What is a Virtual Application?

Last Updated:
April 11, 2024

What is a Virtual Application?

Virtual applications run on an end user device without being installed on that device. To the user, it looks and feels like the application is running on the device when in fact it’s running on a server that can be located on premises or in the cloud. Users access the application via a browser using a software client loaded on their device or by utilizing a SaaS platform.

Virtual applications are a boon to IT and to end users. From a user perspective, virtual applications allow them to work from anywhere on any device, from a work-issued Windows® laptop to a personal device like a Chromebook™, iPad®, or iPhone®. IT can provide access to a specific application to only the users who need it, which reduces licensing costs and management time. Application updates happen on the server, not the end user’s device, which saves IT immense amounts of time managing software updates on user devices. Additionally, a Windows application delivered as a virtual application can be used on a non-Windows device, giving users more choices about the device they use.


Is it any different than a Virtual Desktop?

Is a virtual application the same thing as desktop virtualization, aka Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)? Not really! A virtual desktop is a complete desktop environment that runs on a remote server and is accessed by the user via the internet. Like a virtual application, a virtual desktop appears to the user to be running on their device.

Virtual desktops enable IT to control their end users’ computing environment, but that comes at considerable cost.

Along with applications, virtual desktops include a complete operating system, making them far more complex for IT to implement, manage, deliver, and support than virtual applications. End users who only need one or two applications and instead get a virtual desktop get applications they don’t need and have to contend with more complexity than they need, burdensome logins, and slower performance.

In addition to added complexity for IT and users, VDI is considerably more expensive than application virtualization. To get full-blown Windows VMs up and running requires a significant up-front investment, including purchase of server hardware and peripherals, VDA or RDS-CAL licenses for each user, and software title licenses for the applications being delivered. And even if IT plans to cloud-host Windows applications in that VM, they will still need to purchase a full Windows access license for each user.

For organizations (for example Windows ISVs) that just need to provide remote access to one or a few Windows applications, virtual application technology is less complex to buy, implement, and manage, and makes life easier for end users.

If you just want to deliver Windows applications—not full desktops—to end users, and want to do so easily, quickly, and cost-effectively, use GO-Global.

GO-Global® enables reliable, secure, multi-user access to Windows applications from any location, device, and operating system. It’s highly scalable like VDI, but unlike VDI is easy to install, manage, and support, with a much lower cost of ownership because you’re delivering applications—not a complete desktop environment.

To download a free trial copy of GO-Global, click here.

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