More and more, organizations are looking for technology solutions that eliminate the burden of hardware and increase the mobility of their workforce. Perhaps one of the most attractive of these solutions is cloud desktops (also known as hosted desktops, virtual desktops or VDI), which essentially deliver computing power to any device connected to the Internet without the need for your own servers.
 
Not only is this solution an attractive one, but it is also a fairly new development in the realm of managed services. These two factors combined mean that we at Optimal get a lot of questions about what a solution like this may cost.
 
There are many elements in play when it comes to cloud desktops, but we’ll work through the features and average price ranges below.
 

What is a cloud (virtual) desktop?

For this article, we’ll define a “cloud desktop” as a Windows-based virtual desktop that is being delivered over the Internet to your device (be it an iPad, thin client, laptop, PC, Mac, or otherwise).
 
In other words, a cloud desktop gives you that Windows desktop experience that we’re all familiar with, but the actual computing power is coming from your provider’s servers at a remote datacenter—not your own devices.
 


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What is the average price range for a cloud desktop?

What you’ll end up investing in your cloud desktop largely depends on two factors:

1. The features that your cloud desktop is equipped with. How much can you actually do with your cloud desktop? Everything you could with your own workstation?

2. The back-end infrastructure that is delivering the cloud desktop solution to you. Is your provider dedicating one virtual server to your whole company and delivering your solution by way of a terminal server, or do they have highly redundant, backed-up, protected, Citrix-based systems?

When you move from least to most sophisticated on these two scales, you’ll see providers offering cloud desktop solutions from $40 to $250 per desktop per month on average.
 
At the low end you’ll encounter solutions that consist of a basic Windows session with no programs or applications installed. These products will run you roughly $40 to $80 per desktop per month on average.
 
From there, providers will begin adding applications like Microsoft Office, and Microsoft Exchange email services.
 
Cloud desktops that are closer to the $200+ per desktop price often include higher-level features such as:

  • Unlimited technical support
  • Thin clients to take the place of your workstations
  • Data storage and backup
  • Security protection (such as antivirus programs)
  • Customized application installation (so you can put your whole network in the cloud)
  • High redundancy across multiple data centers

With such a wide range of offerings, you can see how important it is to properly vet your cloud desktop providers, and to make sure you know precisely what is included in the service you’re signing up for (and what may end up costing you more down the road).
 
Above all else, be sure that you take a good hard look at that service level your provider adheres to.
 
Remember: while cloud desktops might remove the burden of maintaining your own infrastructure, this also means that you’re shifting that responsibility onto your provider. Can you trust them with it? If something goes wrong, how quickly will they respond to get it fixed? Are they motivated to keep you up and running at peak efficiency at all times?
 
When it comes down to it, not even the most mind-blowingly advanced technology solution will do you much good if there aren’t good people behind it.
 

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