The Secret Security Wiki


Virtual Desktop

A virtual desktop is an operating system and accompanying applications that are hosted on a server and made accessible to an endpoint – typically a remote endpoint – as if it was running locally on the endpoint. Virtual desktops are typically accessed through client software installed directly on an endpoint, and whose job it is to allow the user to interact with the remote virtual desktop – present it on the screen, providing input using a local keyboard, mouse, touchscreen, and peripherals.

Virtual desktop clients are available for a wide variety of devices, including PCs, tablets, smartphones and other devices.

In certain cases, the virtual desktop is implemented locally as a virtual machine (VM), on the same machine from which it is accessed – typically a PC. The main use case for running a desktop locally as a VM is to create multiple desktops on one host PC.

Providers of virtual desktop solutions include Citrix, Oracle, VMWare, Microsoft, and others.

There are a number of reasons why virtual desktops are used:

  • Virtual desktops are used as a replacement for a physical desktop, in cases where there is no justification to provide an employee with a physical machine to host his work applications – typically when an employee needs only occasional access to his work applications. In such cases, a virtual desktop can be provided on an unmanaged PC – typically the employee-owned PC.
  • Some companies determine that it is more cost effective to replace a high-performance PC with a cheaper thin client that can only interface a virtual desktop hosted on a remote server.
  • Other companies perceive virtual desktop as a means to more cost-effective when managing IT because OS and other software updates are easier to manage.
  • Virtual desktops also provide a means to ensure that that company data is isolated and secured on the company’s servers or cloud, and not on the endpoint itself. As a result, the threat associated with a lost or stolen laptop or mobile device is greatly diminished. And because virtual desktops are easier to update, then patching the OS and applications is easier to do, which also contributes to better security.


  • What is the purpose of a virtual desktop?

    A virtual desktop provides employees with flexible access to a workstation. The operating system and applications that make up the workstation are hosted on a remote server and managed by an administrator. Employees can access their workstations from any device that is running a lightweight client software and can establish a connection to the hosting server(s).

  • How does a virtual desktop work?

    A virtual desktop is an operating system and applications that are hosted on a remote server – typically as a virtual machine (VM) – and made accessible to its user from any device that is running a lightweight client software.

  • What is the difference between VDI and Citrix?

    Citrix is a vendor of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions designed to make virtual desktops accessible from a multitude of client devices. Citrix also markets and sells other solutions.

  • What is the difference between VDI and VM?

    A virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a type of virtual machine (VM) that typically runs a workstation operating system and software, allowing an employee to carry out his work. A virtual machine (VM) can run any operating system, including server operating systems like Linux, Windows Server, Solaris, etc. In VDI, virtual machines typically run desktop operating systems like MacOS or Windows to allow running common productivity software applications like an email client, Web browser, Microsoft Office, etc.

  • What is a VDI terminal?

    VDI terminal typically refers to a thin client device that can be used to access a virtual desktop. A thin client is a lightweight computer that has been optimized for establishing a remote connection with a server-based computing environment.