Virtual Desktop vs. Cloud: What is Best for Your Business?

Nathan Distel
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A lot of customers ask us the difference between a virtual desktop and cloud service.

It’s a subtle distinction that can cause confusion. Virtualization is a technology that allows you to create multiple simulated environments from a single, physical hardware system, while clouds are IT environments that share many resources across a network. In other words, virtualization is a technology, where cloud is an environment.

That distinction might not mean a lot unless you are deploying a cloud environment from your own data center. The more important question facing many businesses is when a virtual desktop deployment is right for your desktop applications. A virtual desktop or application virtualization service runs on the cloud, so your workers have secure access to all their documents, applications and resources.

Because the computing power comes from the cloud servers where the virtual desktop is hosted, you can have practically unlimited power. We have seen that you can work on a Chromebook and have the same functionality you would have at your workstation in the office.


For businesses struggling to support hybrid or remote workforces, a virtual desktop is scalable, providing the ability to turn up or down the amount of computing power and storage you use. For example, rather than loading all your company laptops with the complete Microsoft suite of applications before they leave the building, the Azure Virtual Desktop (formerly known as the Windows Virtual Desktop) delivers virtual desktop experience and remote apps to any device.

The benefits include:

1. Lower Costs

IT teams benefit from not needing to maintain on-premises infrastructure, more reliable performance and easy rollouts of new features and applications. IDC puts the overall value gained through cost savings, staff productivity gains and other benefits at $2,015 per user per year.

2. Access Anywhere

A virtual desktop gives your employees the ability to work remotely and allows them to get projects done at their convenience. Granting your employees the ability to securely and productively work from anywhere with Internet access solves many problems that hybrid workers face.

3. Security, Security and More Security

Hackers are coming up with even more inventive ways to compromise companies’ data. A virtual desktop is more secure because all data stored on a virtual desktop lives on a server or in the cloud, not on the endpoint itself. This dramatically reduces the threat associated with lost or stolen devices.

Not only are virtual desktops more secure, but it means you don’t have employees carrying around personal devices that hold company data. Virtual desktops enable employees to use their devices and access data anywhere, but your sensitive files themselves do not leave the corporate data center.

Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop delivers more manageability and security features, so that you can ensure your workforce is secure, even if they are using an insecure Wi-Fi connection to get online. For example, administrators can require multi-factor authentication for all users to ensure only authorized users are online.

4. More Power When You Need It

For your users requiring graphic intensive applications like AutoDesk, Azure Virtual Desktop now supports a GPU-accelerated desktop access for improved performance and scalability. GPU stand for Graphics Processing Unit, a specialized processor originally designed to accelerate graphics rendering. GPU acceleration is ideal for engineering work or graphic designers, giving your remote teams more computing power, secure connectivity and access to all of your apps online.


Deploying a virtual desktop environment can simplify your remote work situation, but it is still useful to have a partner or managed service provider to provide virtual desktops as a hosted managed service. Hosted virtual desktop services are usually offered in a per-user, per-month subscription model. This model offers the added benefit of transferring IT infrastructure costs from a capital expense to an operating expense.

When we talk about virtual computing, we’re not just talking about cloud applications and backups, but deploying virtual desktop services instead of traditional ‘thick client’ PCs and laptops. Virtualization is a technology that allows you to create multiple simulated environments from a single, less powerful and less expensive, ‘thin client’ hardware platform. If you’d like to learn more about deploying AVD services, see our Azure Virtual Desktop page. Benefits of the Cloud Infographic CTA

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