VPN Vs VDI: Which Remote Access Is Best For You?

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VPN Vs VDI: Which Remote Access Is Best For You?

Small Business, Technology | Updated On August 8th, 2022

VPN Vs VDI: Which Remote Access Is Best For You?

Table of Contents:

  1. Some of the Major Remote Access Solutions
  2. The Major Differences Between VPN and VDI
  3. VPN Vs VDI on the Basis of Factors
  4. Which of the Two Remote Access Solutions is Right for Your Business?
  5. Final Thoughts

Remote work has become the new reality of the modern business landscape. It has become an integral part of business continuity strategies across industries, amidst the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. With large-scale “work from home” becoming inevitable, more and more organizations are actively exploring all the remote work options.

When comes to remote access, businesses need it for several reasons. It is not just restricted to accessing simple cloud applications like email. Organizations require to offer remote access to an array of business applications such as customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), accounting, healthcare, finance, and so on. Many of these specialized applications need secure and reliable remote access solutions.

With several options available in the market, it becomes difficult for you to choose the right remote access solution for your business. This post helps you understand some of the top remote access solutions are, what are the key differences between them, and which solution is best for your business.

Some of the Major Remote Access Solutions

There are many remote access services. Two of the most prominent solutions are:

1. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

In the world of the internet, Virtual Private Network, famously abbreviated as VPN, is one of the best ways to secure your applications and data while working remotely. It is a technology that allows you to securely connect to your corporate network from any geographical location through the internet.

A VPN is generally restricted to desktops and laptops (including Macs) and offers access to network resources like printers and shared folders remotely through a secured internet connection. For using a VPN, a user is required to have a connection setup or install an application on their device.

A VPN is a lot more than just logging in and working remotely. It protects you against cyber threats such as identity theft while you are browsing the internet through it. It provides an additional layer of security with an application that protects your connection to the internet. A corporate VPN also protects your designated server.

Your connection to the internet via a VPN is taken via a virtual, private channel that others can’t access. This secure channel accesses the internet on behalf of your PC or laptop. It masks your identity and location, protecting you and your data from hackers. Many VPN solution providers also guarantee military-grade encryption and security through a tunnel. The security encryptions may vary based on an individual’s or an organization’s requirements.

You can access a VPN via authentication methods such as certificates, passwords, etcetera. In simple words, a VPN is a virtual point-to-point communication channel that allows you to access all those resources of a network/server to which you are allowed to connect and to which you have the necessary access permissions. One of the few drawbacks of a VPN is the loss of speed because of the encrypted, routed connections.

2. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

VDI stands for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. It is another remote access solution that offers remote access to a virtual desktop.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Access provides each user his own dedicated Windows-based system that can be configured as per his liking. In a VDI, there are different virtual machines hosted on single or multiple servers. Each machine has its own exclusive resources. This leads to improved security and performance. 

In simple words, VDI security consists of a central server hosting through which it creates a virtual desktop and provides an endpoint connection to you. On the basis of the access permissions granted to you, you have access to all the resources hosted on this central server.

The endpoint via which you access a VDI can be a laptop, desktop, tablet, or even a smartphone. This enables on-the-go access for you. Since everything is stored on the server, the chances of identity or information theft or misuse are next to none. Moreover, a VDI also facilitates consistent user experience across all endpoints and thus, leads to a significant productivity boost.

The Major Differences Between VPN and VDI

The following are the key differences between VPN and VDI:

  1. A VPN utilizes an application on the client device (desktop or laptop) to create a secure connection and build a tunnel between the corporate network and the client device. While in a VDI, all users get their own dedicated systems that they can customize to their liking. Although, an administrator has the power to define policies that decide what remains uniform between various virtual systems and what you can modify as a user.
  2. In a VPN, an end user’s device acts like it is in the office. A user uses this device to connect to all the applications and services offered by the corporate network, sending data securely through the encrypted tunnel. While in a VDI, all the resources are entirely dedicated and defined to each endpoint (virtual user machine). It means that each endpoint or machine works independently of the others, providing a highly regulated and secured remote working environment.
  3. On a VPN, the processing takes place on the user’s device (client PC or Mac), while on a VDI the processing takes place on the hosted central server.

VPN Vs VDI on the Basis of Factors

When considering a remote access solution, specifically so between a VPN and VDI, there are several factors involved. Let’s understand how both VPN and VDI compare with each other on all these major talking points.

Let’s now understand all these aspects in detail.

Factors

VPN

VDI

Server Interface or User Experience

It only offers a point-to-point connection through a secured, encrypted tunnel. The processing in a VPN takes place on a user system. Therefore, in a VPN, the user experience depends entirely on the system you use (a PC or a Mac). All users in a VDI work on their friendly Windows system interface. This enhances the comfort factor for all the users. An administrator may even allow you to customize (to some extent) your desktop interface to your liking. That way, you can give your desktop interface the look and feel that you are most accustomed to.

System Performance

The VPN connection can slow down significantly depending upon the amount of data being transferred and the amount of encryption done. The connection speeds also depend significantly on the user’s hardware VDI is faster and offers better performance and user satisfaction with its compartmentalized, dedicated resources for each user.

Costing

It costs less as you can continue to use your existing systems with minimum installations or add-ons. It is costlier because VDI implementation requires an additional layer of software.

Data Security and Privacy

Your data is protected through an encrypted tunnel. In VDI, the system security largely depends upon the system administrator.

Maintenance

Once the initial setup is done, a VPN requires the least amount of maintenance among all the major remote access solutions. Needs all updates and patches to be reflected throughout all virtual machines.

End-User Hardware

All the processing takes place on your system. Hence, the end-user configuration is important in a VPN. Since all the processing and storage take place on the central server. End-user hardware is not much consequential.

You must also note that a VDI provides access to users for Mac, Windows, and occasionally, even Android and iPhone.

Which of the Two Remote Access Solutions is Right for Your Business?

Considering all the aforementioned talking points while selecting the right remote access solution for your business, it purely boils down to your specific requirements and priorities. It depends more upon how you define a better solution. Do you want faster or easier deployment? Or the one that is cheaper? Is the best user experience your priority? Or the best security? Do you want the solution for a small number of users or large?

However, you may not have a straightforward answer to all these questions. And the reason behind that is simple. You can’t simply say that a VPN is better than a VDI, or vice-versa. One organization may find VPN better while the other may find VDI. It completely depends upon their specific situation and needs.

Both VPN and VDI require huge engineering efforts to implement and get going. With a VDI, you need to think about IOPS (Input/Output operations per second), disk images, servers, printing, application layering, user profiles, login times, number of GPUs, monitors, bandwidth, and pixels, user updates, patches, etcetera. It takes great effort to understand it all.

And if you think a VPN is any simpler, you are wrong. Desktop architects have to spend years on image designing, thinking about how the applications are configured and installed. Setting up the security tools, disk encryption, software patches, VPN tunnels, and many more such things are there.

Hence, you must choose a solution that you are not only comfortable with but also that fulfills your business requirements and satisfies your defined business priorities. Moreover, that solution must also align with your long-term business vision.

Final Thoughts

The novel coronavirus has pushed the entire business landscape to move towards adopting work from home. Such is the unprecedented situation we all are staring at. Hence, remote work is going to be one of the most significant aspects of business continuity for some time to come.

While we understood VPN and VDI through this post, it remains uncertain which of the two is a better remote work solution. There is, in fact, no certain answer to this question. It is more like “to each his own”. Every business is different; therefore, the things that you consider essential for your business may not be that important for others, and vice-versa.

However, if you are looking for a solution for a small number of users and with limited requirements, a VPN is simpler and more cost-efficient for you. But, if you want the solution for a larger workforce and have graphics processing or mobile requirements, then a VDI is more suited for your business.



Know the author

Daksh Chamoli

Writes like a traditionalist but with the sophistication of a modernist. He prefers to write articles that are smooth from start to finish, making sure to include all of the nuances of the subject matter. While writing, he prefers to incorporate a variety of words that best enhance vocabulary and content while also making his work readable to the general public. Given his experience, he is well-suited to write on virtually any topic.

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