For a lot of businesses, making the switch to cloud computing services, including Windows 365 solutions, represents a major shift from the way they have been operating for years. What possibly complicates the decision-making, even more, may be a lack of information on what cloud technology is and how it can improve their way of doing business.
Microsoft has done a good job of providing us with plenty of information on this topic. As one of the big cloud service providers, they have been providing clients with plenty of products over the years.
And in 2021, Microsoft took an even bigger step into the future with the announcement of a desktop in the cloud. It’s a PC that you can take with you anywhere and access at any time on almost any device.
In this blog, I will go over the major reasons why Windows 365 is a great investment for your organization.
Getting familiar with the cloud
Making a decision about which infrastructure is best suited for your business is no small matter. Because whatever you end up deciding will play a huge role in how your business operates. Certain businesses have legacy IT systems or on-premises infrastructure that has served them well over the years.
As such, businesses like this usually prefer to stay with tried and tested solutions rather than make the leap to the cloud. But, whether you prefer your on-prem infrastructure to anything else out there, it’s still important to understand technology such as Windows 365. Doing so will help you to make an informed decision about your business’ IT systems.
So whether you choose to invest in Windows 365 or continue using what has brought you success thus far, at least you’ll be fully aware of the options available to you.
But, just what exactly is the difference between your on-premises infrastructure and what Windows 365 offers? The simplest answer to that is location. There is the on-premises computing model. This refers to the physical hardware you own, such as computers and servers, that reside on your business premises. It also refers to the software that has been downloaded and installed on the hardware. On the other hand, cloud service providers own the servers, storage, databases, and software, and provides them to clients “as-a-service”.
Thus the major difference is that a company like Microsoft is responsible for purchasing, running, and maintaining the hardware. All you have to do is pay for the computing resources that you need. And forget worrying about everything else.
So what is a Cloud PC?
Now that we understand what cloud computing is, we need to know what then is a Cloud PC? According to Microsoft, a Cloud PC is a highly available, optimized, and scalable. It’s a virtual machine that is going to provide users with an enriched Windows desktop experience. This takes Windows and gets it running on the Azure cloud.
As Microsoft 365’s General Manager Wangui McKelvey said, “Windows 365 takes the operating system to the Microsoft Cloud, securely streaming the full Windows experience – including all your apps, data, and settings – to your personal or corporate devices. This approach creates a fully new computing category, specifically for the hybrid world: the Cloud PC.”
So basically, Microsoft is giving you a PC that runs on the cloud. Meaning that you can access it anytime using most devices. And for the most part, it really doesn’t matter what operating system is running on your device. Whether you’re using Mac or Linux PCs, Android or iOS devices, you’ll get a consistent Windows experience.
Therefore, whatever you are working on won’t be affected by the device you are using. Since the state of your Cloud PC remains the same, you will always pick up right where you left off. The service will allow you to have access to plenty of great apps.
Using the Windows 365 portal, you can access Microsoft apps such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. In addition, native support is available for Microsoft Teams, Adobe Reader, the Edge browser, and Microsoft defender antivirus software.
Built on a sound platform
Ideally, any service that you want to invest in needs to have a proven track record. However, given that Windows 365 is still less than a year old there’s not much of a track record to go over. This is why it’s important to understand the foundation on which Windows 365 is built. The company that gave us Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is the same entity responsible for the Windows 365 Cloud PC.
And if there’s anything that AVD has shown us it is that Microsoft has a good handle on cloud computing services. This is vital for you when considering Windows 365 because Microsoft has built it on its Azure infrastructure.
So if you go with Windows 365, you’ll be investing in a service founded on a tried and tested platform. Therefore, we can take a look at AVD’s track record and some of what it has to offer clients.
Azure Virtual Desktop
Azure Virtual Desktop has proven to be a cost-effective alternative to scaling up a traditional virtual desktop environment in your own data center. The reduction in expenses is something that could very well help you to have a better ROI.
AVD has also proven to be invaluable to companies because of how it lets organizations control apps and data. They can do so while allowing their employees to access those resources on their own devices. This means that you can offer your workers greater flexibility in how they work. And you’ll still retain overall control and maintain high security standards.
Although you could get some of these benefits from a traditional VDI environment, the service that you get from Microsoft comes at a better price point with better security.
One of the greatest benefits that you will gain from investing in Windows 365 is that it will allow you to experience Windows 10 or Windows 11 at its very best. That’s in addition to having the full power of Microsoft 365 in your hands. AVD has built a reputation for offering clients a smooth experience when using these Microsoft products. And with Windows 365 being based on AVD, you can expect the experience to be even better.
The strength of Azure
The reason that makes Azure as impressive as it is, is the fact that it takes traditional on-premises infrastructure to the cloud. Because of this migration, Microsoft frees you from the responsibilities of a traditional VDI such as brokering, load-balancing, compute, storage, and diagnostics. What this then does is to create more time for IT pros in your enterprise to improve your business operations and promote growth.
And then there are Azure’s state-of-the-art security measures. As undoubtedly one the most secure public cloud platforms you can find, Azure significantly reduces the risk of falling victim to cyber criminals.
Azure Active Directory’s strict authentication process offers the only way that users can access their virtual machines. Clients can leverage features such as conditional access and multi-factor authentication to add layers of security to their access protocols.
Enhancing your business
Now that we’ve established how the cloud is different from your on-prem infrastructure, you could still ask why do I need it? If we already have our own hardware and software, why look to someone else to offer us a service? Now, these are very valid questions. But there are plenty of ways that taking advantage of cloud computing can enhance your business. For instance, we could take a look at the services you can get:
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) – this is where a cloud service provider operates resources such as servers, virtual machines, storage, networks, and operating systems. Clients can then use these services over the internet on a pay-as-you-go basis.
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) – clients can use this service to pay for on-demand resources such as hardware, software, and infrastructure that they can use to develop software. Therefore, developers, in particular, can take advantage of this to test, deliver, and manage software applications.
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – this is a subscription-based model that allows clients to have access to whatever software applications they need without concerning themselves about licensing or software management.
What’s clear from the services Microsoft can offer is that your organization can have access to almost limitless resources. And arguably the biggest benefit you stand to gain is that the cloud computing model places the responsibility for the maintenance of the physical infrastructure on a third party.
So when using the Windows 365 Cloud PC there are no longer any complex hardware management issues to deal with. In addition, by eliminating hardware-related expenses your business can grow a lot faster and simultaneously become more productive.
Choosing Windows 365
If you’ve made the decision to migrate your business to the cloud, you’ll still need to decide about which solution to choose. But, Microsoft intends the Windows 365 Cloud PC to be a great option that is affordable, easy to run, and simple to set up.
For instance, if you were to go with Azure Virtual Desktop, you would need individuals with the necessary expertise to run the system for your business. However, Windows 365 doesn’t require that. Microsoft will set up Windows 365 for you and allow you to control how to scale your Windows 365 instances and monitor Cloud PC’s performance.
The ease-of-use approach you get with Windows 365 means that you don’t need to have an Azure Solutions Architect Expert on staff to create and manage virtual PCs. So one could look at it this way. Azure Virtual Desktop offers flexibility whereas Windows 365 is going for ease of use.
As far as pricing is concerned, Windows 365 offers clients a simple and flexible pricing structure in keeping up with the theme of ease of use. Clients will also be allowed to change their configuration should they decide to. This makes it a lot easier for businesses to scale up or down depending on their particular needs.
Thus you can add or remove resources and adjust your monthly subscription accordingly. As for accessing your Windows 365 Cloud PC, you can do so on just about any operating system out there. Although, you may want to download the Remote Desktop Client for the most optimal experience.
Different options available
To ensure that any business that wants cloud computing services can have access, Microsoft gives you various options. This allows you to choose a subscription plan that is most ideal for your business. Something that suits your budget. The options that you get with Windows 365 provide two available editions – Windows 365 Business and Windows 365 Enterprise.
The Windows 365 Business edition is designed for small to medium-sized enterprises. So if your company requires only a few desktops as well as fixed pricing, then the Business edition is the right choice for you. You can expect a fixed rate for the Business desktop and the prices will depend on the hardware configuration you select.
Also, because your Business desktop is attached to a managed Microsoft vNet, you won’t have to deal with any network egress fees. This edition comes with a maximum number of 300 users. And there are no licensing pre-requirements to purchase and deploy the Cloud PC.
But, if users are licensed for Microsoft Endpoint Manager they will have access to other features such as device management. The provisioning won’t present any problems as it uses default configurations.
So as soon as a Cloud PC license is assigned, the Cloud PC is automatically provisioned with a standard image. When it comes to actual pricing, you get to choose from the following options:
- Basic – at a cost of $31/month and with support for up to 300 users, this option allows you to run light productivity tools and web browsers. Clients will get 2vCPU, 4GB RAM, and 128 GB Storage.
- Standard – this option will cost $41/month and also supports up to 300 users. Clients get 2vCPU, 8GB, and 128 GB of storage allowing you to Run a full range of productivity tools and line-of-business apps.
- Premium – the last option costs $66/month and provides access to 4vCPU, 16 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. With this you get support for up to 300 users and can run high-performance workloads and heavier data processing.
If your organization is a larger one, then the Business edition is not going to be adequate for you. The Windows 365 Enterprise edition will best serve large businesses. It’s especially helpful for those interested in integrating the desktops with their existing Azure virtual network. And they’ll have endpoint security with comprehensive features as well as single sign-on.
Unlike Business desktops, Enterprise desktops are attached to a customer’s vNet. So the standard fees for network egress traffic will apply. This edition allows clients to manage and roll out their own customized images.
In addition, you’ll be able to use other features including Universal Print, troubleshooting, etc. Also, the provisioning process can be configured and tailored to meet the specific needs of your organization.
Depending on the various needs of your business, you can select a subscription plan from the options given below:
- Basic – at a cost of $31/month and with support for unlimited users, this option allows you to run light productivity tools and web browsers. Clients will get 2vCPU, 4GB RAM, and 128 GB Storage.
- Standard – this option will cost $41/month and also supports an unlimited number of users. Clients will get 2vCPU, 8GB, and 128 GB of storage allowing you to run a full range of productivity tools and line-of-business apps.
- Premium – the last option costs $66/month and provides access to 4vCPU, 16 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. With this you get support for an unlimited number of users and can run high-performance workloads and heavier data processing.
Improve 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. You can put the right people in the right place at the right time. And it will enhance your clients’ 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 emphasizes 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. They additionally simplify working together for teams who may be in different locations.
Communication is paramount
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 have access to your Windows 365 Cloud PC from anywhere on just about any device.
Additionally, you can create various groups of people on Microsoft Teams. This provides those managing people and working on the same project, with a simpler engagement. This works 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 extensive 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.
Something for everyone
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 is easy and relatively affordable. It allows you to acquire more resources as your business expands.
Another improvement for 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, you won’t need to worry about your hardware anytime in the near future.
Reduce your physical footprint
Windows 365 can also be instrumental in helping you to reduce your physical footprint. This means that when you use cloud computing you won’t need as much office space as plenty of other businesses.
Because of the flexibility that Windows 365 provides, you may no longer need to have physical offices for a significant section of your workforce. You can simply take full advantage of having a hybrid work environment and remain productive in that way.
So you can have people working for you from all corners of the globe in the comfort of their own homes. Working this way may even enhance the working experience for some of your employees. This increases the possibility of employee satisfaction and higher levels of productivity. Moreover, using Microsoft Teams will ensure that communication and collaboration are carried on without difficulty.
Offices for your employees aren’t the only area where you can save space. When considering setting up your on-premises infrastructure, a significant amount of space is required for your network servers. As you can imagine, you’ll need to have plenty of space for the servers themselves. And you’ll need security measures, such as cages to enhance protection.
Your data center will also need state-of-the-art security to ensure that the risk of a security breach is reduced. And then we obviously can’t forget the staffing resources that will be required. You need to have teams of people who will be responsible for maintaining the servers and monitoring security to try and prevent hacker attacks.
These staff members will probably require an operations center and that means more building space. In addition to these IT people, you should have reliable security personnel guarding the physical premises. All of this will cost space and money. A lot of it.
Ultimately, having a significant portion of your workforce work remotely can help to increase your revenue streams. By reducing expenditure on building space, you can invest more in core business areas that will focus on attracting clients.
Communication and collaboration
This is an area that is fundamental to the success of every business. Especially when working in a hybrid environment. Windows 365 allows clients to take full advantage of the power of Microsoft Teams to ensure that communication in your organization happens smoothly.
You can set up teams in a way that will work best for you. When your organization is ready for users to start using Teams, the users can download the Teams client from https://teams.microsoft.com/downloads.
The Teams client can then be installed on your Windows, Mac, or Linux PC as well as on your Android or iOS device. However, you’ll need to ensure that all these users have the necessary Teams license.
Some of the more important elements in Teams include chat, teams, and channels. With chat, you can have one or more users talking, sharing files, or meeting privately. Teams will enable collaboration on any project at any time. And it can be visible to the entire organization or just the relevant team members.
Additionally, channels can help segment topics, projects, or anything else within teams in a way that suits the way you would like to work. Meetings and conferencing are two major things that businesses need to conduct to keep things moving smoothly. By using a Teams or Skype for Business client, individuals can participate in meetings to which they’ve been invited.
For small businesses
Even if you happen to have a bad internet connection you can still participate in meetings via audio conferencing. All you need is your regular phone, the conference phone number, and the meeting ID. Although meetings are enabled by default, you can still retain control of the meeting experience.
For smaller businesses with fewer than 300 users, consider using Microsoft 365 Teams Phone with Calling Plan to establish an office phone system without having a complex, costly on-premises phone system.
The system will include a phone system menu, caller ID, voice mail, and other great features. So all of these features are going to enable the Windows 365 Cloud PC experience to basically simulate the office experience.
Those working remotely won’t miss out on collaborating with their colleagues, sharing ideas, and crucially maintaining social connections with others. Without this, working remotely could quickly become a difficult, isolated affair.
Disaster recovery strategy
Every business needs to have effective data recovery strategies in place. The brazen nature of cyberattacks recently has shown that no enterprise is too small or too big to fall victim to hackers. And statistics suggest that in the last decade up to 4 billion people had their records stolen. Here are a few of the more notable data breaches of the last decade:
- In 2013, Target fell victim to cyber criminals who managed to compromise their network. This unfortunate incident was able to expose 40 million credit and debit card accounts.
- The very next year in 2014, another massive enterprise, eBay this time, suffered a massive breach of information. Estimates say that up to 145 million people may have had their login credentials stolen.
- In 2018, the Marriott also fell victim to hackers. This time, they managed to compromise the reservation system and steal names, addresses, credit card numbers, and phone numbers of hotel guests. They also collected information on travel itineraries like passport numbers and arrival and departure dates.
Incidences like this can be very costly for a business. Losing the trust of clients can see your share price drop like a rock. But, by using Windows 365 and having access to the Microsoft Cloud, you can massively reduce the risk of suffering such a disaster. As leaders in the industry, Microsoft will ensure that your data is protected to the highest degree.
Furthermore, the distribution of data centers means that anyone using the Windows 365 Cloud PC won’t have to worry about a data center being possibly taken down. The redundancies in the system will make sure that your data remains secure and available.
The vast resources available to Microsoft mean that they are well placed to withstand just about any unforeseen disruptive events. These include hardware/software failures, natural disasters, and power outages. Microsoft resources also ensure high application availability and business continuity.
If there’s anything that just about every business has had in common over the last few years it has been the challenge of accessibility. During a certain period, the global pandemic had managed to bring businesses to barely a crawl. Others were brought to a grinding halt. The economic repercussions have been evident for everyone to see and it has not been a pleasant situation.
There are companies that have had to shut their doors meaning thousands of people have lost their jobs. Having gone through this, most businesses would be happy to have a solution that can save them from having to experience anything similar again. And Windows 365 is there to give your business a service that has the necessary solutions.
The Cloud PC is certainly not the first cloud computing service to come into existence. Virtualization and remote access to PCs have been around for several years now. But, as a product that was announced last year, Windows 365 is packed with new features that previous services did not offer.
These are what you will need to ensure that even in the event of a pandemic, your organization can keep operating as smoothly as possible. The accessibility of the Windows 365 Cloud PC makes it that much easier for your employees to remain productive from anywhere across the globe. And they can do this without having to worry about what device they are using. Be it on a desktop computer, tablet, mobile phone, etc, you can still attend meetings, collaborate on projects with colleagues, and maintain communication with your fellow workers.
In addition, Windows 365 aims to make the hybrid work situation as seamless as it can be. This will mean that accessing company resources that are necessary for your work will be a simple and straightforward process. There are concerns about the ability to access files, folders, or internet apps that may be on your local office’s network and are normally accessed either directly in the office or via a VPN.
However, Microsoft assures clients that the hybrid work experience they have created caters to this scenario. Since Cloud PCs can remain constantly connected to your work network, you don’t need to worry about local or VPN access from personal devices. The main objective of the Windows 365 Cloud PC is to provide users with their ‘desktops’ anywhere, anytime.
Therefore, regardless of where you are you’ll still have the same experience as though you were sitting at your desk in the office. This smooth and highly secure experience is available to all employees regardless of which department they’re in.
According to Microsoft
According to Wangui McKelvey, a general manager for Microsoft 365, “Windows 365 provides an instant-on boot experience.” It is a product that is meant to take a huge step into the future of the desktop-as-a-service domain.
The availability that you benefit from allows your employees to stream their Windows session with all of their same apps, tools, data, and settings across Macs, iPads, Linux machines, and Android devices.
Basically, this creates a scenario where business employees don’t need to go to the office. And they won’t need access to their office PC to work. With the Windows 365 Cloud PC, your ‘desktop’ is wherever you are.
All you need is an internet connection and the rest is easy. McKelvey went on to add, “You can pick up right where you left off, because the state of your Cloud PC remains the same, even when you switch devices.”
Simplifying life for admins
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 also see changes when compared to other services. And the reality is, 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 with Windows 365. For starters, there won’t be 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 ideal 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 be similar to the management of Cloud PCs. For example, 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 two requirements. 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. There 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.
When we look at Windows 365, it’s clear that Microsoft has not created a completely new product. Cloud computing services have been around for a while and so has virtual machine technology. However, Microsoft does intend to improve on the existing technology to give clients a highly enriched desktop-as-a-service experience. An experience that they can access anywhere at any time on a very secure platform.
And what will attract clients, even more, is the ease of use of the service. Businesses don’t need expert IT professionals certified in Azure Solutions to be able to create and manage new virtual Cloud PCs. The provisioning and deployment process is relatively uncomplicated enabling businesses to quickly and easily join the hybrid computing revolution.
Windows 365 can simplify the virtualization experience for end users thus allowing them greater control over various details. With all the features availed to your business, Windows 365 looks like a very worthwhile investment.