What Is DAAS?

Desktop as a service is a thing. Are you ready to rent?

A woman using her laptop on Tenerife

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We always want our computers with us, no matter where we are. But for those of us without laptops, the desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) industry makes it possible to have your desktop wherever you have the internet. 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 has finished 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 your 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 will use the processor and memory on your computer to get it done. But this has limits, as anybody who's had a computer slow down or freeze can tell you.

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 as well. 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 is called cloud computing.

DaaS, sometimes also called Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI, takes cloud storage a step further and stores the whole thing on a remote computer you rent out access to for a monthly fee. It's essentially 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, all your software, all your 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 just unlock it whenever you feel like using it.

Why Use DaaS?

DaaS is popular because it does almost everything your computer does at home in a remote server. This means, for example, that if you needed to use some advanced software, you could run that software remotely, using the DaaS to interact with it, without needing to lug around 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.

Do I Need A DaaS?

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

However, it's worth keeping an eye on DaaS technology. It may be used, for example, to save us money by letting us keep our computers longer, or used to preserve your desktop just the way it is and “restore” it if your hard drive breaks. That will mean cheaper, safer, more durable computers, and that's good news for all of us.