Windows Virtual Desktop vs RDS

Published on May 22, 2020

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Remote Desktop Services (or Terminal Services for anyone still running legacy versions of Windows Server) has been an essential part of the Microsoft remote access story for over 20 years. Now that Windows Virtual Desktop is increasing in popularity, it’s time to compare the two. Do you stick with RDS or move to Windows Virtual Desktop? Maybe there is a place for both of them in your environment: let’s explore this, too.

RDS and Windows Virtual Desktop compared and contrasted

Remote Desktop Services (RDS) operates on a simple client-server model. A server or desktop running RDS acts as the server; any remote client machine supporting Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) can be the client. This gives secure access to applications and desktop environments to users, who might be working remotely – or simply wanting to access a Windows Server application on their desktop while in the office.

RDS does have limitations. These include:

  • Complexity: specially trained resources are required to ensure smooth management and deployment;
  • Single sessions: the expansion of single-session experience to multi-session is not possible. Users cannot allow multiple access instances at any single point in time.
  • Cost: additional maintenance and operational expenses incurred due to centrally hosting it on an on-prem server.

Windows Virtual Desktop was born in the cloud: more specifically, in Microsoft Azure. WVD is a set of cloud services that you can use to build virtual desktops for your users or customers. It provides a comprehensive desktop and app virtualisation service, allowing remote users to have a real-time desktop experience of Windows 10. 

Windows Virtual Desktop allows administrators to manage desktops easily, without the difficulties that managing physical devices presents.

Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) combines the benefits of Azure and Microsoft 365, allowing:

  • Multi-session Windows 10 experience
  • Office 365 Pro Plus across multi-user virtual scenarios
  • Unified Management in Azure allowing for secure virtualisation of modern and legacy desktop applications on the cloud

The cost of WVD

To understand the cost of WVD, you have to break it down into its subcomponents, and consider the cost of each component when comparing them to other alternatives like Remote Desktop Services (RDS).  

The three primary building blocks for WVD are: 

  • Azure Infrastructure – WVD supports two types of desktops, namely personal and pooled. The consumption cost for Azure resources depends on many factors. The cost of this Azure infrastructure is similar to if you were using RDS to deliver Windows desktops using “desktop experience” rather than the native Windows 10 look from WVD.
  • Windows Virtual Desktop Management Service – the installation and management of RDS roles are no longer necessary, seeing as they form part of WVD Management Service hosted in Azure. This eliminates previously associated costs as these now fall on Microsoft.
  • Software Licensing – You probably already have the necessary licensing (Windows 10 Enterprise) taken care of through your Microsoft 365 subscription (A3, A5, E3, E5, Business), a Windows plan (E3, A3, A5, Business), or Windows 10 Enterprise VDA. 

Windows Virtual Desktop or RDS?

Anyone trying to go fully cloud will be compelled to discard RDS in favour of Windows Virtual Desktop:

  • WVD allows easy, scalable cloud management and deployment
  • It sits on the public cloud – no need for your own infrastructure
  • WVD gives users an up-to-date, fully featured (with ProPlus) Windows 10 desktop

You may choose to stick with RDS because:

  • You are running applications that may not work immediately in Windows 10 multi-session
  • You retain full ownership of the desktop VMs, and don’t want them in the public cloud
  • You can use it on-premise and in Azure

THE VERDICT: RDS still has a place for hybrid infrastructures with significant, legacy technology investments. For everyone else: Windows Virtual Desktop is a compelling solution, particularly in this day and age of remote working.


Experteq are experts in Windows Virtual Desktop and RDS. Contact us to discuss your environment, users, and use cases – and hear what projects we’ve recently completed. Let our expertise guide your journey toward the Modern Workplace.

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