VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) is a desktop virtualization platform for the delivery of virtual desktops or published apps out to a community of users.

The platform leverages backend server infrastructure to host, run, and manage the virtual desktops for multiple users. VDA (virtual desktop access) is a license required for each non-organization owned device that will be accessing VDI. Most higher education institutions will already have Microsoft’s Software Assurance (SA) coverage which may include VDA licenses. If not, individual devices will need to be set up with VDA coverage to use the virtual desktop environment.

VDI in more detail

Every device accessing the pool of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure desktops is essentially accessing one virtual machine. This can drastically lower costs since campuses can leverage the one-to-many concurrency of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. It can also improve security since data is not kept on any user-owned devices, meaning if their laptop or any device they’re accessing the remote desktop on has been stolen or misplaced, no campus data can be taken from it.

There are two modes for VDI deployment:

  • Persistent VDI
  • Non persistent VDI

Persistent desktop

A persistent virtual desktop offers each user an assigned desktop where the user can save their work and any changes made to the look and feel of the virtual desktop. For example, if they were to change the desktop background, this change would persist between login sessions. This will not affect the desktops of any other users.

Persistent desktop mode is best for VDI desktops being used for employees to work on a remote desktop since all their work and files will be saved and they can access them each time they log on.

Non-persistent desktop

With a non-persistent desktop, all changes will be removed when logging off, and frequently the virtual machines are destroyed and regenerated anew. So, when the user logs back in they will be greeted with the same standard desktop as every other user, regardless of what changes they made previously.

Non-persistent desktops are often used for students and in environments such as public libraries, where any saved files are only needed temporarily, and users don’t have a personal login.

VDA in more detail

This is simply a license to access a VDI desktop. Feeling that a VDI environment eliminates the need for additional Microsoft Windows desktop licenses, Microsoft instead requires VDA licenses whenever a user is accessing the VDI environment from a non-organization owned or BYO device.


It is important to know the difference when implementing a virtualization solution on your campus. VDI is the actual solution and platform itself. If you want a multitude of devices to be able to access one desktop then a VDI solution is a good choice. VDA on the other hand is the license each user-owned device needs in order to access a VDI desktop. If you are running VDI, any devices not covered by Microsoft Windows SA will need a separate VDA license.

*It is always best to check with your Microsoft Licenses representative to verify what coverage and licenses are required.

Benefits of VDA Coverage

The key benefit of VDA licenses is that users can access the desktop from any device that is not owned or associated with the organization and they do not need to be operating on the organization’s domain or network to do so.

Why Consider a VDA License

Having a VDA license greatly increases the flexibility of your VDI system. Rather than having it locked into the set number of machines owned by your organization, VDA coverage allows any licensed device to access the system from anywhere, thus allowing people to work and learn from home, on their commute, and even from abroad with remote access.

Depending on the reason for implementing VDI, VDA coverage can be a crucial part of making it worth your while if you want users to be able to access VDI desktops anywhere, anytime. Whereas a VDI solution might be a useful tool for your campus, VDA makes that tool far more flexible and accessible.

If you’d like to find out more about VDI or virtualization solutions for your organization, please get in touch with our expert team today.