Your Options for a Virtual Desktop Alternative

For roughly the past two decades, when IT departments needed to equip end users with a remote desktop environment, organizations would turn to solutions like virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

Not all remote desktops are VDI, but you could say that VDI is a form of remote desktop. It effectively creates workspaces—usually Windows environments—that end users can access through specially configured devices or software clients. The infrastructure (the “I” in VDI) consists of on-premises host servers running virtual machines (VMs), and it’s these virtual machines that users connect to and interact with.

What’s so wrong with virtual desktop infrastructure?

Virtual desktop infrastructure achieves a particular end, but it’s not the most elegant or efficient solution. Generally, it has three main drawbacks.

  • Cost: On-premises infrastructure is expensive. The servers that host the virtual images, store data and assist with authentication during remote access sessions all have to be purchased and maintained. VDI also requires organizations to purchase specific endpoints. These can be specialized thin or zero clients or laptops that have been provisioned for use with VDI. Plus organizations will also pay to license the VDI solution and the Windows operating system on the VMs.
  • Complexity: Desktop virtualization solutions claim to be optimized for easy provisioning and administration, but they don’t just manage themselves. Some organizations have entire in-house teams of trained, certified IT professionals to oversee their VDI implementation. Others have to pay to outsource that responsibility. Either way, those teams constantly have to optimize VDI deployments for particular workloads and help users troubleshoot the various problems that can emerge.
  • Security: VDI has a troubled history with security. End users need remote access to the VDI host servers, and this is typically done via a virtual private network (VPN) in combination with the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). RDP in particular has several well-known vulnerabilities, and VPNs have the potential to allow complete access to the corporate network if they’re compromised. That runs completely counter to today’s zero trust best practices.

In recent years, the advent of the public cloud has enabled VDI to transition into what’s called desktop as a service (DaaS). DaaS largely follows the same model as traditional VDI except the infrastructure is transferred to cloud-based backends like Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS). That removes some of the need for expensive on-premises data centers, but it’s not as if the SaaS-style pricing of cloud infrastructure is free.

More importantly, DaaS comes with many of the same drawbacks as traditional VDI. Even seemingly straightforward solutions like Amazon Workspaces can’t escape the steps involved in provisioning virtual desktops to end users or the licensing costs associated with operating systems.

What about Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops?

Like VMware Horizon View, Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops is one of the more popular virtual desktop solutions. Because of Citrix’s long history in the desktop virtualization space, the name alone still carries a lot of weight in IT circles.

But that same popularity also makes Citrix solutions a known target for malicious actors, which raises worrying security concerns. As recently as December 2022, the United States National Security Agency (NSA) was sounding the alarm over two Citrix networking products. With the backing of the Chinese government, the APT5 hacking group was actively exploiting a zero-day vulnerability Citrix ADC, an application delivery controller, and Citrix Gateway, a remote access tool, to gain wide-ranging access to targeted networks.

These exploits can be directly attributed to the various components that Citrix uses to power its virtualization solutions. This highlights how VDI’s complexity can become its Achilles heel: The more moving parts, the greater the attack surface. 

VAD: The true virtual desktop alternative

As these issues of cost, complexity and security make clear, finding virtual desktop alternatives isn’t as important as finding an alternative to VDI itself. Even a low-cost, open-source VDI solution, if one existed, would still bear many of the inherent shortcomings of the virtual desktop infrastructure model.

The true virtual desktop alternative is one that isn’t bound to any particular operating system. It’s one that enables end users to work with ALL of their essential apps – Microsoft Windows, Linux, SaaS, and internal web apps – from any device. It’s quick to deploy, easy to provision and incredibly intuitive for end users. Above all, it’s cloud-native and supports zero-trust network architecture by design.

That’s exactly what Virtual App Delivery (VAD) offers. VAD transcends the limitations of a virtual desktop, instead creating a flexible, secure, user-optimized digital workspace. And, as a pioneer of VAD technology, Cameyo is able to provide streamlined remote access to business-critical and even legacy apps without compromising the seamless user experience or the rock-solid security that modern organizations need to stay agile and productive.

Here are just a few of the many ways that Cameyo supports zero trust practices:

  • Segmentation – Cameyo separates end users’ sessions and isolates their devices from corporate networks and data. Should a device become infected with ransomware or malware, the malicious software has no way to reach the corporate network/data or the Cameyo system.
  • Least privilege – All traffic is encrypted, and apps are delivered via a secure HTML5 web browser. Along with maintaining device segmentation, this eliminates the need for VPNs for remote access.
  • Identity & access management – Cameyo integrates with your preferred Single Sign-On (SSO) provider. Any Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) that the SSO utilizes also applies to Cameyo.

That tight security, combined with cost-effectiveness and simplicity, is what makes Cameyo’s VAD so superior to VDI when it comes to remote work enablement. With just a click, end users can start working with full-featured desktop versions of their essential apps from any of their devices — whether it be an Android tablet, an iPhone running iOS, a Mac or a computer running a Linux operating system (including ChromeOS). You can think of it as a highly customizable, app-first cloud desktop.

These are the reasons why Computerworld called Cameyo “the new alternative to Citrix.” And it’s also why the industry as a whole is moving away from virtual desktops in favor of Virtual App Delivery. VAD is more streamlined, more versatile, more secure than VDI and easier on your bottom line, as former Citrix customers like Ur&Penn have already discovered after migrating to Cameyo.

Sign up for your free trial of Cameyo today and discover how easy it is to roll out app-centric digital workspaces to your end users. Or maybe you’d like more details on how exactly Cameyo supports your zero trust IT practices? In that case, simply schedule a demo and one of our engineers will reach out to provide you with the right info.