Remote Access Solutions for MSPs

Last Updated:
February 14, 2024

Remote Access Solutions for MSPs

The list of services being delivered by Managed Service Providers (MSPs) is long and exhaustive. An MSP’s service agreement with a client can be as comprehensive as covering all the functions of an internal IT team and as granular as hosting one or two servers that are then managed by the client.

In this post, we’ll focus on MSPs and cloud hosting companies that want to enable their client’s end users or customers to remotely and securely access cloud-hosted applications. There are several technologies that can apply to this scenario, including virtualized private networks (VPNs), virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), remote connectivity software, and application publishing.

Virtualized Private Networks

Virtualized Private Networks encrypt a user’s internet connection. VPNs help to ensure that sensitive data is safely transmitted and prevents unauthorized individuals from eavesdropping on network traffic. VPNs are legal in most jurisdictions, including the U.S. and the U.K. Some countries ban VPNs as part of broader efforts to control internet access.

While VPNs are very easy to implement, they present several challenges. VPNs protect the data being transmitted but they do not prevent a VPN user visiting a malicious website and inadvertently downloading malware or ransomware. Additionally, some websites and streaming services can block VPNs. From a performance perspective, VPNs can slow down a user’s internet speed due to the fact that VPNs encrypt the data being transmitted. Finally, VPNs use extra data in the encryption process, which can create an issue if the user account has data caps.  

Given the above, the best use case for a VPN is for users that need occasional secure access to an application and are OK with a slower connection and slow performance while using that application.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology uses virtual machines (VMs) to host desktop environments and applications on a centralized server, and then deploys them to users over a network. Users can access their virtual desktops from a variety of devices using a remote display protocol. While VDI is great for MSPs who want to control and securely deliver multiple applications in a managed desktop to employees located anywhere, it’s also complex, expensive, and challenging.

On the plus side, centralization enables an MSP to apply patches and updates on a server rather than on each user’s work device, reducing the MSP’s operational costs. An MSP can avoid “desktop bloat” by limiting the number of desktop configurations available to a client, eliminating the inevitable demands for exceptions to standard desktops that an internal IT team is usually compelled to support. And VDI enables MSPs to differentiate themselves in the market by creating desktop “packages” that align to a specific industry, can be priced at a premium, and allow the MSP to better focus marketing and sales efforts.

On the minus side, VDI is highly complex, and startup costs are high in terms of hardware, software, people, and time. Planning and implementation for a new client can take many months, even if the MSP has established processes in place. VDI also requires trained and experienced (and thus expensive) personnel to keep implementations up and running post launch.

Additionally, when using a virtual desktop, a good internet connection is essential to a good user experience, especially for resource-intensive applications. With more remote workers than  ever before, MPS can no longer be confident that every user has corporate-level internet service—and a poor user’s experience can affect the KPIs established by the MSP with a client and generate expensive helpdesk calls for the MSP.

Due to the challenges inherent with VDI, it’s most cost-effective when used by MSPs supporting medium to large enterprises where employees use a desktop containing variety of productivity applications to get their work done.

Remote Connectivity Software

Also referred to as remote control computer software, remote connectivity software allows a user to connect to a remote computer (usually a work computer) and use that computer as if they were sitting in front of it. Remote connectivity software designed primarily for end users includes GoToMyPC® and Splashtop®.

Remote connectivity software utilizing the use case described above offers few advantages to MSPs. Why? For an end user to use the software, the MSP must maintain the work machine and the applications installed on it to which the employee connects—a highly inefficient and costly way to support a client. Plus, remote desktop software has become a convenient tool for malicious actors in the guise of IT support to gain access to a corporate network or sensitive corporate or personal files, personal financial information, etc.

However, remote connectivity software like TeamViewer or Zoho Assist, which is used primarily by helpdesk personnel to remotely troubleshoot end user computing issues, is a great tool for MSPs to resolve computing issues in real time for their client’s employees.

Application Publishing

Application publishing is technology that runs applications on a server but those applications appear to the user to be running locally. Users can access and use a published application via a thin client installed on their device, or can dispense with a thin client altogether by using a web browser for access.

Because published applications run solely on a server, and don’t utilize desktop virtualization in order to run, they are much simpler and more cost-effective for MSPs to implement, run, update, and manage than VDI. Unlike VDI, users do not need to install a dedicated client to run published applications. Published applications are also far less dependent on network quality to deliver a great user experience. Additionally, published applications can run on a device using a different operating system than the applications because the application is actually running on the server.

Some application publishing software like GO-Global® can be configured by an MSP to deliver a group of Windows® applications with asimpler experience compared to a virtual desktop.

For MSPs, application publishing is best applied to the needs of MSPs offering application hosting solutions for ISVs, MSPs hosting an application set selected and configured to support an industry or market (like finance or medical), or MSPs supporting clients who want to deliver a set of applications to users but want to avoid the complexity and cost of VDI.

Windows Application Publishing Made Easy

MSPs looking for an economical, easy-to-manage solution for publishing Windows applications and delivering them as SaaS should consider GO-Global.

GO-Global was purpose-built to publish Windows applications from any cloud—simply, easily, and cost-effectively. GO-Global’s client-server architecture and highly efficient proprietary communications protocol delivers a great user experience, even on low-bandwidth connections, reducing calls to the helpdesk.

GO-Global helps MSPs cut costs from an infrastructure perspective too. When deployed on any MSP’s cloud service,GO-Global leverages that cloud service’s existing infrastructure and security and scalability features to deliver high functionality with less complexity and cost.

For security-conscious MSPs, GO-Global supports MFA and is the only Windows application publishing solution that provides Single Sign-On support for OpenID® Connect (OIDC), which enables organizations to use OIDC identity providers like Okta® and Microsoft® Active Directory Federated Services (ADFS) for single sign-on into GO-Global Windows hosts.

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