November 19, 2021

Citrix vs. RDP: An Honest Comparison

Citrix and RDP Both Rely on Virtualization: What Is It?

Before discussing the differences between Citrix Xen and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), they both rely on virtualization systems to deliver their services. Understanding virtualization is vital to begin the discussion comparing and contrasting Citrix Xen versus Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). According to Citrix, “[v]irtualization is computing technology that simulates physical hardware functionality to create software-based IT services like applications, servers, storage, and networks.” It creates a virtual version of a resource or device from one computer system. Companies may be able to reduce hardware costs and increase efficiency with virtualization. An analogy in an IBM post describes virtualization as the offshoots that grow from a seed or a single plant shoot in water. 

A Comparison of Citrix and RDP

Citrix XenApp and Microsoft Remote Desktop Systems are both desktop virtualization systems. RDP is the venerable, tried and true virtualization system. The system was introduced originally as Terminal Services. Interestingly, the original code for Terminal Services was developed by Citrix and licensed to Microsoft. Citrix XenDesktop is the newer, sleeker, more advanced desktop virtualization system. While RDP and Citrix share certain similarities by virtue of their function; they have individual qualities which set them apart and make each a unique system. The attributes which tech professionals generally use to compare RDP and Citrix are performance, scalability, usability, reliability, security and price. 

Performance Comparison

Knowing the performances of these two platforms will help IT professionals and executives pick the right system for their company’s needs. RDP users communicate directly with the application on the server; therefore, they share a finite amount of available resources. As additional users log on, the available output decreases, which causes slower service as well as a lower quality of service. 

In contrast, Citrix has developed a barrier (HDX protocol) between the users and the servers, which allows for increased users at the same time while providing a more even, continuous user experience, regardless of the device or internet connection. Citrix does an excellent job of compressing data, and definitely has faster overall performance than RDP. Citrix excels with wide area network (WAN) optimized protocol which allows for a better user experience, particularly in poor bandwidth conditions. Citrix also has superior print capabilities and high-resolution graphics in comparison with RDP.

Scalability Comparison

According to the Data Science Maturity Model, scalability is defined as the “capability of a system, network, or process to handle a growing amount of work, or its potential to be enlarged to accommodate that growth.” When the RDP server exceeds capacity, no other users can sign in. Additionally, it is possible existing users already logged in could be kicked off without warning. In order to increase capacity with RDP, an additional server is required. RDP needs a fast internet connection. Conversely, when a Citrix solution nears maximum capacity, additional resources just need to be requested, rather than configuring a new server. Citrix can scale up with ease, transitioning by the week or month depending on need. 

Usability Comparison

Techopedia defines usability as the “degree of ease with which products such as software and Web applications can be used to achieve required goals effectively and efficiently.” RDP only permits the use of one program at a time. Additionally, there are limits on the software which can be run first. Subsequently, RDP is most effective for users who only need to use one application, rather than a full desktop. RDP requires the user to use third-party generic apps and client software to access a remote desktop. On the contrary, Citrix excels with virtualization technologies. The experience for the user is consistent and feels similar to a traditional desktop, allowing the user to use whichever applications necessary, from wherever.

Reliability Comparison

RDP requires a reliable link to the internet — an always-on connection. If the RDP fails, the user’s session also fails. If the link to the internet is not dependable, the user is at risk of being kicked off the internet without warning — which could cause unsaved work to be lost. While Citrix also needs an internet connection to operate, irregular links can be addressed with a function called “session reliability.” This function allows a session to remain open regardless of internet connectivity issues occurring in the background, and also allows the user to save work. 

Price Comparison

RDP is more cost efficient on the surface. It is less expensive and offers free versions. Citrix is more expensive and does not have free versions. However, in factoring in user efficiency and effectiveness, RDP’s lower cost might not be as significant. While RDP might have lower initial costs, it might have hidden costs with increased downtime in comparison to Citrix which negates downtime. Research by OnePoll & Daisy found 7% of businesses reported their internet connection comes to a stop more than 10 times in any seven day time period – causing employees on average to lose 44 minutes weekly due to poor broadband speeds and connectivity.

Security Comparison

Citrix has stronger embedded security. Citrix also offers a secure browser service which protects the corporate network by isolating web browsing from the corporate network. Essentially, users are able to access the internet, yet the web browser is still isolated from the corporate network. 

Concluding Thoughts on Citrix Vs. RDP

The Citrix versus RDP conundrum is multidimensional and complex. Clearly both systems are technologically brilliant and effective. RDP is tried and true, is cost-efficient and offers overall stable performance. However, Citrix is clearly more adaptive and flexible, offering superior performance, scalability, usability, reliability and security. As the corporate world transitions to more remote work, businesses will benefit greatly from faster and more reliable internet speed, increased broadband width, state-of-the-art security, and consistent reliability that Citrix is able to provide. 

Contact Cetrom today to learn more about how we can assist you with your decision. 

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