An increasingly popular solution for higher education organizations in need of a reliable, robust remote working solution, Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is becoming a widespread option for many higher education organizations. As a practical and effective way to allow access to essential working tools from anywhere, DaaS offers the ideal way to achieve virtualization in an academic environment.

What is DaaS and what kinds of DaaS solutions are available on the market? DaaS is a virtual desktop solution similar to VDI and RDS but with subtle differences that should be considered when choosing the right solution for an organization and its students.

What is DaaS?

Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is a cloud-based technology that provides online access to a wide range of different virtual applications and programs through a type of digital desktop. Instead of restricting users to one specific desktop on a particular computer, anyone with access to DaaS can use virtual apps and desktops on any suitable device. This could include laptops, desktop computers, tablets, or smartphones.

As a cloud-based solution, DaaS requires an internet connection to be usable and infrastructure must be in place to always ensure consistent access to the virtual desktop. DaaS is a popular desktop virtualization solution across many industries and businesses as the need for remote working grows, and the higher education sector is no exception to this growing requirement.

How does DaaS work?

Desktop as a Service solutions work by using either a public or private cloud server to create an always-available, virtual desktop infrastructure that anyone with the correct permissions can access. Staff can access this hosted desktop offered by a cloud provider to work virtually.

Instead of specific programs, files, and applications being stored locally on individual computers, DaaS brings the complete working environment online. Often provided as a subscription-style service, Desktop as a Service offers a dedicated, specific working environment for staff that is separate from their application or files.

In most cases, the cloud provider is a third-party, and this third-party hosts the specific virtual desktop infrastructure required to make DaaS function appropriately. The cloud host will also be responsible for storage, maintenance, and upkeep of that infrastructure. This infrastructure is then streamed through the cloud directly to staff devices, allowing access without the need for excessive hardware or high-level specifications for even the most complex of applications.

Similarly to VDI, DaaS is available as either persistent desktops or non-persistent desktops which can have an impact on how students are able to interact with and use the solution.

Types of DaaS

Desktop as a Service is available in a range of different formats and purposes. Some of the most popular kinds of DaaS solutions include:


Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a specific DaaS model where the organization has ownership over the entire network and infrastructure of the setup, without any third parties. VDI is a higher-cost alternative to subscription-based DaaS solutions but provides more control over system security and offers the benefits of DaaS such as less computing power required by end-users.


Remote Desktop Services (RDS), also known as terminal services, is a specific form of DaaS that uses Windows technology to form a virtual desktop. Often used conventionally in offices, remote desktop services work through a single server which then provides the virtual desktop for all users. In circumstances where only Windows technology is required, an RDS may be the best fit for a DaaS solution.

Hosted desktops

Hosted desktops are a crucial component of the majority of DaaS solutions. This type of DaaS is where a virtual desktop is hosted on the cloud, which users can access. This could be individual desktops for each user or a collective public desktop that multiple users can access at once. Hosted desktops are an essential part of DaaS, and present in just about every virtual infrastructure form.

Virtual apps

Virtual applications and software are one of the main benefits of a DaaS solution. In many cases, intensive programs and applications are the reason for a virtual desktop in the first place. By providing hosted access, high-level computer power specifications aren’t required to allow users to access computing-intensive applications. As long as internet access is available and hosting is reliable, anyone can access software from any device.

How is DaaS being used within higher education?

DaaS solutions are already a staple in man office worldwide. However, higher education organizations have only just begun to realize the huge benefits that DaaS can offer to students and educators alike.

Here are some of the reasons and ways in which DaaS is used within higher education settings:

Continuity of education

DaaS adoption is an invaluable tool to allow students to learn and develop skills in their own time. By providing consistent access to software, applications, and tools, it's much easier for students to practice what they have learned in their own time.

Hybrid teaching approach

By providing additional options and avenues for studying and learning, DaaS supports students in developing new ways to work both on and off campus. It makes it possible for students to access the resources and software they need to complete their studies.

Resource and application access

DaaS offers consistent, high-quality access to resources for students both on-campus and remotely. This means that providing students with the study materials and applications needed to succeed is far more manageable, and far less work for all parties involved.

BYOD support

With many campuses using Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies for students, DaaS offers a way to allow students to gain access to the resources and applications they need, regardless of the suitability of their devices, or the computing power of their technology. Solutions such as DaaS enable BYOD policies to work seamlessly by allowing students to work anytime and anywhere, without having to be tied to the opening times or availability of campus labs.

How does DaaS compare to VDI?

Both DaaS and VDI are cloud-hosted desktops and serve very similar functions. However, there are a few subtle differences to be aware of when choosing a solution. One of the main differences is that VDI solutions are managed by an in-house IT team, whereas DaaS is managed completely by the cloud provider.

DaaS provides a powerful way to make virtual desktops go further and do more, especially in an educational setting. By reducing the pressure on IT support and handing maintenance to a third-party, it’s far easier to create a functional, adequate virtual infrastructure that perfectly suits student’s needs.

Other solutions are available in the form of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS too so it’s useful to have an understanding of these solutions too to know where DaaS and VDI can be beneficial and the solutions they can provide.

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