A lot of small businesses struggle with the question of providing their staff with a computer (and the costs associated with that) or letting them bring their own device (BYOD) and the potential security risks that can pose. There’s a third way. Desktop as a Service.
What is Desktop as a Service?
Desktop as a Service is a term used to describe services like Amazon’s AWS Workspaces. There is no physical computer, a user simply logs in using an app on any device (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac etc.) and a computer desktop with all their necessary apps is presented to them.
Not just Word or Excel or a web browser, either. Line-of-business applications as well. Apps like Adobe apps, accounting software, even Voice over IP applications. It will even connect to a local printer.
So how could Desktop as a Service help a small business?
For starters, you have access to a Windows 7 or Windows 10 computer without needing to purchase or lease one. Amazon workspaces can be paid for by the hour (from US$10 per month + US$0.28 per hour), or by the month (from US$33 per month) for unlimited hours.
The “computer” can be accessed from any device, anywhere an internet connection is available. There is no need to setup your network with a VPN. The Windows 7 or 10 machine can be accesses from an iPad or tablet device and run the apps as if using a full physical computer. All the processing etc. is done on the Amazon end and sent to the device. This makes it great for doing things like processor intensive graphics or video work, or complex calculations, and pushing them to a less powerful machine.
DaaS means businesses that allow BYoD don’t have to worry about employees computer security or your files falling into the wrong hands, because nothing is stored on a physical device.
They also don’t have the worry of ensuring software licences are removed from devices upon a staff member or contractor leaving. The workspaces account simply gets deleted.
The “computer” doesn’t get old or start running slowly. All the hardware maintenance is done by Amazon, and included in the price. All the Windows updates are taken care of. We do recommend you hire a managed services provider to help you set it up and manage it for you, though.
AWS workspaces don’t currently allow access to local drives. Users instead have access to Amazon WorkDocs (like Google Drive, Dropbox et al). They can also download individual files from Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive web interface, though due to space restrictions, users wouldn’t install those services’ respective sync apps. Users of those services will need to use WorkDocs as well to get the “best” experience.
The default Amazon permission only allows for one Workspace machine to be active on your account. Users need to log a ticket to have that increased, but it’s a formality more than an application.
The cost can add up. Unlimited access starts at US$33 per month. At current exchange rates, that’s ~AU$44 (24/1/2017) per month, plus management fees, for a base desktop that to be honest is a bit sluggish. A desktop that’s half reasonable will cost ~AU$60 / month plus management costs. Compare that to the cost of a managed physical computer for ~$800 + management costs, that will last 2 – 3 years. So it’s not necessarily an inexpensive option.
So who’s it for?
Businesses that need
- constant access to their workspaces, without the worry of whether you’ve left your computer at work;
- use line-of-business installed apps and employ staff with Bring Your Own Devices;
- don’t have a VPN set up; and / or
- have large processing needs (graphics, video etc.) but don’t want to or have the means invest in dedicated hardware.
Desktop as a Service is definitely an option for small business who have the need for the flexibility it offers, or don’t have the budget or desire to invest in hardware.