Virtual Desktop Environments vs Remote Desktop Access

Virtual Desktop Environments vs Remote Desktop Access

Originally posted at in May 2015

This article explains the basic differences between a Virtual desktop environment and a Remote Desktop Environment.

 You’ve heard a lot about the Cloud, VDI’s and desktops as a service.   But what does it all mean?   Read on to learn more!

Virtual Desktop Environments

A virtual computer desktop environment is where the Operating System of the computer is virtualized onto a server and the user then accesses the virtual computer remotely via either Thin Client hardware, from a Web Browser, client software or other type of computing device. Popular providers of virtual desktops environments are VMWare and Citrix. They can either exist on a physical server in your own office or on a Cloud environment such as Amazon EC2. These environments are generally known as a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

One key advantage of a virtual environment is the backend control to manage the environment from the server side. Everything is looked after such as backups, logging off sessions, end user support and so on without having to access the local computing device, be it a desktop or tablet. As long as the back end servers are running the user can have access to their Desktop anytime.


Remote Desktop Access

Remote Desktop Access is where a user remotely connects to a physical computer directly via remote desktop protocol. In this case the user connects to a server and then from there uses Microsoft Remote Desktop to connect to the computer desired. This means that a computer must be powered on and connected to the network or the remote session will fail. For remote desktop access to work, the user needs to be running an agent or client tool installed on the Desktop they want to access and the remote access tool from the computer they want to access it from.

Some well-known Remote Desktop tools are “Remote Desktop Protocol or RDP”, “Virtual Network Computing or VNC”, LogMeIN,, Team Viewer, etc….


Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A virtual private network allows a desktop computer at home to connect to a private network at the office and allows the home computer to access the office’s network resources as if it were actually in the office physically connected directly to the network. There are different protocols used for VPN implementations such as OpenVPN and IPSec. Some of the more popular commercial VPN tools are Cisco VPN, and CheckPoint VPN. This method does not require a physical computer to actually be on at the office.

A downside to VPN’s is that many places, such as hotels, block access to VPN’s which negates the ability for remote access to work correctly.


Paul Comtois is a Client Support Specialist at Triella, a technology consulting company specializing in providing technology audits, planning advice, project management and other CIO-related services to small and medium sized firms. Paul can be reached at 647.426.1004. For additional articles, go to Triella is a VMware Professional Partner, Microsoft Certified Partner, Citrix Solution Advisor – Silver, Dell Preferred Partner, Authorized Worldox Reseller and a Kaspersky Reseller.

© 2015 by Triella Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction with credit is permitted.

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