An ever-increasing proliferation of endpoint devices coupled with the rise of the Cloud and the consumerization of IT has made desktop management more complicated than ever before. Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS), initially offered up by Cloud service providers, offers Managed Service Providers (MSPs) an unprecedented opportunity to expand their businesses.
In this post, I’ll describe the key elements of DaaS, including benefits, challenges, and the key drivers for its adoption among small and medium enterprises. I will then outline why the Desktop as a Service market opportunity is greater than ever for MSPs, and what steps MSPs can take to leverage DaaS to grow their business.
What Is DaaS?
As end users demand access to their data and applications without restriction to location or device used, DaaS delivers a secure virtual desktop for businesses on nearly any device. Here, organizations leverage a suite of virtual machines running on a desktop operating system in a data center to supply remote access to those endpoints. As IT expects to manage environments with a combination of physical and Cloud-based desktops as well as a host of virtual applications, DaaS offers these administrators the ability to automate mundane tasks within the purview of traditional desktop systems management.
The concept behind DaaS is not new. In fact, the idea of “virtual desktops” has been around for years, with IT looking at virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) as a more managed and consistent way to provide Windows desktops to users via local PCs or thin clients. While VDI solutions initially showed promise, it soon became apparent that on-site VDI was a complicated endeavour to set up and maintain, as well as a costly capital expense for infrastructure.
As a result and despite some challenges, DaaS now stands ahead of VDI as it fulfills the promise of virtual desktops on-demand on almost all devices without the hassle or cost of managing on-site infrastructure.
Benefits to DaaS Adoption
- Cost-effectiveness: DaaS offers businesses the ability to virtualize their desktop environments in a simple and cost-effective manner. DaaS provides IT the same advantages as local-network VDI without the capital expense of an on-premise VDI deployment. By renting equipment from the Cloud provider as part of its subscription cost, businesses are able to streamline their accounting with monthly line item expenses versus the far more costly lump sum, desktop capital expenditure.
- Greater security controls in theory: An unlocked tablet or a forgotten USB key is enough to wipe away the huge investments in regulatory compliance made by IT departments. DaaS provides greater security controls in these situations as data is stored in the data center, not on a specific device. Furthermore, companies can immediately disable DaaS accounts as required, including for recently redundant employees.
- Scalability: With DaaS, organizations are able to provision a virtual desktop quickly and without much effort in the event of rapid growth. DaaS allows businesses to effectively scale resources to meet demand.
- Centralized management: DaaS allows for centralized desktop control and security, centralized data control and security, and centralized backup and disaster recovery – all important benefits that ensure easier and more secure deployments when compared to investments in hardware capital.
Challenges to DaaS Adoption
- Licensing: Licensing is a challenge in a DaaS environment as Microsoft does not offer SLAs for desktop OS. Although there are signs that this may slowly change, service providers often use a different platform in order to get around the issue, but it is not ideal.
- Bandwidth & connectivity: Maintaining connectivity to hosted desktops is critical to ensuring uninterrupted access to data. Without offline capabilities, Cloud-hosted desktops may be less reliable and more vulnerable to outages.
- Data control: Businesses must trust an outside data center with sensitive information and may exercise less control in practice over overall security performance. This is a key challenge to and for DaaS adoption.
DaaS on the Rise
Despite its challenges, there are several key factors driving DaaS adoption especially as a changing workforce demands workspaces that can be accessed anywhere, at any time, from a variety of devices.
Specific drivers include:
- Workers are increasingly mobile
- Remote workforces are on the rise
- Workers are increasingly bringing their own devices to the workplace
- IT budget constraints coupled with the cost of maintaining legacy infrastructure
- Windows upgrades and migration
Add to these factors a steady stream of new competitors across every industry and market segment and businesses must become more proactive and agile in order to stay relevant.
According to the IDC,“Desktop virtualization is rapidly growing and expanding to new devices as organizations seek to adapt to new user trends and increase productivity by enabling mobile work styles.” The 2014 IDC also found that 65 percent of respondents in their study indicated that they currently had virtual desktops and an additional 25 percent are expecting to deploy the technology within the next year.
SMBs: The Desktop as a Service Market Opportunity for MSPs
Small and medium businesses (SMBs) in particular are becoming increasingly comfortable with the Cloud. A 2015 CompTIA study found that 70 percent of SMBs surveyed have used an outside IT firm at least occasionally over the past year. It also found that 46 percent of SMBs have looked to outside IT firms for greater expertise, innovation, and agility.
Techaisle, a global SMB research organization, sees a growing demand among SMBs for desktop virtualization specifically. According to Anurag Agrawal, an analyst at Techaisle, SMBs want to be “able to reduce operating costs, enable mobility, utilize the current infrastructure, have much more robust backup and disaster recovery systems, and secure data in their infrastructure.”
For MSPs, DaaS is the next logical step to leverage when it comes to the SMB market. The Desktop as a Service market opportunity for MSPs is both large and growing so it should come as no surprise that a 2014 Techaisle report found that MSPs rank DaaS as their top planned virtualization offering ahead of network, datacenter, storage, application and server virtualization. Yet it has not been easy for MSPs to deliver DaaS.
Successful MSPs have offered SMBs a true partnership when it comes to growing out their DaaS deployments:
- SMBs looking into DaaS want to make sure that their data is secure and that their service provider is maintaining the infrastructure related to their DaaS deployment. MSPs have a valuable role to play in building and maintaining trust in this relationship.
- DaaS may often include some IT management duties on the customer’s part. MSPs are perfectly placed to work with customers to guide installation practices and support users, among other responsibilities. Since no two DaaS implementations are the same, considerations must be made for different roles within the SMBs. DaaS solutions must be created to meet their differing responsibilities within the business as well as meet industry requirements. Savvy MSPs will understand these variations and help SMBs streamline their DaaS deployments to meet their needs.
- The subscription-nature of DaaS deployments are generally cost-effective for most SMBs. However, there are costs related to necessary add-ons such as layering, local file storage, and IT management – all of which may drive up the cost of DaaS deployments. MSPs have a great opportunity to work with SMBs to help them understand the true cost of their DaaS deployments, building transparency and trust along the way.
Even those SMBs that are sold on the benefits of DaaS have a hard time committing time and resources to deploying DaaS solutions. MSPs are well-suited to provide cultivated expertise and customer service to SMBs looking to leverage desktop virtualization. For MSPs, the Desktop as a Service market opportunity is greater than ever.
If you’re an MSP looking for an effective way to promote your DaaS solutions, or differentiate from other MSPs selling Cloud, our experts are always here to help. At Total Product Marketing, we specialize in marketing for Cloud and managed service providers. Contact us today.