Top Parallels Alternatives for Businesses

If you’ve been looking for a way to give your end-users secure access to all the apps and data they need to be productive on any device, you may have run across a virtual desktop product called Parallels.

Parallels has two main products: Parallels Desktop and Parallels RAS (short for Remote Application Server). Both are designed with desktop virtualization in mind. Parallels Desktop is aimed at running a Linux or Windows virtual machine locally on a macOS or Chrome OS hypervisor host, similar to virtualization software like VirtualBox or VMware Workstation Player. Parallels RAS is geared more toward server-based remote desktop functionality and has a lot in common with solutions like Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops. (Speaking of which, you might also be interested in our blog post on Citrix alternatives.)

The origins of Parallels Desktop

Although Parallels has had some presence in the enterprise, its Parallels Desktop software has been largely oriented toward the mainstream consumer space.

Back in 2006, when Apple began its transition from PowerPC to Intel architecture, Parallels Workstation for Mac OS X was one of the first solutions to enable users to run Linux and Microsoft Windows within the Mac OS X environment. This was at a time when Windows XP was the current version of Windows, soon to be replaced by the infamous Windows Vista.

Instead of running the guest operating system in an emulator (such as the open-source software QEMU), which can impact performance, Parallels was able to link more closely to the machine’s native hardware resources while mimicking the same ease of use as conventional Mac apps. (As a side note, Apple’s Boot Camp feature also brought native Windows support to its Intel machines, but that required regular rebooting to switch from one OS to the other.) Parallels Workstation for Mac OS X was eventually renamed Parallels Desktop for Mac.

The importance of enterprise-grade solutions

Along with VMware Fusion, Parallels Desktop for Mac soon became a top solution for many Mac users who needed access to critical Windows software but didn’t want to entirely abandon OS X (later rebranded as macOS) or purchase a separate PC for the sake of a few Windows applications. These local hypervisor solutions also promised more consistency than compatibility layers like CrossOver, which continue to have mixed results with different Windows software titles.

However, despite its popularity and the addition of some functionality to better integrate with enterprise IT infrastructure, Parallels Desktop remains a consumer-level product. In the age of another Apple silicon transition, this time to the M1 Mac, Parallels is enabling the new generation of Mac users to spin up a full Windows virtual machine without having to consult online IT forums or mess around with Terminal commands.

But Parallels Desktop and Parallels RAS aren’t always ideal for enterprise environments with large pools of users. Parallels focuses on delivering a full Windows OS desktop on Macs and Chromebooks (rather than taking a Windows-independent Cloud Desktop approach), and managing these Windows desktops at scale can demand more and more of IT’s time. Most use cases might be better served by other forms of virtualization.

What are the core categories of solutions?

To figure out which virtualization method pairs best with which case, let’s revisit the different technology paradigms for equipping users with digital workspaces.

  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI): This tends to be the category in which Parallels sits. VDI provides users with a remote desktop environment based on an entire operating system like Windows. These virtual machines require a lot of extra IT infrastructure that has to be purchased and managed.
  • Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS): Sometimes described as “VDI in the cloud,” DaaS takes legacy VDI technology and transfers all or part of the hosting and management aspects to a cloud service provider like AWS or Microsoft Azure.
  • Virtual App Delivery (VAD): As the latest evolution in virtualization solutions, VAD is a cloud-native, platform-agnostic Cloud Desktop solution that gives remote users the ability to access all of the apps & data they need to be productive on any device. The philosophy behind VAD is to provide end-users with real-time access to the apps & data they need with an emphasis on seamless compatibility and user experience.

Can your devices run Parallels?

From the beginning, Parallels Desktop has been a heavily Mac-centric product. Later came Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS. If you have users who are working remotely from an Android tablet, an iPad or even a personal Windows laptop, neither of these solutions will help with enterprise productivity. And Parallels Desktop itself is fairly resource-intensive, which means users on older Macs might find their devices struggling to keep up and run the guest operating system smoothly.

As for Parallels RAS, like a lot of VDI-based solutions, it still centers on delivering a complete remote desktop experience. That’s fine if remote users need an entire virtual desktop to get their job done, but the vast majority of students, work-from-home employees and hybrid workers simply need seamless access to all of the apps & data they need to do their work.

Why VAD may be a better option

For scenarios like those, Virtual App Delivery (VAD) is the optimal choice. VAD presents a simple, secure and cost-effective way to put apps in the hands of any user on any device, not just Chromebooks or high-performance Macs. 

Cameyo pioneered the Virtual App Delivery space with a solution that enables organizations to support and empower their end-users—wherever they happen to be, regardless of device. With Cameyo’s easy-to-deploy VAD platform, an iPhone user outside of the company network can quickly start working with the full Windows desktop version of Excel. A user on a Chromebook can run compute-intensive software like AutoCAD without breaking a sweat. And Mac users can access all of the Windows programs they might need for work. 

One global financial services institution turned to Cameyo when it needed to provide off-network employees with secure, reliable access to critical Windows-based business process management software. Some of these employees operated out of regions with 2G/3G cellular service. Cameyo’s low-footprint, no-VPN solution gave them the functionality and the performance they needed, even on mobile or ultra-portable devices.

In the United States, the nationwide Community Hospital Corporation (CHC) chose Cameyo in order to leave behind the cost, complexity and insecurity of VDI remote desktops. The CHC replaced its cumbersome IT infrastructure with Cameyo’s streamlined Virtual App Delivery: “We realized there had to be a better way. Something better than physical desktops, but also something better than traditional VDI,” said Brian Stopinski, CHC’s Corporate IT Operations Director. “The real value add is the elimination of the Windows desktop, because I don’t have to deal with all the complexity and all of the security concerns that Windows desktops bring.”

To find out if delivering Cloud Desktops via Virtual App Delivery is the right fit for your organization, simply sign up for your free trial of Cameyo today. It won’t take long to see if VAD is the right choice for your use case, and it could end up saving you time, money and security headaches. Or, if you’d rather get a personalized tour of what Cameyo has to offer over VDI and DaaS, simply request a demo.