Synopsis–Cloud-based desktops provide SMBs with the much-needed mobility to work from anywhere, anytime, and on any device in a highly secure environment.
The key issue bothering organisations of every size and type is how to ensure employees’ productivity remains unaffected during the remote working process. In ensuring so, the idea of a cloud-based virtual computing solution, popularly known as Desktop as a Service (DaaS) has lately gained immense traction.
As the name suggests, a typical DaaS set up replaces the need for physical computing setup, transforming how firms used to think of what’s called End-User Computing (EUC).
As organizations go about choosing the right fit technology model to ensure workers’ seamless access to enterprise applications, the DaaS model, as a reliable, secure, and cost-effective option, seems to tick all the right boxes.
Among the many benefits the new trend brings to the table, helping firms cut costs remains its biggest highlight. Recalling his venture’s initial days, Anurag Jain, Co-Founder and CTO of end-to-end customer experience company Oriserve, says DaaS has been an enabler from day one. When the company started, it didn’t have enough capital to invest in physical servers or physical private data centres, so the natural option before the firm was to opt for any cloud-based service, he says. “Our experience of using DaaS turned out to be much better compared to other options. With its out of the box services, it enabled us to experiment with many productivity tools on the cloud, that otherwise was not possible. We could execute tasks in days that could have taken months. From one of our client, there was a huge load on our systems, up to 20X volume of what we used to handle before Covid times and we handled it well,” he recalls.
Echoing similar views, Gaurav Tripathi, CEO & Founder of tech platform Superpro.ai, says the flexibility of scaling up without a huge investment, i.e “no dead investment cost,” for infrastructure remains the trend’s key differentiator. “We operate as a 100% remote team. We opted for DaaS to convert our infrastructure Capex to Opex, to save money when that infrastructure is not in use, and to give our team members complete flexibility to work from anywhere in the world,” he says.
While there is an increasing drive towards the adoption of cloud-based technologies in sectors such as the services sectors, led by IT/ITES, e-commerce, BFSI and startups, other traditional sectors are also fast joining the bandwagon. Desktop virtualization as an idea is not a new, but the ongoing pandemic has been a catalyst to the trend’s recent popularity across businesses.
Akhilesh Tuteja, Partner and Head – Digital Consulting, KPMG in India, says the idea behind Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has been around for decades. However, the increasing bandwidth availability and adoption of cloud technologies have today made DaaS a much more lucrative and practical option.
iStockA NASSCOM report says that 63% of surveyed SMBs are using the cloud in various forms.“DaaS solutions offer increased flexibility to the organizations, as they no longer have to worry about the underlying hardware. As supply chain constraints limited the options available for end-user devices and further led to surge pricing, DaaS provided an alternative to organizations to centralize their desktop infrastructure and deliver it as a service,” he says. Tuteja also underlines that as the backend infrastructure management and maintenance is taken care of by the cloud providers, the reduced governance and manpower is well-suited to the working model of SMBs. Highlighting that cybersecurity is a key concern for businesses, he adds that DaaS provides for an improved cybersecurity posture on account of centralized management of software, including patching and vulnerability management.
By operating desktops in the cloud, several SMBs today not only benefit from increased cost savings but have also attained never-before business agility. A growing number of businesses now realise that DaaS services can yield a lower cost of ownership, without compromising on data security and employees’ performance. Anjani Mandal, CEO of TruckNet Digital, a digital supply chain management platform, highlights that the good thing about DaaS-like services is that it splits up capital outlay across a long period. “Cloud-based applications remove the need for in-house expertise and maintenance effort from the SMB’s plate. Gone are the days when you had to spend heavily at the start. Instead, with the cloud, you have the option to pick-and-choose, do trials, and pay monthly subscription fees. This significantly reduces the upfront capital outlay,” Mandal contends, adding the cloud-based services will soon the inevitable reality as firms will eventually have to move to the cloud because of pure economic reasons.
The new buzzword
According to a survey by Enterprise Technology Research, the percentage of workers permanently working from home is expected to double in 2021. A Gartner CFO survey also reveals that over two-thirds (74%) plan to permanently shift employees to remote work after the Covid crisis ends. Gartner also says that DaaS is expected to grow from 44% CAGR from 2019 through 2023, reaching over 50% of annual spending on remote client computing by 2023. The above numbers are telltale signs of how the DaaS trend is fast becoming popular across business enterprises.
With the cost of DaaS services coming down significantly in recent times, SMBs that so far remained relatively shy in embracing technology-driven systems, seem to be upbeat to join the bandwagon. A NASSCOM report on SMB cloud adoption suggests that 63% of surveyed SMBs are already using the cloud in some form. Observing that the pandemic has increased cloud adoption by SMBs, which increasingly are seeking asset-light solutions for business continuity, the report forecasts that SMBs will account for 28-30% of India’s cloud market by 2025. It also flags that SMBs that have adopted digital technologies and remote ways of working have been better able to deal with the pandemic related crisis.
Sivakumar Ramamurthy, the Deputy Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of Anunta Tech, a firm that offers DaaS services, adds that most organizations have to perform hardware refresh every 3-5 years, which increases the ownership cost of physical devices. “It is challenging for internal IT teams to quickly ramp up and manage devices in a traditional environment. DaaS helps organizations by converting their investments to operational expenditure through pay as go model,” he reasons.
Traditionally, Indian SMBs are also known to be averse to technology adoption, but Raj Darji, Founder and CEO, Aarav Solutions opines that since the pandemic, implementing virtual desktop infrastructure has almost seen a 100% increase in 2020, and the trend is expected to continue in 2021 as well. “DaaS will help SMBs reach greater efficiency and more agility. DaaS is cost effective for SMBs as a virtual desktop costs two times less than a traditional desktop computer because of its longer life, absence of a local hard disk, and reduced power usage.”
iStockBeing tech driven: SMBs are now eager to jump into the bandwagon.Roadblocks
Aankit Roy, Co-Founder and CTO of audio platform Khabri says for DaaS to become popular, the country’s internet bandwidth needs to be improved across its tier 2-3 cities. “Besides many measures, services as basic a good 5G internet service will be helpful. Till that happens, DaaS can continue to be a hybrid model at best,” Roy opines.
Despite visible benefits, there are businesses that are reluctant to join the cloud bandwagon. Is firms’ hesitancy because of the high cost of the services? Mandal says price sensitivity is not the factor. “Cloud services are typically much less expensive overall compared to on-premise custom solutions or licensed systems. There is a certain inertia that organisations have in moving out of their legacy systems,” he says.
Providing an example, Ramamurthy says Anunta’s DaaS offerings are available starting at Rs 1900 per month for single users, and Rs 2500 per month for business users. Superpro’s Tripathi pins the factor playing spoilsport in limiting DaaS’ adoption to a lack of awareness and understanding of the benefits of such services among firms.
“The SMB segment is highly price sensitive, and to become a cost-effective solution, DaaS vendors need to move beyond providing barebone hardware+OS to providing pre-packaged business software as per needs of the SMBs,” KPMG’s Tuteja adds.
Another key hindrance discouraging SMBs to join cloud-based services is the concern around data privacy. Studies have found that a traditional SMB is still quite reluctant to share its business data online.
Oriserve’s Jain adds that in cases, where enterprises have already made a huge initial investment in private data centres, they are reluctant to sign up for an initial cost and start afresh with cloud services. He adds there are a lot of interfacing applications within the organisation and some organisations prefer that the data being exchanged intra-firm should flow in their private data centres and not flow over the internet. “If the volume of the data is huge, some businesses still trust physical systems to avoid lag,” highlights Jain.
According to Tuteja, DaaS solution has grown by 100% in 2020, but market analysts feel the growth may taper off in 2021 as we come out of the pandemic. “The real threat is how we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and the working models we adopt from now on. Organizations that are forward looking would want to be ready for future disruptions, would continue to have a hybrid working model and deploy solutions like DaaS, while those that go back to traditional on-premise models may not,” he emphasises.