By Richard Messik, Chartered Accountant and Co-founder of Cloud Advocates

I am often told, “we are Cloud users” which is music to my ears. However further investigation discovers that what is actually meant is “we are Hosted DeskTop users”.

There is considerable confusion about the difference so I am going to attempt to clarify the distinctions between the two.

There are two main distinctions:

Technology - firstly the technology is totally different. Now if you are like me you don’t really care how a car works - you just want to be confident that it does. Looking under the hood is irrelevant. However for clarity’s sake it is worthwhile highlighting the distinction.

Hosted Desk top makes use of the remote desktop facility on your Mac or PC. To access the desktop you need to know the address of the remote computer and password etc for access. It normally operates using Citrix or Windows Terminal Server technology which has been around for some time.

It generally works efficiently, but these technologies effectively add an emulation layer over the top of the existing standard Windows application, which is why there is a potential performance issue unless you get the server configuration and communications speed right - compared to true Cloud (my terminology) which is wholly Internet based and uses the Internet browser for access, performance can be inferior.

Delivery - Hosted Desktop provides what it says on the tin - your desktop hosted by someone else. So when you access your remote desktop you are seeing those applications that would normally sit on your desktop on your computer. The relevance of this is the basis on which you pay for those applications and the way members of your team can access them.

One of the principal advantages of true Cloud is the software or application delivery - Software as a Service (SaaS). What it means in practice is that software is not purchased as such (no initial outlay) but is rented on a usage basis. Often there is no restriction on the number of users within your organisation and applications can often be trialled before any commitment is made. Equally there are no long term commitments if a decision is made to cease using the application - very much a try, buy and if you don’t like its, stop - process.

This does not apply to Hosted Desktop. The applications or software that you use are not Cloud applications. Licence fees and usage fees have to be paid to the software supplier in the conventional manner. The number of of concurrent users is dependent on the amount you pay. This can be problematical. For example, I use an accounts and tax production on a hosted desktop service. I did not want to pay a licence fee for all of my team as they wouldn't all be using it at the same time so I purchased a two user licence. Occasionally this is a problem and there have been a number of instances where someone has been kicked out because a third person has signed on.

The above is a brief summary of the main differences - I must state at this point, however, that although I am a passionate Cloud user there is a place for hosted desktop especially when one has to deal with those applications that have not yet been written for Cloud use. I have previously blogged on this point - when setting up RFM Associates, I was determined that it operate as a virtual practice. Fine for those applications that are Cloud enabled - not so fine for programmes such as tax software which have not yet been Cloud enabled.

In those instances Hosted Desktop is the only practical solution.

Richard Messik is a Chartered Accountant who specialises in Cloud Computing. He is a co founder of Cloud Advocates,an association of consultants who aim to demystify the Cloud and provide pragmatic help and advice for businesses, organizations and accounting practices. To find out more, visit cloudadvocates.com

Join us on
Follow @freshbusiness