At its heart, DaaS provides digital workspaces, untethering people (usually company employees) from in-office devices and on-premise infrastructure. Let us take a moment to define “digital workspace” before moving deeper into DaaS.
What is a Digital Workspace?
Before the widespread adoption of remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, work largely required employees to use specific, in-office devices (laptops or desktops). They went to the office, used devices within the office, finished their work, and came back the next day for more. While some firms allowed devices to be taken out of the office space, they were expected to log stipulated working hours within a controlled space, using tech attached to on-premise facilities.
But, ever since the pandemic required stay-at-home orders to be issued, workspaces adapted to become flexible enough to cater to work-from-home situations. Everything went digital (more so than before), and employees were accessing the data and tools they needed from their living rooms, studies, and balconies.
Businesses soon discovered that digital workspaces delivered enough advantages for them to be more than temporary solutions to pandemic conditions. Users could access industry-best tools, high network speeds, and resources from their local devices – and it didn’t even have to be an expensive, high-end device.
Since digital workspaces, like those provided by DaaS, run apps and services in a remote data center rather than the user’s local device, it’s easy to operate resource-consuming software on otherwise basic-spec machines (like Chromebooks).
Generally, digital workspaces are provided by:
- VDI or Virtual desktop infrastructure. In this case, each user’s virtual desktop runs on a virtual machine operating within the cloud-driven data center.
- Application virtualization. In this case, the data center only runs instances of specific applications required by users.
- Desktop as a Service or DaaS. As explained above, a third-party vendor provides digital workspace and removes responsibilities for configuring and managing infra from their customers.
Benefits of Digital Workspaces (for IT)
In the absence of a digital workspace, companies’ internal IT teams had to spend time configuring, setting up, managing, troubleshooting, and monitoring a massive number of workstations, usually desktops and laptops. Since employees keep joining and quitting, they must keep providing pristine devices and restoring factory settings.
Additionally, they must keep tabs on these devices if they are taken out of the office across multiple physical locations. Concerns around data security and integrity are a big deal, and IT teams constantly have to look for data theft from these work devices. This is inevitably difficult, expensive, time and resource-consuming.
Each device requires regular software updates, patches, and periodic data backups. Don’t forget the effort required to fix bugs, crashes, and dips in device productivity. Providing consistent user support is no joke, especially since both hardware and software evolve at breakneck speed. Everything has to be updated more frequently and consistently than ever before.
For most businesses, providing adequate-quality devices and managing them became easier than dealing with the security risks of shifting to work-from-home models. Data stored locally on work-issued devices became nearly impossible to control when employees were trapped in their houses. As expected, multiple data breaches have been reported directly related to the cybersecurity gaps that show up with remote work. And as per a report by Accenture, “68% of business leaders feel their cybersecurity risks are increasing.”
Some businesses have tried adopting BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), which simply exacerbated device management and data security issues. Those issues applied even to companies without a BYOD policy since employees inevitably use their devices to work with corporate data and tools. Shadow IT has never been more of a concern than it is now.
Benefits of Digitizing the Workspace
When it comes to addressing the challenges described above, the digital workspace came out with top marks. For IT teams, digital workspaces are a breeze to handle since much of the heavy lifting is removed to being the responsibility of a third-party data center:
- Apps required by employees don’t have to be installed and operated locally on each user's device.
- All company data remains secure and perpetually monitored within the provider’s remote data center. These centers are up-to-date with the latest, most robust security mechanisms to guard customer data.
- In case a user’s device fails, nothing is lost. They can log in to the virtual desktop from another device and keep working as before.
- Existing devices don’t have to be abandoned. They can be redeployed as endpoints to access the digital workspaces.
The software and hardware demands on each system for using digital workspaces are much simpler and easier to standardize, maintain, and secure. Data is no longer stored on devices’ internal storage, and user productivity becomes completely independent of the device’s specs and capabilities.
Additionally, local devices have to handle less operational overhead since apps are run on the cloud. This extends device life significantly, and IT doesn’t have to find, buy and send devices every 3-4 years. You could even use Chromebooks – cheap and easy to maintain – without missing out on any high-end functions of a performance machine.
Benefits of Digital Workspaces (for users)
Let’s say an employee wants to work out of her porch in the morning, have meetings with colleagues in a cafe or a workspace, and go back home and pick up where she left off. She might even want to meet and collaborate with multiple teams at multiple locations. Or perhaps, she is confined to her house because of a local outbreak. With an in-office setup, working efficiently in these circumstances would be impossible or difficult, at the least.
However, such a routine is entirely possible with digital workspaces. It also facilitates the sharing of extensive digital files. Let’s say, a global tech company wants to design and build a new headquarters in Silicon Valley. Teams worldwide can make this happen by working on a common architectural model – in their digital workspace. No need to copy, paste, send or download files.
Virtual workspaces allow users to leverage new tools to match changing responsibilities. Work expectations may shift within a project, or the employee can move from one project to another. What if they needed VSCode for their first project, and the second required them to use Figma and Obsidian? All of these apps may not run flawlessly if run locally due to device limitations. But, with virtual workspaces, this isn't a concern. Simply inform the vendor, make the necessary payments, and they’ll ensure the availability of the required software.
Now, let’s get down to the brass tacks of DaaS.
What is DaaS?
DaaS or Desktop as a Service refers to cloud computing technology that lets you access a full virtual desktop setup (like the one on your regular laptop/desktop) and apps via the cloud. Businesses often use DaaS to provide secure native and legacy apps and fully functional desktops to their workforce.
In other words, DaaS provides a fully virtualized desktop that you access through your browser or some app (depending on the provider’s setup). When you log in, you get a desktop experience that offers everything (often more) that your local device’s OS does – only it’s all running via remote, cloud-dependent servers.
DaaS providers handle backend management for these virtual architectures, leaving their customers (the business) to focus on productivity without being waylaid by maintenance and troubleshooting of said desktops. This is an optimal solution since it would be too expensive, time and effort-consuming to develop and set up such infrastructure in-house.
On the other hand, the provider is responsible for day-to-day maintenance, data backups, software upgrades and storage, and information security. Of course, many providers allow their customers to handle the security aspect themselves, depending on their preferences for maintaining complete control over data access and protection mechanisms.
At a high level, DaaS offers two kinds of desktops:
Persistent desktops: Users can customize the desktop and save all data and its current state. Every time they log in, they will access the desktop in the same state as they left when they logged off. For example, the files they worked on will be stored as they were saved (no need to download them).
Needless to say, persistent desktops require higher storage capacity on the cloud, which contributes to them being more expensive.
Non-persistent desktops: In this case, the desktop is wiped every time a user logs out of the system. No files are saved, and no work can be stored online. These desktops largely allow users to utilize shared, cloud-based tools and services. If you want your work to be saved, you’ll have to download them before logging out.
How does DaaS work?
When operational, DaaS allows users to access their data and applications from a web browser or any required software. DaaS providers offer the cloud computing infra, network resources, bandwidth, and storage space required to stream a virtual desktop to a user’s device. The user should be able to work with data stored within the desktop and use the applications hosted on said desktop. Generally, businesses purchase subscriptions from DaaS providers, which include a specific number of virtual desktops. However, this number can be scaled up and down easily simply by making the additional payment.
Since DaaS streams the desktop visuals and functionalities via the internet (emerging from a centralized server), applications that require heavy graphics have, to date, been fairly hard to use on these virtualized architectures. However, the emergence of new technologies has removed this difficulty to a great extent – even resource-consuming computing practices like computer-aided design (CAD) are capable of running without interruption or quality drop on DaaS.
The premise of DaaS’ daily functioning is simple. If one server becomes overwhelmed with traffic and user requests, the IT admin can shift an operational virtual machine from the overloaded server to another. This takes a few seconds and ensures that resource-heavy applications can continue working without interruption.
Therefore, for industries that require resource-intensive applications (such as 3D modeling, high-quality graphics, video production, simulations, etc.), DaaS comes as especially useful. Engineering, design, broadcasting, and architecture are only a few of the fields where DaaS can make a massive difference in productivity and cost-effective usage.
DaaS vs. VDI
When it comes to virtual workspaces, two terms you’ll hear frequently thrown about are DaaS and VDI. And often, they tend to be treated as synonyms – which is not entirely accurate.
VDI or virtual desktop infrastructure allows businesses (or any organization) to host remote desktop OSes on endpoints (laptops, desktops, mobile), all running from a centralized server. This is similar to DaaS, except VDI does not provide pre-installed apps. It offers virtual desktop images with specified computing capabilities - RAM, GPU, storage space, bandwidth, etc. - as requested by the customer.
But once the virtualized desktops are ready, all the apps, access control managers, security partitions, and configurations must be handled by the customer’s in-house IT team. There’s still a significant amount of setup effort the customer has to invest to prepare the workspace for employees.
VDI provides only the backbone and computing resources for virtual desktops. The actual calibration of these resources to meet specific employee/user needs is up to each enterprise’s IT department. So, you not only invest in the network, storage, and infra, but you also need to keep skilled IT experts who can set up and manage virtual architectures.
With DaaS, customers receive virtual workspaces that are completely ready to use. The provider handles setup costs and effort, as well as management. Your IT team doesn’t have to do a thing but provide login credentials for the workspaces to the right employees.
Generally, DaaS is a lot more affordable than VDI since customers don’t need to pay for highly skilled IT folks to configure these desktops. You only pay for the subscription; the amount varies based on the required desktops.
Either way, both DaaS and VDI allow companies to save a fair bit of money since they don’t require endpoint devices with high computing power. Any internet-enabled device will facilitate access with data processing largely occurring in the data center.
But DaaS lets companies function optimally with a leaner IT team since the vendor is responsible for the deployment, network issues, and any troubleshooting end-users will need once they begin to use the virtual desktops.
On the other hand, while VDI is more expensive, it gives clients greater control over the desktops’ functionality and security. This can be a necessity for businesses under stringent security and confidentiality stipulations.
Read more - Application streaming vs. Desktop virtualization
When should businesses consider DaaS?
Suppose you’re considering adopting DaaS as part of your day-to-day business operations. In that case, it might be worthwhile to go through the most common circumstances in which DaaS can deliver optimal value:
- If your business is looking to establish a remote work culture. Since employees have declared their unabashed desire to work from home, employers offering the same will be considered more favorably.
- If your business deals with temporary employees, like seasonal and/or contractual workers. DaaS lets you provision new workspaces within minutes and dismantles them when these contracts expire.
- If business continuity is an uncompromisable priority, despite disaster situations. With DaaS, physical infra isn’t a contributing factor to employee productivity, so work can continue even if there is damage to your headquarters.
- If your business is about to acquire another organization. DaaS enables quick and easy onboarding of new employees and gives them instant access to necessary applications, services, and data.
- If your business needs to support resource-heavy applications that your on-site infra is not built to handle for consistent usage across employee devices. DaaS is especially useful if you frequently offer this kind of high-range functionality to mobile employees.
- If you want to restrict employees’ exposure to your business’ network and intellectual property based on their role. Just trigger DaaS workspaces with only the necessary data and tools – and they’ll never have the opportunity to dig deeper into your internal data banks.
- If you want to do away with shadow IT. DaaS offers consistent, pre-configured environments accessible through any device. Why would employees use unauthorized tech with such availability at hand?
- If you’d like to support remote work for employees in locations far away from your own or even VDI data centers. DaaS requires minimal onsite infra and is much faster to set up for operation.
Major Advantages of DaaS
- Uninterrupted productivity, irrespective of device: As mentioned before, the performance of DaaS workspaces has very little to do with the user endpoint. All processing activity and computing resources (RAM, memory, GPU) for the desktop’s working is run via a centralized server, not the user device. The only thing a device should be able to do is run a browser and connect to the internet. The cloud servers maintained by your DaaS provider take care of the rest.
Consequently, you could operate resource-consuming apps (like design tools or high-res games) on inexpensive devices like Chromebook or any low-end laptop.
- Lowered maintenance costs: Since user devices don’t do the heavy lifting to run apps or store data in a DaaS setup, they don’t suffer the regular operational wear and tear. Naturally, the devices last longer and deal with fewer hardware or software issues. DaaS slows down the emergence of problems associated with aging machines - lag, productivity drops, employee frustration with work tech, and shadow IT.
- Lower support costs: Any issue cropping up with virtual workspaces can be resolved remotely. Employees no longer need to physically bring or ship their trouble devices to a service center or your company’s IT team. Consequently, you don’t have to spend exorbitant amounts to get devices shipped and vendor services. Sure, you’ll pay your DaaS provider, but most plans include troubleshooting services from the get-go.
Additionally, IT personnel can remotely initiate workspace updates for performance and security, which contributes to keeping the desktops secure and functionally relevant.
- Improved Security: During Covid-19, IT teams of practically every company that issued employee devices had to manage and secure hundreds or thousands of endpoints across wildly different locations. Naturally, this exacerbated risks of data theft or exposure to unauthorized individuals due to device theft or misplacement.
DaaS workspaces store all data on remote servers. So, even if the employee loses their device, it doesn’t put confidential corporate property at risk. As soon as the employee reports the theft, IT can remotely lock access to that workspace, invalidate the employee’s login credentials and ensure that business data remains untouched.
Suggested read - For your eyes only: Data Privacy with Neverinstall
- Consistent Productivity: Since the desktop’s operability does not depend on the user’s device, your employees won’t have any dips in productivity due to lagging or malfunctioning applications (issues that would otherwise show up on low-spec devices). Users can use industry-best software regardless of device health – as long as the device can connect to the internet.
Since DaaS workspaces can be updated remotely, users also don’t have to deal with the limitations of using outdated technology. This also prevents them from using unapproved tools and seriously minimizes shadow IT.
- Location-agnostic access: Employees can access their work desktops, no matter where or what device they use. They don’t even need to lug around their devices – certain DaaS providers (like Neverinstall) offer virtual desktops customized for mobile usage.
Additionally, all data is on the cloud, so there’s no need to transfer files, sit through complicated security protocols or wipe the device after you’re done working. Just log out of the browser, and you can move on.
- Noticeably higher ROI: DaaS ensures that people can use industry-best software (IDEs, design tools, editing software, high-res games) on any device. The savings achieved when a business can get all work done on Chromebooks instead of Macbook Pros is nothing to sneeze at.
Couple that with lower maintenance and support costs, and the savings come out to a significant number – especially for companies with large employee pools. Essentially, you pay less to get the same (or more) productivity as you would with an in-office setup requiring expensive endpoints for everyone.
- Seamless onboarding of new employees: It takes a few minutes to set up and initializes a fully operational. DaaS workspace. New employees don't have to wait for a company-issued device anymore. They just get the login credentials, and they can immediately start working. Even if a company still insists on shipping devices, the employee can work on their personal laptop/tablet until it reaches them. No more productivity gaps.
DaaS also simplifies the onboarding process. Since no data will be stored on the device, employees don’t have to report device status or download specific antivirus and security software approved by the company. Again, they just log in and start work.
- Widens your talent pool: With a DaaS setup, organizations don’t have to worry about a potential employee's physical location. They can work for you as long as they can connect to the internet. You can populate your company with the world’s best talent without worrying about whether they live too far away and/or can come to work every day.
- Improves customer experience: DaaS doesn’t just benefit your business and employees, it can also be used to deliver superior customer experiences through collaborative browsing. Attending to customers’ needs and issues becomes far simpler, be it extending customer support, onboarding new customers, or reviewing user-facing documentation.
The big differentiator is that co-browsing does away with the need and/or limitations of screen sharing. Let’s say a customer has an inferior or currently unstable internet connection. In this case, a shared screen would not be perfectly visible due to low display resolution. The chances of dealing with more latency are also high, which degrades the entire experience.
In co-browsing, there’s no need for sharing screens. You browse the same page as your customer, seeing exactly what they see – in real-time. It’s like sitting at the same table with them and looking at their screen – but the process is fully remote.
For deeper insight into how co-browsing can improve a business’ customer-facing functions, look at Collaborative Browsing: A virtual solution for real-time participation.
Note: DaaS solutions don’t always offer co-browsing by default. If this is an important feature for you, please look for vendors that include this feature.
How Neverinstall makes a difference with DaaS
The questions are simple – how does Neverinstall stand out with its DaaS offering? How does adopting Neverinstall help me accelerate business productivity and my bottom line?
The answer to both is in a quick glimpse of Neverinstall’s primary features:
- A fully-functional browser-based Linux OS can be accessed and used via any device with an internet connection.
- Our desktop experience has been optimized for mobile device users. All Neverinstall workspaces are designed to run effectively on mobile phones and tablets. The platform offers responsive design, equipping it to render in different display modes. We also offer single-touch and multi-touch interactions across device classes. A virtual keyboard is also available.
- Fully customizable desktops with popular pre-installed and pre-configured applications ( VSCode, Figma, Slack, Android Studio, Discord, and more). No limitations or reductions in in-app features.
- The ability to select required apps before launching a workspace. For example, if you need VSCode, Chrome, Obsidian, and Spotify, you just select them, launch a workspace, and say the apps are installed and prepped for use by the server. No effort is required by the user.
- The cloud desktop streams in alignment with the maximum network bandwidth available to a user. Users can launch workspaces through servers in the US and Europe, allowing them to leverage high-speed internet, irrespective of their location.
- A low-latency desktop experience facilitated by the WebRTC streaming protocol.
- Easy, lag-free use of input devices such as keyboards and mice.
- An expanding server network perpetually strives to minimize operational latency. Neverinstall has server clusters in the US, England, Singapore, and India. Upcoming servers will cover Japan, Australia, Finland, Spain, The Netherlands, and more locations in the US.
Author: Shreya Bose
Shreya is a seasoned tech writer. Besides technology, she loves writing about healthcare, heavy metal, alcohol, and coffee. When she is not writing, she is reading, drinking tea, and waiting for naptime.