The last few years have seen an increase in the adoption of cloud-based solutions by a lot of organizations. As some employees were forced to work remotely, businesses have had to quickly develop hybrid work environments.
With a lot of discussion about what the future may look like for organizations concerning work environments, the importance of cloud technologies has grown even more. In 2021, Microsoft launched the Windows 365 Cloud PC in an effort to set the standard for what a hybrid work environment can actually look like.
The Cloud PC is meant to be an easy-to-use platform that addresses the challenges that organizations have been facing with cloud-based technologies.
Adapting to the future
Some people believe that as cloud technologies become more widely used, we may end up doing more work outside the office. And when you look at it from this perspective then organizations will need services like the Cloud PC to enable them to avail corporate data and assets to their employees from anywhere.
With plenty of organizations already heavily reliant on Windows products and services, the integration with the Cloud PC means that one can reasonably expect productivity levels to be maintained.
Especially when you consider that a massive 73% of workers would like to see flexible work conditions maintained. So if organizations can provide an ideal hybrid work environment that caters to the desires of their workers while maintaining or increasing productivity levels then it will be a great benefit to the business. And the Cloud PC could be perfect for organizations in the following scenarios:
- Your staff is flexible enough to work in the office or from home.
- You have staff working remotely using their personal devices.
- You have plenty of staff who are temporary workers or you have a high staff turnover.
- Your staff requires powerful computers that may not be easy to move around with.
- You require a contingency plan that will enable you to have a PC or multiple in a matter of minutes if some disaster should occur.
Cloud PCs offer a different approach
VDIs have been a very popular platform over the years to meet the virtual technology needs of most organizations. However, legacy VDI has proven to be somewhat limited in what it can offer businesses. For instance, as the number of users and the distance from the office increases, VDI performance diminishes noticeably.
This slows down productivity and affects the organization’s performance as a whole. Not to mention that your VDI infrastructure can be very costly to maintain and also requires significant IT resources. With Windows 365’s Cloud PC, all these issues are addressed with various options available to cater to the needs of small and large enterprises alike.
Providing a simpler solution
Trying to modify existing VDI infrastructure to cater to modern needs can be an extremely challenging task. If you are to accommodate a hybrid work environment then ideally you want something easy to use. And the Cloud PC can give you that. The pricing is flexible and structured to meet the needs of different organizations.
You can also scale up or down as per your requirements. Thus, your organization will only need to pay for the resources you use. Moreover, the service is easy to set up and does away with complex, lengthy provisioning processes. Microsoft wants you to be up and running in under an hour. All of this adds up to give you a Cloud PC that can be of immense value to your business’ hybrid work environment.
Enhanced Windows 11 integration
Microsoft is constantly making improvements to the various products and services that support hybrid work environments. This year, Microsoft has announced new features that will improve the integration between Windows 11 and Windows 365.
All this was a part of the virtual event aptly titled ‘Windows Powers the Future of Hybrid Work‘. Some of the things to look forward to include the Windows 365 Switch. With this feature, users will be able to move between a Cloud instance and an actual desktop PC with a single click.
Another interesting feature is Windows 365 Boot which is going to allow you to boot straight to a Windows 365 Cloud PC. And it will only take a single step. In addition, when you find yourself in a situation where you have no internet connection, you can use Windows 365 Offline to continue working. And then when you manage to get back online there’ll be an automatic resync without losing any data.
Resolving accessibility issues
As previously alluded to above, legacy VDI systems for all they can do will probably start to become problematic the further away you are. So as one would expect, this can put significant restrictions on a hybrid work environment.
But, when it comes to the Cloud PC, one of its most attractive features is the accessibility that users get. This gives organizations a great incentive to migrate their desktop environment to the cloud.
When using the Cloud PC, users don’t need to worry about restricting their movements. They can easily move around and still access their Cloud PCs wherever they are. All you need is a decent internet connection and you can ‘carry your desktop’ with you in your pocket.
Another way that the Windows 365 Cloud PC addresses the challenges presented by hybrid work environments is by making the terms flexible. For instance, when it comes to devices, for the most part, it doesn’t really matter what device you are using. Whether you prefer Windows or Linux, Android or iOS, you can still access the Cloud PC.
This means that organizations need not worry about making significant investments in devices before embarking on the migration of their desktop environment to the cloud. Not only that, but users can be comfortable using the devices of their choice.
Furthermore, even when using multiple devices, you don’t need to worry about losing progress. If you need to use more than one device then you’re not going to be facing any accessibility issues.
What about security?
No one can deny the potential benefits that a service like the Cloud PC can bring to most organizations. However, with all the great features, arguably the biggest concern would be just how secure it is.
Can users really access corporate resources from anywhere using any device without compromising the organization’s cyber security? And the answer is yes.
Windows 365 has put measures in place to resolve some of those security concerns by using a Zero Trust architecture. A service that also comes with multi-factor authentication (MFA). This means that login or access attempts to the Cloud PC will be verified using integration with Microsoft Azure Active Directory.
Furthermore, you will get options to delegate specific permissions such as licensing, device management, and cloud PC management using specific rules. This is in addition to getting to use Microsoft Defender for Endpoint to improve your overall security posture.
In addition to all the above, there is also high level encryption for all stored data at rest, all managed disks running Windows 365-based Cloud PCs, as well as all network traffic to and from the PCs.
Communication and collaboration are things that can be severely hindered by hybrid working. This can create a situation that lowers staff morale and adversely affects productivity. With the Cloud PC, Microsoft has attempted to eliminate these issues by integrating Microsoft Teams into the service.
Using a collaboration platform is going to enhance hybrid working by creating a great team space that promotes the making of creative decisions and communication. When you can use features such as online video calling and screen sharing, multi-user real-time collaboration becomes easier.
It also helps to manage the isolation one may experience when working remotely. Other features such as chat function, document sharing, audio conferencing, and plenty more will only serve to enhance the hybrid work experience potentially boosting productivity.
Effective management of staff members that are working remotely can be a nightmare of a problem. Communication issues can be common at the office so when you have remote staff it can be significantly worse.
Management can leverage Microsoft Teams to create channels for small groups within departments or for project-based collaboration. Doing this helps your team members to collaborate with greater ease.
However, even with this arrangement you still need effective file management to work quickly and efficiently. For this, you can use Sharepoint so that you can keep your files centralized and easy to access.
Another feature that will come in useful is the recording of meetings. This means all team members, in particular any who may have been absent, can get a copy of the meeting to review at their convenience.
And when it comes to project management, you can make use of OneNote to view and manage the tasks of all team members. So when you take these and all the other features available, you’ll get a platform that can significantly enhance staff management and overall team culture.
Changing the way your organization operates can often come at a hefty cost. With that in mind, Microsoft wants to lower IT expenses for businesses looking to establish a hybrid work environment. This is something you can see in the hardware department. Because users will have desktops running in the cloud, you don’t need to make any significant investments in new devices.
In addition, because the Cloud PC handles the heavy computing on the Azure cloud, your organization’s hardware refresh rate will potentially decrease. Furthermore, with Windows 365 being easy to set up, you’ll save even more by not needing to bring in specialist IT professionals. Your IT people will be able to deploy and manage the configuration of any PC pretty much like they have been doing all along.
Your organization may be rightly concerned as to how using the Cloud PC will affect their current licenses. Do you need to pay more for Microsoft services? But, Microsoft has set it up such that if you already have a Microsoft 365 E3 license, for instance, then you won’t need to pay twice for the same service. This means that you can continue to use the software you have paid for and that includes Windows 10.
So as far as the Windows 365 licenses are concerned, all you need is to pay for access to the virtual PC service. The latter will be maintained by Microsoft on its vast network of servers with the aim of running the software that you already have. Therefore, it’s basically like buying a computer and then purchasing the operating system and applications that you need.
The licensing requirements are as follows:
- On Windows Pro endpoints: Windows 10 Enterprise E3 + EMS E3; or Microsoft 365 F3, E3, E5 ,or BP (Business Premium);
- On non-Windows Pro endpoints: Windows VDA E3 + EMS E3; or Microsoft 365 F3, E3, F5, or BP (Business Premium).
A lot of organizations have countless concerns about establishing a hybrid work environment. These concerns can understandably be a stumbling block. However, Microsoft has introduced the Windows 365 Cloud PC to address the challenges that organizations typically face with hybrid environments.
The Cloud PC is easy to set up and offers several different options to cater to the various organizations that may be interested in Windows 365. This gives businesses a service that their employees can use to create flexible work schedules. Users can easily remain productive wherever they may be using just about any device.
As some would say, hybrid work environments are the future. So, if that is the case, then taking advantage of a platform like the Windows 365 Cloud PC would be a great choice to make.