing virtual desktops remotely.
Resource allocation and scaling
VDI software allows for dynamic resource allocation and scaling. IT teams can allocate computing resources like CPU, memory, and storage based on user demand. This scalability ensures optimal performance during peak usage periods and prevents resource wastage during off-peak times.
Automated resource scaling based on predefined policies maintains a balance between performance and cost efficiency.
With application virtualization, VDI software separates applications from the underlying operating system. This enables efficient application delivery, updates, and compatibility management. Users can access required applications without conflicts or compatibility issues.
Furthermore, application streaming and isolation techniques contribute to faster application launch times and reduce conflicts between software.
User profile management
VDI solutions offer robust user profile management. User-specific settings, preferences, and data are stored centrally and applied to the virtual desktop each time the user logs in. This ensures a consistent experience across multiple sessions and devices.
Advanced profile management tools allow for personalized experiences while maintaining efficient profile synchronization across different virtual desktop instances.
Availability and redundancy
High availability is a core feature of VDI software. Through load balancing and redundancy mechanisms, these solutions minimize downtime and maintain service availability even in the event of server failures. This guarantees uninterrupted access for users.
Additionally, failover strategies and geographically distributed data centers enhance system resilience and minimize the impact of potential outages.
Monitoring capabilities are integral to VDI software. IT administrators can track performance metrics, monitor resource utilization, and identify potential issues in real time. Proactive monitoring allows for swift troubleshooting and ensures a seamless user experience.
Detailed performance insights and predictive analytics help administrators optimize resource allocation, resulting in improved overall system efficiency.
How to choose the best VDI software for your business
As you select the ideal VDI software from a plethora of options, a careful assessment of key factors is imperative to ensure a seamless fit with your business requirements. You need to consider numerous factors such as your organization’s needs, performance, cost, and more.
This comprehensive guide offers a step-by-step roadmap, equipping you with the insights needed to make an informed decision:
- Assess your business requirements: Consider factors such as the number of users, types of applications used, remote access needs, and scalability expectations. A comprehensive understanding of your specific needs will guide you toward a VDI solution that caters to your business goals.
- Performance and scalability: Ensure the solution can handle the expected user load without compromising on speed or responsiveness. Scalability is crucial to accommodate future growth and prevent performance bottlenecks as your organization expands.
- Security features: Look for robust security features, including data encryption, MFA, network segmentation, and compliance with industry standards. Your chosen VDI software should provide a secure environment for data and user access, both locally and remotely.
- Compatibility and application support: Check the compatibility of the VDI software with your existing infrastructure and applications. A solution with comprehensive application support and minimal compatibility issues will enhance user experience and productivity.
- Management and administration: Evaluate the management tools provided by the VDI software for tasks such as deployment, updates, user profile management, and resource allocation. Centralized management capabilities should align with your IT team’s operational workflows.
- User experience: Test the VDI software’s user interface, responsiveness, and ease of access. A user-friendly experience that mimics a traditional desktop environment will help minimize the learning curve for your employees.
- Cost considerations: Evaluate the total cost of ownership, including licensing fees, infrastructure requirements, maintenance, and support. While cost is a crucial factor, consider the long-term benefits and savings that an efficient VDI solution can provide over time.
- Support and maintenance: Reliable support and regular updates are essential for the smooth operation of your VDI environment. Research the vendor’s reputation for customer support, response times, and the availability of resources such as documentation and user communities.
- Flexibility and customization: Every organization’s needs are unique. Look for VDI software that offers flexibility in terms of deployment options, configuration settings, and customization. A solution that adapts to your specific requirements can provide a tailored experience for your users.
The steps above can also help you compare VDI vs. webtops, specifically their key differences. They simplify the process of choosing between the two solutions and determining which one is right for your organization.
How we evaluated VDI software
Selecting the top VDI software demands a rigorous evaluation process that comprehensively examines each solution’s capabilities across a range of critical features. Our evaluation methodology involved a systematic examination of these features, with the allocation of scores based on their importance.
Here’s how we scrutinized each feature to create a refined list of the best VDI software options:
Desktop virtualization – 15%
We evaluated the ability of each VDI software to create and manage virtual desktop instances. We assessed the degree of customizability and personalization options available for virtual desktops.
Moreover, we examined whether the software supported various operating systems. Each of these factors played a significant role in determining the score within this category.
Security and data protection – 15%
Security is of paramount importance in VDI software. We closely examined the encryption mechanisms for data transmission and storage, giving higher scores to solutions with robust encryption protocols. MFA options and role-based access control were also considered, as well as the presence of isolation mechanisms for virtual desktops.
Centralized management – 15%
Efficient administration is a key feature of VDI software. We assessed the user-friendliness of the management interface and its capability to provision and deprovision virtual desktops seamlessly.
Solutions offering robust monitoring and reporting capabilities earned higher scores, as did those that integrated well with existing management tools.
Remote access – 15%
Given the increasing demand for remote work capabilities, we evaluated the availability of secure remote access options. User experience and responsiveness were pivotal factors, particularly when accessing virtual desktops remotely. Compatibility across a range of client devices further contributed to the assessment in this category.
Resource allocation and scaling – 10%
Resource management impacts overall performance. Solutions with flexible resource allocation to virtual desktops and the ability to scale resources based on demand received higher scores. Efficient resource utilization and scalability were key determinants of the evaluation within this category.
Application virtualization – 10%
We assessed the ability of VDI software to deliver applications on-demand to users. Compatibility with various application types was crucial, as was the software’s efficiency in delivering applications seamlessly within the virtual environment.
User profile management – 10%
User experience consistency is essential across devices. We evaluated the software’s capability to manage and synchronize user profiles, ensuring that users encountered a uniform experience regardless of their device or location.
Availability and redundancy – 5%
High availability configurations and redundancy options for critical components were considered for their contribution to system reliability. Solutions that ensured minimal downtime and offered redundancy in case of failures were given higher scores.
Monitoring – 5%
The ability to monitor virtual desktop instances, users, performance, and security was evaluated. We looked for solutions that provided comprehensive monitoring capabilities to ensure smooth operation and prompt issue resolution.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is VDI software?
VDI software refers to a technology that enables the creation and management of virtual desktop environments on remote servers. With VDI, individual desktop instances are hosted and executed in a centralized data center or cloud infrastructure, allowing users to access their desktops and applications remotely from various devices.
This approach enhances security, simplifies desktop management, and provides a consistent user experience across different devices and locations.
What are the two types of VDI?
The two primary types of VDI are persistent VDI and non-persistent VDI.
In persistent VDI, each user is assigned a dedicated virtual desktop that retains personalization settings, applications, and data across sessions. Non-persistent VDI, on the other hand, utilizes shared virtual desktops that reset to a predefined state after each session, offering a clean slate for the next user.
Persistent VDI is suitable for users who require a consistent environment, while non-persistent VDI is more efficient for task-oriented or temporary usage scenarios.
What are the three components of VDI?
VDI comprises three main components:
- Virtualization hosts: These are the physical servers that host multiple virtual desktop instances. They are responsible for managing computing resources and providing the processing power needed for the virtualized environments.
- Connection broker: The connection broker acts as an intermediary between users and virtual desktops. It authenticates users, manages user sessions, and directs them to appropriate virtual machines based on availability and resource allocation.
- Virtual desktops: These are the virtual instances of desktop environments that users interact with. Virtual desktops run on virtualization hosts and can be customized to include specific applications, configurations, and user preferences.
Bottom line: VDI software brings your operations to the cloud
VDI software is a powerful solution to transform the way businesses manage and deliver desktop computing resources. As this article has outlined, the key features of VDI software, from enhanced security and centralized management to remote access and application virtualization, offer a comprehensive suite of tools that can optimize efficiency and productivity.
By carefully evaluating these features and selecting the right VDI software, organizations can streamline operations, fortify security measures, and provide a flexible and user-friendly computing environment for their workforce. Whether seeking to embrace remote work, simplify desktop management, or improve data protection, VDI software promises a new horizon of possibilities for businesses ready to embrace the cloud-based future.
As you prepare for your VDI rollout, make sure you read our guide to a successful VDI implementation.