What Is DAAS?

Desktop-as-a-service supports a new mode of remote computing

We always want our computers with us, no matter where we are. But for those without laptops, the desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) industry makes it possible to have your desktop wherever you have internet access. Here's what you need to know about DaaS and whether it's right for you.

What Is Desktop-as-a-Service (Daas)?

To understand desktop-as-a-service, we need to consider the desktop first. The desktop is what you see when your computer finishes booting up. The desktop is a functional tool to help you organize your thoughts and make it easier to use your computer.

Instead of typing strings of code into a computer to make it perform tasks, and trying to remember where you put your files, you can open a virtual file cabinet (File Explorer, in this case) and go through your documents.

Windows 10 desktop with File Explorer open

In this particular case, the desktop is tied to the physical computer. A computer programmer would say your desktop is local. If you ask it to do something, it uses the processor and memory on the computer to get it done.

Furthermore, many tasks that once needed dedicated computer power, such as editing photos, are increasingly being done through websites, and many important files are being stored remotely. Instead of installing a faster processor and more memory, for example, you can now use the power and memory of remote servers to perform computing tasks and keep your files safe. This approach is called cloud computing.

DaaS, sometimes called Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI, takes cloud storage a step further and stores the entire desktop on a remote server. It's like storing your home computer on the internet and logging into it from anything with a processor and a screen.

With a DaaS tool, you go to a website, log in, and your desktop appears with all your files, software, personal preferences, and everything else that makes your computer "yours" on the screen. Think of it like a virtual storage unit, with everything tucked away and arranged perfectly, and you unlock it whenever you feel like using it.

Why Use DaaS?

DaaS is popular because it does almost everything your computer does at home but in a remote server. For example, if you need to use advanced software, you could run that software remotely, using the DaaS to interact with it, without lugging a laptop or having your computer strain to finish a task.

On a more practical level, DaaS systems can make cheap, slow computers more powerful. For example, a hybrid computer might do simple tasks like word processing locally, with the processor inside the computer, and switch to DaaS-type services to handle more complicated jobs.

DaaS requires a high-speed internet connection to stream the desktop to a local client.

Do I Need a DaaS?

DaaS is mostly for large corporations and people who need to access complex software or other tools but don't have a computer capable of running that software. For most of us, it's overkill, at least for the moment.