In 2021, Microsoft added a new product to its software portfolio. The Windows 365 Cloud PC enables users to experience a cloud version of Windows 10/11 from their personal devices. And given what we have experienced in the last few years, the value of the Cloud PC to businesses is significant. No longer do employees have to be confined to their physical offices.
In fact, according to a survey done by Microsoft, 73% of workers would like to maintain flexible and remote work options. But, this presents a challenge for businesses. Can a hybrid workforce be a viable option? Also, what value if any would businesses stand to gain from such a work environment?
Below, I want to go over just what Windows 365 may potentially offer your business. Not only that, but it’s also important to know how the Cloud PC compares to some of the other options.
Adopting a cloud computing model
Windows 365 is ushering in a new era of computing that is putting aside the enterprise PC for an innovative Cloud PC. The latter is highly secure and always available thus offering users a different way of approaching their work.
But, as with any new technology, there are several concerns that need to be addressed. Businesses are concerned about how they would effectively manage a hybrid workforce with employees working remotely.
And then there is the issue of security. How do you secure the corporate network when employees are using personal devices that were never meant for the office?
Then there are concerns about operational viability as well as setting up costs. What about the time it will take as well as the cost to train your staff?
These are only a few of the very real concerns that businesses have when the issue of setting up a cloud computing environment comes up. However, Windows 365 was designed to resolve all those issues to businesses’ satisfaction.
Incorporation of significant changes
Cloud computing is not something new and plenty are already familiar with it. And because several businesses already have experience with various other VDI platforms, they will be wondering what makes Windows 365 different from the technology they already have in place. After all, why pay for another service that potentially does the same thing? But, we very quickly realize that Windows 365 is very different from traditional on-premises VDI environments.
One of the biggest selling points of the Cloud PC is its ease-of-use. Microsoft has designed it to be simple to set up and easy to use. You can have new employees fully set up with Cloud PCs in a matter of hours. Something that could take weeks with legacy infrastructure.
You only have to look at what it takes to run on-premises VDI systems. Businesses have to purchase the necessary servers, set them up, install all the applications you’ll require, and then go through the often long process of onboarding users.
Windows 365 just about eliminates all of that. Offering you a Cloud PC means that Microsoft alone will take care of the virtualization. Ultimately this will make the deployment of operating systems a lot faster since you won’t have to deal with the hassle of hardware and software configurations.
The automation of the various processes also means that there is no need for additional VDI expertise or resources. Microsoft will also ensure that you can scale the service as necessary to meet your organization’s needs. And as organizations start to reap the benefits of a highly productive and remote workforce, the need for a solution like Windows 365 grows even more.
The ability to customize and provision a desktop based on the users’ needs means that for the most part, it doesn’t really matter what device an individual is using. It also doesn’t matter whether it’s a corporate-owned device or a personal one. The security measures that come with Windows 365 ensure that end-users can securely access corporate resources on personal devices.
What can businesses expect?
The Cloud PC is designed to offer a better cloud experience than other services on the market. Including Windows traditional devices. Developed for hybrid working, Windows 365 can offer the kind of flexibility that allows seamless device changes without affecting the status of the work. Not only that, but users will be happy to know that Windows 365 is compatible with other Microsoft 365 business applications. This means that you won’t miss out on your favorite apps such as Word, Planner, or SharePoint.
According to Wangui McKelvey, general manager for Windows 365, “However, the ability to work anytime, anywhere has become the new normal. All employees want technology that is familiar, easy to use, and available across devices. In the most complex cybersecurity environment we’ve ever seen, organizations need a solution that helps their employees collaborate, share, and create while protecting their data. We have the opportunity to develop the tools that enable this new world of hybrid work with a new perspective and the power and security of the cloud.“
There’s plenty to like about Windows 365 with all the features available that businesses will be able to benefit from. Features that enable this service to be a game changer in the world of cloud computing. And these features include:
- Instant boot to a personal Cloud PC,
- Clients get the full Windows experience in the cloud,
- Clients can also stream various applications, tools, data, and settings directly from the Microsoft cloud across any device,
- You get a choice of running either Windows 10 or Windows 11,
- Secure by design, and fully compliant with Microsoft’s Zero Trust principles,
- Flexible per-user, per-month pricing plans at flat subscription rates,
- A scalable set of virtual hardware parameters that lets you adjust to changing conditions whenever necessary,
- Fully compliant with Azure AD and Microsoft Endpoint Manager,
- Fast setup process that provisions your Cloud PC within minutes.
Outside of security, the financial side of things is probably the biggest area that the Cloud PC needs to address. What sort of economic impact would adopting the Cloud PC have on your organization? If we consider a study by the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), using Windows 365 may possibly increase your annual potential revenue by up to $14,000 per user. For smaller businesses, there is mention of a possible annual benefit of up to $7000 per user. Undoubtedly, these kinds of figures could provide massive upturns in the performance of any business.
Now we may only be talking of potential here but those are really good numbers to look at. You also have to consider that Windows 365 can possibly lower your hardware expenses as well. Think about the costs involved in purchasing, running, and maintaining on-premises network servers. What about the cost of refreshing your hardware every now and again or providing new hires with devices? All these are costs that can be lowered when using Windows 365.
Windows 365 offers Cloud PCs at a fixed per-user/per month cost. This allows businesses to plan their budgets with greater certainty. Being able to accurately plan in advance can help increase revenue streams and decrease unexpected expenses. Below we’ll go over just what kind of security clients can expect from Windows 365. The high-end security that Microsoft has put in place means that businesses can rest assured that their data will be highly secure.
Simplified onboarding process
With traditional VDI environments, setting up new employees may take weeks. I’m sure we can all agree that this is far from ideal in a busy work environment. The beauty of Windows 365 is that deployment of Cloud PCs has been designed to be relatively easy. So much so that even if your organization doesn’t have the expertise to set up a traditional VDI it still won’t be too much of a challenge.
The process is simple and enables your business to onboard new employees with IT equipment, regardless of location, within a matter of hours. This gives users the advantage of using devices they are familiar with and thus comfortable with. While on the other hand, businesses need not worry about the security of corporate resources.
The swiftness with which employees can be onboarded can significantly reduce downtime and allow businesses to maintain productivity levels. In addition, this also makes it easier to bring on temporary workers when the need arises. Setting up temporary employees is done quickly and when their services are no longer required, access can be revoked just as quickly. So if you have seasonal workers, they can cycle on and off very easily.
As mentioned above, recently many workers have begun stating their desire to have flexible work conditions. Plenty are choosing to work from home if the option is availed to them. Windows 365 can make this a viable option for most businesses that are willing to consider it.
And accessing your PC on the cloud can even help organizations build an international workforce seeing as geographic boundaries are less of a concern with cloud computing. This can help businesses bring in the best talent regardless of location. The flexibility of Windows 365 also extends to your relationships with independent contractors.
A business won’t need to purchase company PCs for all these individuals nor go through a lengthy onboarding process. People who can benefit greatly from this include IT professionals, consultants, physicians, and countless others. Windows 365 can grant them access to your environment in a safe and as-needed capacity.
Enhanced network security
One of the key areas of great concern when establishing a hybrid workforce is security. How do you maintain a high level of security over corporate resources? Especially when you consider that employees may be using personal devices. But, Microsoft designed Windows 365 using Zero Trust principles. Also, it is powered by the security architecture of Microsoft Azure thus providing an incredibly secure cloud computing environment.
When it comes to the use of personal devices, Windows 365 can prevent the compromise of corporate data by configuring how those devices interact with the Cloud PC. This provides an enhanced layer of protection around the corporate network to safeguard data.
In addition, businesses need continuity strategies in case of disaster or something like the COVID-19 pandemic. Windows 365 is well placed to address these kinds of scenarios. With access to Cloud PCs, businesses will significantly reduce the risk of massive disruptions if disaster ever strikes. Microsoft has a wide distribution of data centers meaning your Cloud PCs will remain accessible and your data secure. The redundancies built into the system are designed to ensure that.
Another security issue concerns the offboarding process for employees or independent contractors. This can prove challenging especially when you have unhappy individuals in possession of expensive company devices. And when these individuals still have access to your network then your corporate data becomes extremely vulnerable.
There have been reports that have stated that 20 percent of companies have experienced breaches due to disgruntled former employees. However, with Windows 365 that is not a concern. This is because the offboarding process is swift with employees’ access to corporate resources being revoked immediately.
Microsoft offers the Windows 365 platform to both small and large businesses. There are options available that can cater to the needs of most. And the fixed price model means that businesses can find it easier to accurately predict the cost of use. Once the system is up and running, users can access their Cloud PCs from anywhere and may even use their mobile phones to do so. This means that productivity levels can be maintained when employees are traveling or working from home.
Additionally, because your desktop now resides on the Microsoft Cloud, your physical devices have slightly less value. Even if your laptop or mobile device is stolen, your desktop, as well as corporate data, will remain secure. Also, because the heavy computing runs on the cloud, users don’t need to worry about having powerful devices to run resource-intensive apps.
Certain design and engineering apps, for instance, may require a significant amount of processing power. But, with the cloud handling the processing you can take advantage of these apps on less powerful devices. And when it comes to the types of apps you can access on the Cloud PC, Microsoft has designed it such that all your apps that work on Windows 10/11 will run on the Cloud PC. So accessibility is not limited to Microsoft apps.
Localized user experience
A few decades ago English was considered the language of the internet by most. And this was understandable given how much of the early development was taking place in English-speaking regions. However, for a long time now that is no longer the case.
A lot of people across the globe are now very much active online. People from different cultural backgrounds and different languages. This means that localization of the user experience can no longer be something to consider as an afterthought. Microsoft has clients from all different continents and so it’s important to cater to the various needs.
A large part of the attraction of Windows 365 is that businesses both great and small can have options that will work for them. But, Microsoft wants to expand not only the reach of Windows 365 but the ease of use as well. To that end, Microsoft is aiming to simplify the configuration process by enabling admins to set up local language Cloud PCs easily and at first login.
This localization feature, which was announced earlier this year, is going to allow you during the stage of creation of provisioning policies to configure a Language & Region pack to be installed on the Cloud PCs during provisioning. Microsoft reported that there would be a selection of 38 languages to pick from.
So this creates a situation where organizations from various regions across the world can use the Cloud PC with greater ease. For any business that may have been hesitant to subscribe because of language barriers, Microsoft has addressed that.
Furthermore, those who have already provisioned their Cloud PCs can also take advantage of this feature. It has been set up to enable admins to change the configured language for any existing provisioning policies that you choose and subsequently reprovision any desired Cloud PCs.
This is going to give your admins something to be happy about as they will save a lot of time by not having to manually install language packs onto a custom image to localize Cloud PCs. All they need to do now is simply configure language settings in a gallery image. The time saved will also benefit the business as IT staff can spend more time on business-centric endeavors and aim to improve overall productivity.
Better workforce management
Windows 365 can play an integral role in helping your business improve in the area of workforce management. The features that the service provides are designed to enable you to optimize the way your business operates. As a result, you can expect to have the tools you need to put the right people in the right place at the right time to enhance your client’s experience in a way that will reflect positively on your revenue stream.
Leveraging Windows 365 can improve your use of time thus improving your efficiency and productivity. The ease of use that Microsoft has emphasized helps your employees because they don’t need to spend time maintaining the environment or resolving issues. Also, the available collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams facilitate instant communication and simplify working together for teams who may be in different locations.
Those communication platforms are equally important in ensuring that employees who are working remotely retain the same degree of efficiency and productivity as their peers who are on-site. As this trend of remote work continues to grow, those in leadership positions will need the flexibility to comfortably perform their management duties without missing a step.
This is why it’s so important that you can access your Windows 365 Cloud PC from anywhere on just about any device. Additionally, you can create various groups of people on Microsoft Teams so that those managing people working on the same project find it a lot simpler. Regardless of where they or you are.
A lot of businesses are in great need of innovative solutions that can promote rapid growth without relying on massive amounts of investment. Windows 365 has got this well covered. There are a wide range of options available with both Windows 365 Business and Windows 365 Enterprise.
So there’s something for everyone. From the small business trying to grow to the huge enterprises looking to streamline their operations. Because of the pricing structure, scaling up is easy and relatively affordable allowing you to acquire more resources as your business expands.
Another thing that helps with better workforce management is the fact that Windows 365 will be responsible for software updates and new releases. This helps your business to focus its energies on critical, productive endeavors. Not only that but you can also eliminate the exhaustive and costly task of refreshing dated hardware. As long as your current hardware is compliant with the Windows 365 requirements then you won’t need to worry about your hardware anytime in the near future.
A good part of the overall value of a service can be attributed to the support that clients can expect to receive. If a problem was to arise with your Cloud PCs you would need for it to be attended to swiftly. From the beginning, Microsoft has designed Windows 365 to be easy to use. Unlike with Azure Virtual Desktop, businesses won’t require the services of an Azure Solutions expert to configure and manage the Windows 365 environment.
Microsoft also announced that they would look to help clients become more proficient at using Windows 365 clients by hosting Ask Microsoft Anything (AMA) events specifically dedicated to Windows 365. According to the announcement, these meetings would be scheduled for the fourth Wednesday of every month starting February 2022. So all clients that are using or considering Windows 365 should find these events a great source of information.
Any questions that you have about Windows 365 will be up for discussion including questions regarding the available features, provisioning, deployment, customization, best practices, and anything else you may need clarification on. And Microsoft will have members of its engineering and product teams available at these hour-long events to help you and provide you with the answers you need. Therefore if your organization wants to get the most out of running Windows in the cloud, there’s probably no better place to get the information you need.
Another place where one can find out more about Windows 365 is the Windows 365 Tech Community. This platform can also provide great support to Cloud PC users by addressing any issues they may be encountering. But, the information available may also be of great value to businesses looking to establish a Windows 365 environment. They can get feedback from the community members regarding their interest in Windows 365.
Ease the load on IT staff
As one is going through the information that we have on Windows 365, it becomes abundantly clear that there are countless benefits for end-users. But, your IT admins will also want to know if they’ll see changes when compared to other services. And the reality is, that the ease of use principle that Microsoft applies to Windows 365 extends to your IT team as well.
From the management perspective, there is plenty to be excited about starting with the fact that there is no need to have headaches about the infrastructure you need to set up to get the Cloud PC experience. Microsoft handles that side of things. Also, admins won’t need to get certified in anything else or learn new management tools. This is because Windows 365 is designed for all organizations even those without expert IT pros on staff to be able to run it without difficulty.
Furthermore, you’ll be happy to know that the way you currently manage your physical devices with Microsoft Endpoint Manager will for the most part be similar to the management of Cloud PCs. A good example of this is that if you navigate to the All Devices list in Microsoft Endpoint Manager, you’ll see both your physical and Cloud PCs listed side by side.
Admins will also find that the deployment process is not complicated at all. For users to get a Cloud PC assigned to them, there are pretty much just two requirements that need to be met. They need to have the necessary license in addition to being part of an Azure Active Directory Group that’s assigned to a provisioning policy.
The process starts in the Microsoft Admin Center where you assign licenses similarly to how you would for other Microsoft 365 services. You can have a licensing admin take care of this particular task. After that, you can head over to Active Users and perform the assignment. With that done, you can now give users Cloud PCs and set them up with Microsoft 365 as well.
As soon as a user is added to a group, the Cloud PC provisioning process will be launched and it won’t be long before the Cloud PC is ready for use. And with Windows 365 using a fixed price per user per month model, there’s no extra workload involving tracking, utilization, or keeping idle resources running.
Comparing Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop
While Windows 365 may be a relatively new service, Microsoft already had another platform that offers remote desktop services. This product is of course Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD). Those who may be familiar with AVD will be asking themselves what if any are the differences between the two services.
With Windows 365, you get a cloud-based service that delivers a Windows 10/11 desktop to a business’s employees. Using this service eliminates the need for managing Azure infrastructure and businesses get the advantage of using existing resources. This can include things such as the Microsoft Endpoint Manager portal, your Windows OS licenses, as well as various other applications. Windows 365’s ease-of-use principle enables businesses to get a remote desktop service that is simple to use with Cloud PCs that can be set up in a matter of hours.
Azure Virtual Desktop, on the other hand, is a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) service that works great for multi-session use, temporary use, high-end computing, and application virtualization. AVD offers clients affordable, flexible, and scalable virtual environments. The customizability of AVD allows businesses to have greater control over their VDI environment and potentially reduce operating costs. Costs can also be reduced because you won’t need single gateway servers to manage multiple host pools and run simultaneous workloads.
- Technical features
When it comes to the technical side of things, there are several differences that you need to know for you to decide which service is right for your business. Some of the differences are as follows:
- Design – Windows 365 has been designed to be simple and easy to use whereas AVD has been designed more for flexibility.
- Desktop – clients get personal desktops for Windows 365 and AVD (single session). For AVD (multisession) there are pooled desktops.
- Pricing – the pricing structure for AVD follows a consumption-based model whereas Windows 365 offers a fixed per-user per-month pricing.
- Subscription – subscriptions are customer-managed for AVD and fully Microsoft-managed for Windows 365 Business. Windows 365 Enterprise is also Microsoft-managed with the exception of networking.
- VM SKUs – Windows 365 has various optimized options for multiple use cases. On the other hand, AVD offers any Azure VM including GPU-enabled SKUs.
- Backup – AVD clients will get to use Azure backup services while Windows 365 users get local redundant storage for disaster recovery.
AVD normally has virtual machines (VMs) that are dedicated to a single user. However, there is also a pooled desktops feature that enables several users to have access to a VM. Also, AVD session hosts can provide personal desktops if the need arises. Because VMs operate under your Azure subscription it means that the computing expenses are passed on to you. Your costs for using AVD are going to be based on your consumption. But, this has the benefit of allowing you to lower AVD and VM environment costs because of auto-scaling.
Windows 365 provides clients with a virtual machine that is dedicated to one user. In this case, these VMs function under a Microsoft Azure subscription meaning that the client has no computing expenses to worry about. Cloud PCs require a Windows 365 Cloud PC license and usage costs are based on a fixed per-user/per-month price plan. Unlike with AVD, auto-scaling and reserved instances won’t be an option for Cloud PCs since the cost is fixed and admins don’t have access to the VMs from the Azure portal.
- Ideal user scenarios
When deciding what your business should use you need to know what kind of scenarios would be best for Windows 365. The first thing you can look at is the number of PCs you have in your IT environment. Because of the low-cost factor, ease of deployment, and lack of prerequisites, environments with only a few PCs will find Windows 365 to be a great choice.
Another consideration is organizations that currently aren’t utilizing Azure and have no plans to do so in the near future. For these businesses, they should consider Windows 365 because of how easy they’ll find desktop assignment. Not to mention that there is no administrative overhead for IT admins to worry about.
If your organization has already invested in Microsoft Endpoint Manager then Windows 365 can be a great option for your environment. The Cloud PC is also ideal for clients that would like personalized VMs with local admin rights.
Azure Virtual Desktop provides a wonderful solution for those who are already familiar with VDI environments and are comfortable with them. In addition, if you need a fully customizable environment then AVD may be the way to go.
For scenarios that require a published RemoteApp application, AVD is your best choice given that RemoteApps cannot be published from Windows 365 Cloud PCs. If the number of users requiring virtual desktops frequently varies throughout the month then you may be better served with AVD. Windows 365 has fixed costs per month regardless of whether a virtual desktop has been used or not.
|Windows 365||Azure Virtual Desktop|
|Business||<300 Business, >300 Enterprise||personal desktop (small deployments), pooled desktops (large deployments)|
|Active Directory requirements||Azure AD Connect (Hybrid Azure AD supported)||Azure AD|
|Compute||Fully Microsoft managed, admins have no access to VMs||Customer-managed, flexibility to configure VMs|
|Storage||Fully managed storage, fixed pricing||Customer managed, flexibility with OS Disks, FSLogix profiles|
|Cost||Fixed per-user/per month cost||Consumption-based cost|
|User profile||No FSLogix||FSLogix optional for Single-User, and mandatory for Multi-User|
|Supported endpoint operating systems||Windows, macOS, iOS, Unix, Web, Android||Windows, macOS, iOS, Unix, Web, Android|
What about VMware Horizon?
When looking at VDI solutions, another name you’ll likely come across is VMware Horizon. The latter is a virtualization service that can deliver desktops and apps on Windows, Linux, and MacOS systems. Using this platform enables IT staff to run desktop applications and virtual machines in the data center or cloud.
They can then deliver these to employees as managed services. VMware gives you virtual machines that you can run on the VMware Cloud on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, or other VMware partner clouds. End-users can run their VMs on various devices including PCs, tablets, and smartphones.
VMware is capable of delivering a very personalized user experience by separating desktop and application components before delivering them together when required. Below is a table that provides comparative information on all three of Windows 365, Azure Virtual Desktop, and VMware Horizon.
|Windows 365||Azure Virtual Desktop||VMware Horizon|
|Target market||Businesses requiring Windows Clouds PCs that are always available||IT professionals||IT professionals, app developers|
|Support||Online||Business hours||Business hours, online|
|Function||DaaS, VDI||App virtualization, DaaS||DaaS, VDI, VM, virtualization|
|Integrations||Microsoft Endpoint Manager||AuthPoint, Automai Robotic Process Automation, Catapult Spyglass, Liquidware, Login VSI, Microsoft Azure, Remote Desktop Commander Suite, SysTrack||AuthPoint, Commvault HyperScale X, Goliath Performance Monitor, Login VSI, Oracle Database, Remote Desktop Commander Suite, SQL Server, SecureIdentity DLP, SecureIdentity MFA, SecureIdentity PAM, SysTrack, ThinPrint, vCenter Server, vRealize, Automation|
There used to be a time when getting your work done meant that you needed to be at your workstation using your desktop. Then the use of laptops allowed employees to have a bit more flexibility, although it was rather limited. In the last few decades, remote desktop technology has come along in leaps and bounds. Now, we’re at a point where businesses have options that deliver desktops from the cloud. Not least of which is Windows 365.
This remote desktop service from Microsoft is built on top of existing Azure Virtual Desktop infrastructure but comes with unique capabilities of its own. The Cloud PC presents a great economic solution in a world where the workspace is evolving. Businesses can leverage Windows 365 to provide desktops for remote workers without having to invest in physical devices.
And as we have seen with some of the potential figures, making the migration to Windows 365 could significantly boost revenue. Going forward, Microsoft is taking cloud computing to a completely new level. Businesses have plenty to gain as they begin to experience the Windows desktop in a completely new way.