Difference between Virtual Machine and Virtual Desktop

Virtual Machine and Virtual Desktop

Virtual machines and virtual desktops are often used interchangeably. Although the two entities are closely related, they are not identical. The virtual machine concept is often used to understand the technology behind virtual desktops. But suppose you wanted to deploy virtualization in your office. What you would be looking for are virtual desktops and not virtual machines.

Accordingly, cloud service providers are responsible for delivering virtual desktops that can work as virtual workspaces. Virtual machines, on the other hand, remain behind the curtains and form the backbone of virtual desktops.

So, what are a virtual machine and a virtual desktop? How are they related, and how do they differ in technology and application? Let’s find out.

Virtual Machine

A virtual machine refers to the virtualized form of a physical computing environment. It is an embodiment of desktop virtualization and operates like a traditional computer system. Like the latter, it has a CPU, storage, and memory but not in a conventional sense. That is because a virtual machine relies entirely on software to run applications. Virtual machines are based on a physical host machine; a single host can run multiple virtual machines simultaneously.

For purposes of distinction, each virtual machine would have its operating system. Everyday use of virtual machines involves increasing the firepower of hardware. Virtual machines are often used so that a hardware or guest operating system can endure more significant levels of computing ability.

Just as a virtual desktop relies on a virtual machine in the background, a virtual machine depends upon a special software known as a ‘hypervisor.’ Every physical host machine deploys a hypervisor to host a virtual machine. The software is designed to mask the appearance of a virtual environment. In other words, a hypervisor is why users cannot tell if they are working with a virtualized system. A hypervisor ensures that all applications appear and run as they would in their native version.

Virtual Desktop

A virtual desktop is available to end users through managed desktop services or DaaS (Desktop as a Service). The primary difference between a virtual desktop and a virtual machine is end-user availability. Virtual machines are available to end users in the form of virtual machines. So virtual desktops are the applied form of the technology behind virtual machines. Virtual desktop is also a marketable term. That is, a virtual desktop is a term used by vendors to market and deploy virtual machines. The reason for this is simple. The ‘machine’ in a virtual machine is a generic term and can refer to any machine.

On the other hand, clients are looking to replace physical desktops with their virtual counterparts, that is ‘virtual desktops. The latter term, therefore, makes more sense to them. Both ‘virtual machine’ and ‘virtual desktop’ are widely used in the virtualization space. In terms of technology, there is no difference between the two. The only difference lies in how ‘virtual desktop’ is marketed, and ‘virtual machine’ is not.

Virtual Desktops vs. Virtual Machines

Virtual desktops have taken the virtualization market by storm. These come with many benefits to help businesses of every size and sector. When we talk about the benefits of virtual desktops, we do not refer to virtual machines. Why? Because although virtual machines are behind virtual desktops, virtual desktop providers focus on the applications rather than the technology behind virtual desktops. Virtual desktops exist to rival and outperform physical desktops. As a result, providers typically emphasize the ‘desktop’ part of the virtual desktops rather than the ‘virtual’ part.

As we’ve seen, the latter has to do with virtualization technology. But for this technology to work as well as it does, virtual desktops must act like the physical ones. Although virtual desktops are designed to outperform their physical counterpart, the user experience remains the same. Virtual desktops go through constant upgradation for a smoother and more seamless user experience. Nevertheless, the user experience must bear the component of familiarity so users work as confidently as they would with a physical computer. In referring to virtual machines, the term ‘user experience is hardly used.

Features of Virtual Desktops:

1. Virtualized Workspace

Virtual desktops can transform the physical world into a virtual space. With virtual desktops, employees can access the most advanced tools for workload management from anywhere. Virtual desktops via virtual machines tied to physical host machines or servers located at isolated data centers across continents. On the other hand, virtual desktops are available on any internet-connected device. They facilitate workload access from remote locations using the internet. Thus, the limits of a contemporary workspace are not confined to the physical office space. Thanks to virtual desktops, physical officers are transformed into virtual workspaces that can be accessed anytime.

2. Data Security

Virtual desktops work by hosting data and applications on third-party cloud servers. Trust issues arise when businesses implicitly rely on hosting partners for secure data storage. Such problems have plagued modern organizations time and again. But virtual desktops are designed to be as safe as they can be. Providers implement physical and digital safeguards at all levels to prevent data breaches. Most organizations that store data in-house may not be aware of these safeguards. Not to mention, implementing them can come at a high cost.

As mentioned, servers responsible for hosting data are in data centers spread across continents. These data centers are usually found in the world’s most secure locations. They also have physical safeguards such as CCTV surveillance in place. As a result, data breaches originating in these locations are rare. It is also important to remember that security breaches tend to develop in the office. Virtual desktops offload on-premises data storage and eliminate the possibilities of this.

3. Budget-friendly

Cost is a factor that often takes precedence. For most small to medium businesses, virtual desktops help cut down unnecessary costs. Providers such as Ace Cloud Hosting offer a combination of nominal base offerings and flexible pricing plans. Businesses benefit from a tailor-made pricing plan that accommodates their specific needs. Most providers also provide pay-as-you-go pricing. This way, organizations need only pay for the number of resources they end up using.

Additionally, virtual desktops involve no hardware or set-up costs. It lets businesses do away with elaborate IT teams as a fully managed service. They also facilitate the implementation of BYOD (Bring Your Device) for employees, further eliminating the cost of office wear.

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