Remote Desktop Service vs VPN: What is best for your business?

In 2020, we have seen a huge move towards the use of remote access technologies. For instance, in the form of Remote Desktop Services and VPNs. The move came as workforces across the globe were told they had to work from home if they wanted to continue operating. According to research, RDS use is up by 41% and enterprise VPN use is up by 33%.

While you may think VPNs and Remote Desktop Services do the same thing by allowing secure remote access, they are both in fact very different. If you have found yourself scratching your head when looking into the two options and are unsure which to choose for your organisation, then this blog is for you. We have distilled down both, outlining what they are, how they function and discussed who they work best for.

Remote Desktop Service

Remote Desktop Service (RDS) is a remote-connection software that enables you to securely access your apps and data from anywhere. Due to workforces becoming increasingly distributed, Remote Desktop Services were already becoming more commonplace before the pandemic. However, subsequent lockdowns accelerated this move.

To the end-user, it feels no different to a traditional desktop hosted locally. The difference lies in where your data and applications are stored. RDS’s are hosted in the cloud from a secure data centre rather than relying on an on-site server. By lifting your software, data and apps to the cloud, they are given a new lease of life. It also makes it possible for them to be accessed from virtually anywhere with an internet connection, on any device. All that is required for one to be used is a small piece of software downloaded onto the device of a user.

Our flagship product, the Serval Hosted Workspace is a Remote Desktop Service, based on the Citrix platform. It is based on a menu of public and private cloud services which are chosen by you, the customer. You decide what is critical to your company and the package will reflect that. As it can be accessed on any device and is encrypted so consequently secure, there are no security or compatibility issues.

Businesses across the globe are using Remote Desktop Services for several reasons. Some of the main reasons include:

  • No, IT expertise required
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Scalability
  • Enhanced security
  • Increased mobility
  • Reduced downtime


A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is much different from an RDS. One works by encrypting data through a tunnel, acting as a gateway to safeguard the information sent and received by staff. It will also help protect their internet connections from unauthorised intrusion. Essentially it is a smaller private network on top of a larger public network.

If you want your workforce to use a VPN, you will need to have a VPN server configured in the office as well as on all the devices your staff are using. This can make it fairly complex to use and set up. Moreover, if you forget to share access to a folder before leaving the office, you won’t be able to change this. Once set up, that’s the way it stays and there is not much flexibility.

Another difference is that a VPN doesn’t provide devices with any additional life or functionalities. Staff still use the same old devices, only their IP addresses have changed and they will be working more securely. Furthermore, what VPNs cannot do, is allow remote workers access to that same desktop they have when in the office. For instance, the same software and set up. For some, this makes remote working difficult as essential software they need to work is stored on that computer.

What is best for you?

Both services are great ways to ensure secure remote working. However, what is better will be down largely to how long you intend to have staff working remotely for as well as how often and where they will be working. A Remote Desktop Service is perhaps better as a long-term solution and if staff are regularly working remotely across a number of locations. This is because they will have access to all applications, tools and files they have when in the office. A VPN, on the other hand, is perhaps best for businesses as a short-term fix and who don’t have staff moving between multiple sites because when configured properly, they will only have access to files and folders they need to work on, but away from prying eyes.

If you are going to continue allowing your workforce to work remotely post-pandemic, then one of the solutions discussed above will be crucial to ensure this is done so securely. Covid-19 and the subsequent rise of home working have resulted in a surge in cyber-crime. As a result, hackers are actively targeting those who have failed to secure their remote working policies.

Since we began, our services have made working more flexible, but as secure as when in the office. If you would like some assistance or advice on how this can be done in your business, please get in touch for a free, no-obligation chat with one of our experienced consultants.