In a world that is increasingly relying on technology to connect, physical desktops are becoming a thing of the past, with solutions such as remote desktop services (RDS) and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure allowing easier remote access and less maintenance for IT departments and end-users alike.

When looking to offer the best student experience within higher education organizations, solutions such as a cloud-based remote desktop system are offering great opportunities. When considering both VDI and RDS for desktop virtualization, it’s important to bear in mind that both provide different benefits and drawbacks. This guide will take a look at the pros and cons of each solution.

What is VDI?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) replaces physical desktops by running individual user desktops within virtual machines. It provides users with remote access to a virtual desktop from their own devices, meaning they can pick up their studies from almost anywhere.

VDI deployment is ideal for supporting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, which can lower the amount of time your IT department spends on maintaining and updating physical devices. It is ideal for a mix of remote access and on-campus learning, allowing students to transition between the two seamlessly.

Key benefits of VDI

VDI has a number of benefits for higher education organizations, including:


VDI allows IT departments to tailor resources to make them available for different users based on their individual needs. For example, students who may need access to video editing software will require more resources for their desktops than those who are just using basic word processing software.

A VDI environment provides this flexibility and helps to ensure that all users have access to the tools they need. However, with RDS, if a remote user is draining the resources, it will have an impact for others trying to access the machines, physically and remotely.


A VDI desktop can be used across any device and operating system which makes the solution accessible for all students, no matter where they are or which device they choose to use.


Security is one of the biggest benefits of implementing a VDI solution. Rather than data being stored on each individual device, the data is stored on the central server so there is less risk of data being leaked beyond the organization, and secure remote access can be provided.

What is RDS?

Remote Desktop Services differ from VDI solutions in a number of ways. RDS is software that runs on a single server and users can connect to a virtual machine or operating system (sharing the applications and hardware) and access desktops from any computer that is running remote desktop software. Great for classes, multiple users can access a single environment, which can then be customized for each individual.

One of the primary differences between RDS and VDI is that, when it comes to VDI, receives their own virtual server but, with RDS, all users access a single server.

Key benefits of RDS

When considering RDS deployment within a higher education organization, there is a range of benefits on offer.

Low costs

The overall costs of running RDS are lower than traditional solutions and VDI solutions. With RDS, licensing costs are much lower because users share a single system.

Easy to implement and maintain

Ideal for busy IT departments, it is easy to both implement and maintain, freeing up time for other projects and concerns. The RDS infrastructure is also easy to set up as it requires fewer components than VDI. It also takes up fewer resources and time to maintain for IT departments.

On the other hand, VDI requires high-level skills from IT departments to both implement and maintain.

Flexible and scalable solutions

With flexible and scalable solutions, there is a whole range of RDS solutions to choose from, so they can easily be adapted to fit in with the needs of an organization, both when it comes to students and staff.

Drawbacks of RDS

Alongside the benefits, there are also a few drawbacks that should be considered when choosing between RDS and VDI solutions.

Limited personalization

When it comes to RDS solutions, personalization is extremely limited. Since users will be sharing resources, this may lead to some performance issues and it can be difficult for you to ensure that all students will have access to the resources they need, especially if one end-user is using high-performance apps or software. This can prevent other students from being able to access the system properly and will affect their experience.

Compatibility issues

RDS solutions are not quite as widely compatible as VDI solutions and this can cause a few issues. IT departments may run into an application or software that is incompatible which can affect the delivery of essential resources to students.

Downtime issues

Unless you have a strong and reliable system, there may be problems with downtime. It’s important to make sure the system is robust enough to handle the demands placed upon it.

Which solution is better?

Making the choice between an RDS solution and a VDI solution can be difficult but the right solution is down to the one that best meets the organization's needs.


With VDI, the admin is simplified, with a single master image being configured and updated. This ensures easy uniformity. Whereas, with an RDS solution, the desktop image on the server is cloned and presented to multiple users.

Complex environments

Should you have a large organization with a diverse staff and student population, it is likely that complex environments suitable for a range of different users will be required. For example, not all students will be studying the same subjects at the same time and there may be visiting professors with different needs. For these organizations, VDI is an excellent option because it provides more flexibility to users, while still being easy to use and maintain.

VDI also offers both persistent VDI and non-persistent VDI solutions which provide even more flexibility in the way that the solution can be used across an organization.

RDS is the best solution for organizations that are home to a range of users who want to access the same application or resource. While there is less flexibility, it provides a level of uniformity, assigning many users to the same Windows server.


If keeping costs down is a priority over flexibility and adaptability, an RDS solution would be the best fit. RDS is one of the most cost-effective solutions available, whereas VDI can be one of the most expensive.

When it comes to the best solution, it’s dependent on individual organizations. While the differences may seem small, they can have a huge impact for end-users and IT departments. It’s important to carefully consider these needs, alongside each of the benefits and drawbacks of each solution.

You can find out more about VDI solutions by clicking here.

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