Taking A Closer Look At Windows 365 Security

The idea of having a desktop that you can access from just about anywhere is an incredible option to have. Not only that but you can do so using your PC, tablet, or smartphone. As can be seen by the disruptions we witnessed to business activities at the height of the pandemic, the lack of viable options can be disastrous.

Hence why the Windows 365 Cloud PC has been very well received by organizations since coming onto the scene in 2021. It gives organizations a solution that they may not have had a few years back.

You can provide desktops for employees regardless of where they are working from. Be it at home or in the office, the Cloud PC remains accessible and productivity levels can be maintained.

But, the key question is how secure is Windows 365? Can the corporate network remain secure with the use of Cloud PCs?

Getting started

Organizations that use Windows 365 will benefit from an end-to-end connection flow for all their employees thus allowing them to work in a secure environment. Windows 365 has been designed with Zero Trust principles being integral to the security structure.

What this means is that clients have a great foundation that allows them to apply controls that help them to better secure their environments across the 6 pillars of Zero Trust. Microsoft allows you to implement Zero Trust controls in the following areas:

  • Securing access to the Cloud PC – this is something that is crucial to Identity and it enables you to set the specific regulations concerning who can access the Cloud PC and under which conditions.
  • Securing the Cloud PC device itself – the actual Cloud PC devices that one uses to access corporate resources require extremely high security. So this is an important category that allows for the securing of the Endpoint by placing extra security measures on the devices themselves.
  • Securing the Cloud PC data and other data available while using the Cloud PC – this last area allows you to place additional security measures to secure the data itself that users will need to access. Also, you can place extra measures on how Cloud PC users can access the data.

Default features

Microsoft has a few features that are enabled on all new Cloud PCs by default. These include:

  • Virtual Trusted Platform Module (vTPM): a vTPM is a virtualized version of a hardware Trusted Platform module and is designed to be compliant with the TPM2.0 spec. What it offers you is a dedicated secure vault for keys and measurements. With trusted launch, your virtual machine will get its own dedicated TPM instance that will run in a secure environment outside the reach of any VM.
  • Secure boot: this next feature could be described as something that provides the foundation of trusted launch. Secure boot is a mode that is implemented in platform firmware and enhances the overall security posture by protecting against the installation of malware-based rootkits and boot kits. Basically, what you get is a system that ensures that only signed operating systems and drivers can boot. Therefore, any image that Secure Boot fails to Authenticate will be restricted from booting.

As a result of having the above features enabled, Windows 365 will support the enabling of the Windows security features below:

  • Hypervisor Code Integrity (HVCI)
  • Microsoft Defender Credential Guard

Automatic enrollment

Another key thing that Microsoft has advised clients to secure their Windows 365 Cloud PCs is to configure devices to enroll into MEM using automatic enrollment. However, to do that, you need to meet the following requirements:

Sign in Intune in Microsoft Endpoint Manager

Start by signing in to the MEM admin center as a Global administrator. If you are using the Trial subscription, then the account you used to create the subscription becomes the Global administrator.

Set up Windows 10/11 automatic enrollment

If you want to enroll both corporate and bring-your-own-devices, you’ll have to use MDM enrollment. In addition, you have to sign up for a free Azure AD Premium subscription.

  1. Navigate to the MEM admin center. Select All services > M365 Azure Active Directory > Azure Active Directory > Mobility (MDM and MAM).
  2. Choose Get a free Premium trial to use this feature. This enables auto-enrollment using the Azure AD free Premium trial.
  3. Select the Enterprise Mobility + Security E5 free trial option.
  4. Click Free trial > Activate the free trial.
  5. Choose Microsoft Intune to configure Intune.
  6. Go to the MDM user scope and select Some. This enables you to use MDM auto-enrollment to manage enterprise data on your employees’ Windows devices. This will configure MDM auto-enrollment for AAD joined devices and bring your own device scenarios.
  7. Click Select groups > Contoso Testers > Select as the assigned group.
  8. And then for data management on your workforce’s device, choose Some from the MAM Users scope.
  9. Choose Select groups > Contoso Testers > Select as the assigned group.
  10. And then, for the remaining configuration values, you’ll use the default values.
  11. Choose Save.

Windows 365 Business

Windows 365 comes in two different options to cater to the various businesses and their different needs. Microsoft intends for Cloud PCs to be available for both small and large enterprises. Therefore, smaller organizations have Windows 365 Business that can meet the needs of the business.

If your organization does not have an IT department/staff or central IT management solutions then this is the option for you. This option gives end users local admin rights to their Cloud PCs in a way that is typically seen with smaller businesses.

In instances where IT would like to use Windows 365 Business for a particular scenario, Microsoft recommends sticking to standard IT protocols. That is, of course, if you intend to set users as standard users on their devices. You can use Microsoft Endpoint to carry this out and to do so you need to follow the steps below:

  • The process starts with device configuration to enroll the devices in MEM using automatic enrollment.
  • The next step involves the management of the Local Administrators group. This can be done using Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) or using Microsoft Endpoint Manager.
  • In addition, it would be a good idea to have Microsoft Defender Attack surface reduction (ASR) rules enabled. This would be very useful because these rules are in-depth defense mitigations for specific security concerns, such as blocking credential stealing from the Windows local security authority subsystem.

Windows 365 Enterprise

When it comes to Windows 365 Enterprise, the process is slightly easier for IT admins. This is because, for the Enterprise license, Cloud PCs are automatically enrolled. Not only that but they also get reporting of Microsoft Defender Antivirus alerts as well as optional onboarding into Microsoft Defender for Endpoint capabilities.

By default, Enterprise users are automatically set up as standard users. However, admins still retain the option to make per-user exceptions when necessary. The guidelines for users of Windows 365 Enterprise Cloud PCs are as below:

  • Users should stick to standard Windows 10 security practices. This also means restricting access to your Cloud PC using local administrator privileges.
  • You need to deploy Windows 365 security baselines to your Cloud PC from MEM. Furthermore, you should utilize Microsoft Defender to protect your endpoints, especially all Cloud PCs.
  • Taking advantage of Azure AD conditional access is a must. With features such as multifactor authentication (MFA) and user/sign-in risk mitigation, you can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access to your Cloud PC.

Enhancing your security posture

Microsoft offers organizations security recommendations that are meant to enable you to improve your security. These guidelines are as follows:

  • Conditional Access

Microsoft recommends the use of Conditional Access policies to improve your authentication processes. These policies are central to the zero trust strategy and help to secure your corporate network by putting strict controls concerning which devices can access it and how. You can even configure Conditional Access policies to meet the specific needs of your business and your Windows 365 environment.

  • Microsoft Defender for Endpoint

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint (MDE) has been described as an enterprise endpoint security platform designed to help enterprise networks prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to advanced threats. Organizations can connect MDE to their Cloud PC devices and thus have access to security procedures that are an industry standard for endpoint protection.

You can significantly improve your security because of how MDE can easily integrate with other Microsoft security tools. Clients with Windows 10 or Windows 11 licenses will get Microsoft Defender and Microsoft Defender Firewall as part of Windows Security which comes with their subscriptions. This also includes firewall and network protection, account protection, virus and threat protection, and device security among others.

Another thing to be aware of is that if you have a Microsoft 365 E5 plan then you’ll also get Microsoft 365 Defender. This service, which may also be purchased as an add-on for other Microsoft 365 subscriptions, compiles security data from the Microsoft 365 ecosystem and organizes it into a centralized dashboard.

And the way this dashboard has been designed simplifies the task for admins by making it easier to detect and respond to threats while setting aside the non-urgent. Ultimately, leveraging this security platform will help organizations to provide next-generation cybersecurity for their Windows 365 environment.

  • Intune compliance

The use of Intune compliance policies is highly recommended as a way to set the requirements and settings that users and devices must abide by to be considered compliant. These policies can be used in conjunction with Conditional Access policies for your Windows 365 environment. This means that you can block any non-compliant devices from accessing corporate resources until any issues have been resolved.

  • Regular updates

Another recommendation that Microsoft gives has to do with OS updates. Devices need regular updates to not only maintain high levels of security but to keep enhancing performance as well. Occasionally, vulnerabilities are discovered that may be exploited so updates will help mitigate those issues and provide new features as well. And when it comes to Cloud PCs, IT admins can use Endpoint Manager to configure Intune Windows 10/11 update rings and policies for Windows Update for Business.

  • Admin rights

With regard to Windows 365 Business, the target market is small businesses that may not have an IT team to manage the environment. So it makes sense that users are granted local admin rights. For Windows 365 Enterprise, on the other hand, users will not get those same privileges. And this is by default so as to be in line with Windows 10/11 security guidance.

  • Integration

Microsoft further enhances the overall security by having an integration between Microsoft Defender for Endpoint and Windows 365. What this means is that security and endpoint admins can collaborate on the management of the Cloud PC environment just like for any regular physical endpoint. If subscribed, Cloud PCs will:

  • Send data through to Microsoft 365 Secure Score.
  • Have the option to view unhealthy PCs on the Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Security Center and threat analysis dashboards.
  • The response of Cloud PCs to remediation measures will replicate that of any other managed devices.

Deployment of security baselines

Every organization needs specific security controls that can help to address its cybersecurity needs. To ensure the highest level of security, Microsoft recommends using industry-standard security measures that have been well-tested.

With Windows 365 security baselines, you’ll be getting Microsoft-recommended security measures that are based on best practices and expert feedback. This will help to improve the security of your Cloud PCs because of the recommendations you benefit from. Windows 365 security baselines are going to affect the following areas:

  • Windows 10 settings: 1809
  • MDATP settings: version 4
  • Edge settings: April 2020 (Edge version 80 and later)

Microsoft also optionally allows you to apply Windows 365 security baselines to the Azure AD groups containing Cloud PC devices in your tenant. Once you are ready to deploy the security configurations, you’ll follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center and sign in. Then select Endpoint Security > View Security Baselines
  2. Select Cloud PC Security Baseline (Preview).
  3. Next, you select Create Profile and then give a name for the profile.
  4. The groups of settings for the baseline you chose can now be viewed on the Configuration settings tab. If you want to view the settings in a particular group as well as the default values for those settings in the baseline, all you need to do is expand the group. And if you want to see specific settings:
  5. Select a group to expand and from there you can review the available settings.
  6. You can use the search bar to type in specific keywords so that you get results displaying only the groups that match your search criteria.

All the settings in a baseline will have default configurations for that particular baseline version. To cater to varying business needs, Microsoft gives you the option to reconfigure the default settings. You will also notice that depending on the intent of the baseline, some baselines will have the same setting but will use different default values for that setting.

  • Next, go to the Assignments tab and select a device group with Cloud PCs to include. After that, you’ll need to assign the baseline to one or more groups with your Cloud PCs. You can use Select groups to exclude to fine-tune the assignment.
  • After completing the above and you’re ready for deployment, go to the Review + create tab and review the details for the baseline. To save and deploy the profile click on Create.

Application of the baseline to the assigned group is carried out immediately following the creation of the profile.

Implementing Conditional Access

Conditional Access is a system designed to enhance the security of corporate networks by restricting access to verified and compliant devices. Being a policy-based approach allows you to configure the specific conditions that you want to apply to the access controls. As Microsoft puts it, these policies are basically “if-then” statements. If a user needs to access certain resources on the corporate network then it follows that he/she will need to meet certain requirements. Using Conditional Access can help you to accomplish the following:

            ◆ Enable users to maintain productivity levels wherever they may be.

            ◆ Safeguard corporate resources.

Assigning Conditional Access policies to Cloud PCs

Windows 365 Enterprise admins should be aware that Conditional Access policies aren’t set for tenants by default. So to assign policies to the Cloud PC first-party app you’ll need to use either of the following services:

            ◆ Azure

            ◆ Microsoft Endpoint Manager by performing the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the MEM admin center and sign in. Proceed to select Endpoint Security > Conditional Access > New Policy.
  2. The specific Conditional Access policy that you want will require you to provide a name for it.
  3. Go to the New Policy tab and select Specific users included which you’ll find under Users and groups. Next, you need to pick the specific user or group that you want to target with the policy. You also get the option to Exclude certain users or groups if that’s the way you want to set up.
  4. Select No cloud apps, action, or authentication contexts selected. You can find this option under Cloud apps or actions.
  5. Select Cloud apps > Include > Select apps.
  6. Next, head over to the Select pane. Here you’ll need to search for and select the apps below:
  7. Windows 365 (you can also search for “cloud” to find this app).
  8. Windows Virtual Desktop (this may also appear as Azure Virtual Desktop)

Ensuring that the policy is applied to the Cloud PC end-user portal as well as the connection to the Cloud PC.is achieved by choosing both of the apps above. Choosing both of these apps is also necessary if you want to be able to exclude apps.

  • Fine-tuning a policy can be performed by going over to Access and then choosing the options that you want to apply to all objects assigned to this policy.
  • Before you proceed any further you may want to test the policy. This can be done by going to Enable Policy and turning the setting Report-only to Off. This will prevent the policy from being applied as soon as you’ve completed the creation process.
  • All that’s left now is for you to select Create and you’ll complete the creation of the policy.

If you want to see the list of your active and inactive policies, navigate to the Policies view in the Conditional Access UI.

Wrap up

Remote desktop services offer countless benefits to businesses that can help enhance the overall performance of the business. Businesses can easily have hybrid workforces without having to sacrifice productivity. Not only that but services like Windows 365 ensure that if an unexpected event such as the COVID-19 pandemic occurs, the disruption to business activities can be minimized.

However, all of this doesn’t mean much without the best security features you can get to safeguard corporate data as well as the physical devices that employees use. And Microsoft has provided Windows 365 clients with a wide array of security features to ensure that Cloud PCs have next-generation protection. This will make it such that the user experience becomes significantly better.

Getting Set up With Windows 365

Cloud computing has come a long way in the last couple of decades. As a way of delivering various on-demand IT resources over the internet, cloud computing has an endless list of applications. These can then offer individuals and organizations alike access to resources that may otherwise be beyond their means.

As you can imagine, the cost of running an on-premises IT environment can be very steep. This is why cloud computing is being adopted by a lot of organizations as they realize the benefits and convenience you get. And Microsoft has been providing these services for a long time but with Windows 365, the company is looking to make cloud computing even better.

Windows 365

Windows 365 is a Desktop as a Service offering that was introduced by Microsoft in 2021. It is designed to provide both small and large organizations with a cloud computing environment that can adequately meet the various needs. And when you consider that Microsoft already had other virtualization technologies on offer, you can trust that this new service will give you some of the best of those other technologies.

In fact, Windows 365 is built on the Azure infrastructure so that already breeds confidence in the service. Microsoft has basically leveraged its existing products and gone for a new approach to delivering virtual desktop infrastructure. Organizations can use the Cloud PC to increase security as well as productivity. In addition, having a cloud-based Windows PC can also help employees collaborate better regardless of where they physically are.

By using the Windows 365 Cloud PC, users will be able to stream their Windows PC to any supported device. And this is something that you can do using either a browser or a native RDP client.

Arguably the key foundational concept of Windows 365 is simplicity and so Microsoft has designed the service to be relatively easy to set up and use. In line with that, you’ll get to use all your favorite tools such as Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Power Platform, and plenty more.

Furthermore, Windows 365 comes in two editions to cater to both small and large enterprises. The Windows 365 Business edition targets the small to medium enterprise sector that may only need a few desktops. Organizations can get up to 300 desktops and will be charged a fixed rate that depends on the selected hardware configuration.

For larger enterprises, there is Windows 365 Enterprise which can help you to integrate the desktops with your existing Azure virtual network.

Simplifying virtual desktop infrastructure

One of the things that Windows 365 aims to do is to ensure that it can avail cloud computing to as many people as possible. With traditional VDI environments, you would need to set up a server, install applications, and then provide access to users.

But, Windows 365 does away with all of that. Microsoft has designed a product that has all the building blocks automated for you and will take care of all the virtualization. In addition, the service can scale with you in a highly optimized way to use Microsoft 365 apps.

Your organization doesn’t need to worry about the hardware and software configurations of the devices that your users have. Admins will be particularly glad to hear this because it means that deployment will become significantly easier and faster.

Traditional VDI may sometimes have limitations regarding where one can get access. This is not so with Windows 365 as users can access their Cloud PCs from anywhere on almost any device. The kind of freedom that Windows 365 gives its users is what makes it the ideal product for an increasingly hybrid world.

Device requirements

So, before you get started with setting up your Windows 365 environment, you’ll need to find out what the device requirements are. Are there any specific devices that your organization needs to purchase if you want to use Windows 365? Fortunately, there’s not much to worry about in this regard because Microsoft wants to make accessing Cloud PCs convenient and easy.

Therefore, Windows 365 will do this by allowing you to use most devices which Microsoft also hopes will help you reduce your IT costs in the hardware department. Because Windows 365 is essentially PC hardware that runs in the cloud, the importance of your actual physical device is significantly less.

As long as you have an internet connection, you’ll be able to operate a reasonably powerful Windows PC using just about any device. To access this Cloud PC, you can use any modern browser or the Remote Desktop app.

A setup like this is going to be extremely beneficial for organizations that have a sizeable remote or seasonal workforce. Your organization won’t need to make a massive investment in hardware for all those employees. Even better is the fact that they’ll be able to easily access these Cloud PCs anywhere without losing any progress.

In short, all Windows 10 and Windows 11 devices should be compatible with Windows 365. The best part, however, is that clients will be able to easily stream a Windows 365 session to hardware running macOS, iOS, Linux, and Android.

However, for the best experience, Microsoft recommends devices that have a traditional keyboard and mouse. For the most part, as long as your device has an HTML5 browser and a DSL connection or a wireless internet connection capable of streaming a video you will be just fine. The amount of bandwidth that you’ll need, however, will depend on your workload.

How much does it cost?

Microsoft offers Windows 365 at varying prices to cater to the different needs of the target organizations. From the small outfit needing only a handful of PCs to the larger enterprises that may require unlimited options. Not only that but it also helps to ensure that users will only pay for what they need.

So, support staff can get a Cloud PC that works for them, and individuals such as engineers that have heavier computing needs can also get something that suits them. You can get Cloud PCs in multiple configurations from $20 per user per month for the lowest-end SKU, to $162 per user per month for the most expensive one.

This fixed per month pricing model is something else that distinguishes Windows 365 from Azure Virtual Desktop which is consumption-based. And if the need to scale up ever arises then you have the option of doing that by getting a different subscription.

For the Windows 365 Business edition, the $20 per user per month fee is going to get you a single virtual core, 2GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. Although you will require Windows Hybrid Benefit, which is Microsoft’s Bring-Your-Own license model that is designed to help clients to apply existing (or new) licenses toward the cost of a product.

Otherwise, if you don’t have Windows Hybrid Benefit then the cost goes up to $24 per user per month. At the other end of the spectrum, clients will be able to purchase the Business SKU that offers eight virtual cores, 32GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage for $158. And similar to the previous one, without Windows Hybrid Benefit the cost goes up, this time to $162.

Larger organizations have the Windows 365 Enterprise edition designed for them and the pricing range is similar. Users that have lighter computing needs can get a single virtual core with 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for $20 per user per month. And for the other users that require virtual machines that can deliver significantly more, you can get an option that gives you eight virtual cores, 32GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage for $158 per user per month.

Provisioning

The provisioning process is going to create a Cloud PC virtual machine and then set it up for a user. Provisioning also enables the completion of other tasks that will prepare the machine for use as well as the sending of access information to the user. To start the process, admins will have to provide configuration details to set up the process.

Once that’s been done, users that have a Windows 365 license that matches the configuration details will automatically get Cloud PCs provisioned for them. However, each user and license pair can only have one Cloud PC provisioned for them because the provisioning setup works on a one-time per user and per-license basis. The steps of the provisioning process are given below:

  • A provisioning policy is created to manage access to the Cloud PCs. These provisioning policies are integral to the process because they are responsible for building, configuring, and availing Cloud PCs to end-users. As such, each policy needs you to provide information about the on-premises network connection, the image used to create each Cloud PC, and an Azure AD user group.
  • The provisioning process will begin with the assignment of a Windows 365 license to users in the Azure AD user group. Subsequently, Windows 365 will then proceed with the automatic provisioning of the Cloud PC. And after doing that, the necessary access information will be sent to the user. The automation is performed in 3 phases that will remain invisible to the administrator.
  • Once all the above has been carried out successfully, what only remains is for the end user to get the access data that will provide them with access to sign in to the Windows Cloud PC from anywhere.

Improving the setup process

In the first few months of 2022, Microsoft announced that it was implementing a few changes meant to make setting up Cloud PCs even easier. The announcement informed us about how Windows 365 was going to get the “join” feature. Azure AD joined devices are those whose computer object is no longer stored in the on-premises Active Directory Domain Services environment.

Instead, it is now located in Azure Active Directory. By using Azure AD Join you’ll be able to join devices directly to Azure AD without the need to join to on-premises Active Directory. And all this can be done while keeping your users productive and secure. Your admins can easily leverage Azure AD Join for both at-scale and scoped deployments. According to Microsoft, this feature was highly requested by organizations who wanted to simplify the onboarding process.

When Microsoft made the announcement, it was said that Azure AD join had been the most requested feature since Windows 365 reached general availability. So, admins will be glad to know that they now have the possibility of using Azure AD join as a Cloud PC join type option.

Therefore, what this means for organizations is that you no longer need to have an existing Azure infrastructure to use the service but just your Azure AD users. All of this has been done to make it easier for admins to onboard users using Azure Active Directory.

Expectedly, this presents a massive upgrade, especially when looking at how integral Azure AD is to Microsoft’s identity and security services. Bringing the ‘join’ feature to the Windows 365 platform will go a long way in maintaining the theme of ease of use that Microsoft has described for its Cloud PC.

Before this upgrade, the ‘join’ feature had helped businesses that use the on-premises version of Active Directory by functioning as a device-joining bridge. Simply put, adding Azure AD Join to the Windows 365 platform is going to enable admins to enroll devices without the need to have on-premises Active Directory. Now all you need to do is use your Azure AD users.

Accessing your Cloud PC

After everything has been set up it’s time for users to learn just how they can connect to the Cloud PC. We need to clarify what clients can be used as well as what options the end-users will have. Also, we need to know how administrative credentials can be provided to the end-user. Microsoft has provided two ways for users to connect to the Cloud PC:

  1. Web browser – the first method that users have for accessing the Cloud PC is via a web browser. All you have to do is simply navigate to windows365.microsoft.com. Once there you can log in with the user credentials that have a desktop provisioned and the portal will show you an overview of the desktops available to you. However, to access the Cloud PC using this website, users’ devices need to meet the following requirements:
  2. supported operating systems: Windows, macOS, ChromeOS, Linux,
  3. a modern browser like Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Safari, or Mozilla Firefox (v55.0 and later).

When using windows365.microsoft.com, end users can carry out various tasks on their Cloud PCs by selecting the gear icon on a Cloud PC card.

  • rename: doing this will change the name of the Cloud PC that the user sees on the website. But, performing this action doesn’t change any name in Microsoft Endpoint Manager, Azure Active Directory, on the device, or in the Remote Desktop Apps.
  • restart: this will restart the Cloud PC.
  • troubleshoot: whenever a user is encountering challenges with connecting to the Cloud PC, this will help you to troubleshoot and try to resolve those challenges. A few checks will be run including verifying that all the files and agents necessary for connectivity have been properly installed. There will also be a check for the availability of Azure resources.
  • Remote desktop – the second method that Microsoft offers clients for connecting to the Cloud PC is by using the Microsoft Remote Desktop app. This is designed to enable users to access and control a remote PC, including a Cloud PC. So, for those who have been using Azure Virtual Desktop, this is an app they will already be familiar with. Setting up the Remote Desktop is a relatively simple process that requires you to follow a few steps:
  • first, you’ll have to download the Remote Desktop app. You can find it on the Download App page at www.microsoft.com/windows-365?rtc=1.
  • next, you select Subscribe.
  • the next step will require you to enter your Azure Active Directory credentials.
  • you will then see the Cloud PC appear on a list. Simply double-click it to launch.

Cloud PC security

Microsoft provides Cloud PCs with good security measures straight out of the box. And just like you have with your physical computers, Windows 365 Cloud PCs will come with Microsoft Defender. This helps to ensure that your device is secure from the first-run experience.

Also, the provisioning of the Cloud PCs is done using a gallery image. To ensure improved security, the image will have the latest updates for Windows 10 through Windows Update for Business. However, there are a few differences between what exactly you’ll get for Windows 365 Business and for Windows 365 Enterprise.

Windows 365 Business

Since Windows 365 Business is a service aimed at smaller organizations, particularly those that may not have IT staff, users on this edition are granted local admin rights to their Cloud PCs. So, this situation basically replicates what happens with a lot of small businesses whereby users purchase computers and retain local admin rights.

For IT departments that want to use Windows 365 Business for particular cases, they need to follow standard security practices if they intend to make those users standard users on their devices. To use MEM for this approach, you’ll need to follow the guidelines below:

  • The process starts with device configuration to enroll the devices in MEM

               using automatic enrollment.

  • The next step involves the management of the Local Administrators group.

               This can be done using Azure AD or MEM.

  • In addition, it would be a good idea to have Microsoft Defender Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) rules enabled. This would be very useful because these rules are in-depth defense mitigations for specific security concerns, such as blocking credential stealing from the Windows local security authority subsystem.

Windows 365 Enterprise

When it comes to Windows 365 Enterprise, you’ll start to see some significant differences because this edition was designed for organizations that have dedicated IT teams. This makes things slightly easier for IT as you have a system that is molded on the management and security that Microsoft Endpoint Manager provides. All Cloud PCs in Windows 365 Enterprise configure users as standard users by default.

However, admins still have the ability to make exceptions on a per-user basis. Furthermore, all Cloud PCs will be enrolled in MEM with reporting of Microsoft Defender Antivirus alerts. You’ll also get the ability to onboard into the full Microsoft Defender for Endpoint capabilities. Microsoft makes the following security recommendations for users of Windows 365 Enterprise:

  • Users should stick to standard Windows 10 security practices. This also means restricting access to your Cloud PC using local administrator privileges.
  • You need to deploy Windows 365 security baselines to your Cloud PC from MEM. Furthermore, you should utilize Microsoft Defender to protect your endpoints, especially all Cloud PCs.
  • Taking advantage of Azure AD conditional access is a must. With features such as MFA and user/sign-in risk mitigation, you can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access to your Cloud PC.

Wrap up

There has been a lot of talk about remote work and hybrid work environments in recent years. And with the interest that is in the market, a product like Windows 365 is perfectly designed to meet the needs of most organizations. The flexibility and scalability of the platform offer an endless list of benefits to users both at home and in the office.

Additionally, Microsoft has built the product to be simple to configure and use even for businesses that don’t have specialist IT professionals on staff. All of these things, among many others, combine to give you an incredible virtual experience that runs on the highly secure Microsoft Cloud.

What You Need To Know About Windows 365 Lifecycle

Organizations have countless products that they have to enable them to optimize the productivity of staff members. These products can come from different vendors and so it’s extremely important to guarantee the quality of these tools.

And when there is a lifecycle policy available, organizations can be certain that the products they are purchasing have been rigorously tested, are built extremely securely, and will meet any necessary compliance and security regulations. With Windows 365, clients know that they will be getting a product that meets all of the above and can perform to very high standards.

Microsoft Lifecycle Policies

Microsoft gives its customers products that come with industry-leading lifecycle policies. These are designed to ensure that when purchasing a product, you’ll be receiving something with consistent, transparent, and predictable guidelines for software support and servicing.

And these policies are valid for all Microsoft customers regardless of where they are across the globe. However, it’s important to remember that how these policies are used will depend on the regulatory requirements in other countries. Also, the application of these policies may differ according to the industry sector.

The level of quality that customers get is a result of the development process that Microsoft puts into these lifecycle policies. In addition to the specialists at Microsoft, the process also involves customers, partners, analysts, and plenty more to produce a policy that meets all expectations.

Because of this, customers can plan better and manage their support requirements effectively. Microsoft provides Fixed Lifecycle policies for products that have defined end-of-support dates at the time of release. Then, for products that will receive continuous support and servicing, there are Modern Lifecycle Policies.

Fixed Lifecycle Policy

This type of policy is aimed at plenty of commercial and some consumer products that customers can acquire through retail purchase and/or volume licensing. It is a policy that offers:

  • Defined support and servicing Lifecycle timeline at the time of product launch.

Receiving the support may possibly require you to deploy the latest Service Pack or update.

Modern Lifecycle Policy          

This type of policy is designed for products that will be serviced and supported continuously. However, there are certain conditions that need to be met for products and services to remain in support. These requirements are as follows:

  • It will be the customer’s responsibility to ensure that they stay current as per the servicing and system requirements that are defined for a particular service or product.
  • Customers also need to verify that they are licensed to use the service or product.
  • It’s again necessary to check that Microsoft currently offers support for that service or product.  

Microsoft provides a modern lifecycle policy for Windows 365 thus ensuring Cloud PC users will have a great product that has continuous support.

The Cloud PC lifecycle

Microsoft has developed a setup whereby Windows 365 will coordinate and manage the lifecycles of all Cloud PCs. And due to the fact that Cloud PCs exist only in the cloud, the management of their lifecycles will be significantly easier than that of physical Windows devices. The lifecycle of the Cloud PC comprises 5 stages which are:

  1. Provision
  2. Configure
  3. Protect
  4. Monitor
  5. Deprovision

Provision

In keeping in line with the goal of making things simple, Windows 365 provides clients with an optimized experience for Cloud PC deployment. Microsoft has integrated the admin experience for setting up deployments into the MEM admin center.

The provisioning process will prove to be easier than one may imagine because it is an automated one. All you need to do is assign a Windows 365 license to a user, add them to a group targeted with a provisioning policy, and the provisioning of the user’s Cloud PC will proceed automatically. The process will:

  • create a Cloud PC virtual machine.
  • set it up for the end-user.
  • perform any other necessary tasks to ready the Cloud PC for use.
  • send access information to the user.

What Microsoft has done is create a simplified admin experience that makes the provisioning much simpler and more straightforward. As soon as you’ve finished providing a few configuration details, Cloud PCs will be automatically provisioned for all users who have a Windows 365 license and matching configuration details.

Because this process is a one-time per user and per license process, a user and license pair can only have a single Cloud PC provisioned for them. The complete process is going to follow the steps below:

  • Starts with the creation of a provisioning policy to manage access to the Cloud PCs. Provisioning policies are key to the entire process as they are responsible for building, configuring, and availing Cloud PCs to end-users. Each policy will require you to provide details regarding the on-premises network connection, the image used to create each Cloud PC, and an Azure AD user group.
  • Assignment of a Windows 365 license to users in the Azure AD user group will begin the provisioning process. And the provisioning of the Cloud PC will be carried out automatically by Windows 365 after which it will then send the necessary access information to the user. The automation is going to proceed in 3 phases that will be invisible to the administrator.
  • The last part of the process involves the end-user receiving the necessary access information that will allow them to sign in to the Windows Cloud PC from anywhere.

Configure

When it comes to Cloud PCs, they need to be configured and secured similarly to any other endpoint in your environment. Microsoft integrates configuration into the provisioning process thus making it simpler. Every Windows 365 Cloud PC will either be:

  • Azure AD joined or
  • Hybrid Azure AD joined.

Azure AD joined devices can be deployed by any organization regardless of the size or sector of a business. Moreover, Azure AD join will work in hybrid environments thus giving you access to both cloud and on-premises apps and resources. These devices can be signed into using an organizational Azure AD account.

To enhance the security of corporate resources, access can be controlled depending on the Azure AD account as well as the Conditional Access policies that govern the device. You also get Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools like Microsoft Intune or Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager that admins can use to enhance security and establish greater control over Azure AD joined devices.

Hybrid Azure AD joined devices are joined to your on-premises Active Directory and registered with Azure Active Directory. This scenario can be a good option for hybrid organizations that already have on-premises AD infrastructure. The hybrid Azure AD joined devices can be signed into with organizational accounts using a password or Windows Hello for Business for Win10 and above. The key capabilities available include:

  • Configuration Manager standalone or co-management with Microsoft Intune
  • SSO to both cloud and on-premises resources
  • Conditional Access through Domain join or through Intune if co-managed
  • Self-service password reset and Windows Hello PIN reset on lock screen.

Once the Cloud PCs have been joined they will then be enrolled into Microsoft Endpoint Manager. Because of this enrollment, every Cloud PC will be instantly ready for Azure AD Conditional Access and management through Microsoft Endpoint Manager. And this also includes co-management if necessary.

Microsoft Endpoint Manager plays the vital role of using compliance policies to enable you to verify that your Cloud PCs are compliant. Understandably, when it comes to cloud computing, security is of very great concern. Windows 365 does a great job of addressing that through the optimized security baseline that is available for Cloud PCs. Leveraging this baseline would be a good way to securely configure your Cloud PCs with minimal overhead.

However, in case you have concerns, the baseline has been made optional. Additionally, you’ll find that these baselines have been optimized to ensure that remote connectivity won’t be affected.

Protect

The integration between Windows 365 and the rest of Microsoft 365 is designed to ensure that you can secure your Cloud PCs to meet your standards. Similar to physical devices that come with Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, the Windows 365 environment will also get the same security.

Because of Microsoft Endpoint Manager’s integration with Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, your Cloud PCs will get instant protection as soon as they have been provisioned. As a result, Cloud PCs get excellent security measures in place from the first-run experience.

Also, it’s worth noting that the provisioning of Cloud PCs uses a gallery image. And to further strengthen your security, the image will have the latest updates for Windows 10 through Windows Update for Business. Among the available features include the ability to use the endpoint detection and response capabilities of Microsoft Defender for Endpoint to determine device risk.

Similarly, you can also get protection for your Windows 365 environment through Azure AD Conditional Access. This protection comes with an option that would be of great interest to certain users whereby you can exclude Windows 365 itself from device compliance policies.

The advantage that this has is that it allows your end users access to their Cloud PCs from any supported device they choose. However, to ensure that those users are securely authenticated, Windows 365 offers multi-factor authentication, sign-in risk, and various other controls.

Updates are another key element in ensuring a highly secure Cloud PC environment. With that in mind, Windows 365 will carry out the installation of the latest quality updates using the Windows Update auto-scan ability.

It’s important to verify that your end users sign in to their newly provisioned Cloud PCs as soon as possible so that the necessary updates can be swiftly installed. Another thing that you can do to strengthen security is to disable the clipboard and drive redirection so that you optimize data loss prevention. By disabling this feature, users won’t be able to:

  • Copy or paste information from their Cloud PCs to other unmanaged locations.
  • Save files to their personal devices from Cloud PCs.

Monitor

For Windows 365 to work effectively for its users, it’s extremely important to verify that the end user gets a virtual machine that can adequately meet their needs. To aid in this operation, Windows 365 integrates with the Endpoint analytics in Microsoft Productivity Score

These analytics are important for providing you with insights that allow you to measure how your organization is working as well as the quality of the experience that you are delivering to your users.

Leveraging the data on offer can help you identify policies or hardware issues that are causing problems for end users such as long boot times or other disruptions. All of this generally stems from IT not having enough feedback or visibility into the end user experience.

So to resolve this, Endpoint analytics was designed to improve user productivity while simultaneously reducing IT support costs thanks to the provision of insights into the user experience.

Additionally, Endpoint analytics gives you a measurement of the compute and memory load on your Cloud PCs. Following this, you can use Windows 365 to resize those Cloud PCs so that they can meet the needs of different users and their apps.

Along with other device actions, the resize is available in Microsoft Endpoint Manager. And setting it up this way allows you to have a seamless experience between your Cloud PCs and other endpoints.

Another tool that you can use to enhance Cloud PC monitoring and remediation is Proactive Remediation. These remediations are script packages that can detect and fix common support issues on a user’s device before users even realize there’s a problem.

By using these remediations, you can vastly improve the end user experience as well as reduce the load on support staff. They are also very flexible so you can schedule them to run hourly, daily, etc. Not only that but you can create your own script packages to perfectly meet your requirements.

Alternatively, you can deploy one of the provided script packages that should help you in reducing support tickets. Ultimately, by using Proactive Remediation you can extend the built-in Microsoft 365 optimizations that are provided by Windows 365. Among these optimizations include those for a heterogenous IT environment.

Deprovision

Now and again a situation may arise that may require you to revoke a user’s Cloud PC access. And Windows 365 provides you with a couple of ways that you can use to remove that access.

The first method that you can use involves removing the user’s license or targeted provisioning following which the Cloud PC will be transitioned into a seven-day grace period. The potential benefit of this option is that it allows for errors and reinstatement in a way that does not affect the user.

Alternatively, if you need to block access immediately you can disable the user account in the on-premises Active Directory and revoke the user’s refresh tokens in Microsoft Azure Active Directory.

So, at the expiration of the seven-day grace period, Windows 365 will then deprovision the Cloud PC and its storage completely. The encryption of Windows 365 Cloud PCs using server-side encryption in Azure Disk Storage (platform-managed keys) helps to ensure that the devices are deprovisioned securely.

However, if you find yourself in a situation whereby you have determined that removing a user’s license was the right course of action and not a mistake then you don’t need to wait out the seven days.

Windows 365 allows you to proceed with your action by clicking on the In Grace Period state and then selecting End Grace Period. Consequently, this will transition the Cloud PC to the state of Deprovisioning while the Cloud PC is being deleted.

Cloud PC operating systems

As I’ve already gone over above, lifecycle policies govern operating systems’ servicing and support and this also includes end of support. When we talk of lifecycle we are referring to the period during which Microsoft provides support for the operating system as well as releases regular security updates.

Also, we find that not all products share the same lifecycle timeline. The way it works is such that the lifecycle timeline of each product will be determined by its respective lifecycle policy. And this will also be consistent by product family for new and future versions. With the older products, however, lifecycle timelines may differ so there will be a need to verify the necessary information.

Windows 365 Cloud PCs run on the Windows OS and are therefore governed by the Microsoft Lifecycle Policy. When the operating system on a Cloud PC eventually reaches the end of support, it will no longer receive security updates, non-security updates, and assisted support.

Image status

Windows 365 keeps up to date of all necessary end of support information in Microsoft Endpoint Manager. There the information will be located on the Provisioning policies page under Image status. Below is information that you can use to verify whether the OS on the image used by each provisioning policy is supported or not.

Image statusGallery imageCustom image
SupportedThis lets you know that the Cloud PCs that have been created using this policy have a Windows operating system that is supported by Microsoft and can thus receive updates.Same as gallery image.
WarningIn this scenario, the OS would have expired within the previous six months. So the Cloud PCs that were created using this policy have an OS that is no longer supported. Because of this, those Cloud PCs are extremely vulnerable and don’t benefit from security updates.Same as gallery image.
UnsupportedThe Cloud PCs created using this policy would be running a Windows operating system that hasn’t been supported for over six months. So this is a policy that can no longer be assigned to any users. Consequently, you will need to resolve the issue by updating the OS image in the provisioning policy to an image with a supported OS. All Cloud PCs that were created using this policy are vulnerable and no longer receive security updates. Furthermore, they cannot be provisioned or reprovisioned. If you were to attempt to provision a Cloud PC using this policy you would not be successful and face a Windows Image out of Support message.Not applicable.

You can also find the status values for custom images under the OS support status column on the Device images page. Once we get to the end of support date, you’ll no longer be able to select gallery images that use the expired OS for newly created provisioning policies. In addition, those images also won’t be available for use when editing existing provisioning policies.

Wrap Up

As with all Microsoft products and services, Windows 365 is governed by a Lifecycle policy that enables the delivery of industry-leading service to clients. In a world of rapidly increasing cybercrime, organizations are looking for products and services that get excellent support and regular security updates.

And as more and more organizations are migrating to the cloud and adopting Windows 365, the modern lifecycle policy that governs Windows 365 takes on even greater importance. It gives you a clear picture of what to expect from the provisioning of your Cloud PCs all the way to the deprovisioning protocols.

Leveraging the support that Microsoft provides will help your organization to run a more streamlined IT environment. Coupled with the ease with which you can deploy Cloud PCs to your users, this clearly highlights the principle of simplicity that Windows 365 is known for. So, for any organizations that are considering a cloud computing environment, one such as Windows 365 would be a great option to consider.

Understanding Windows 365 Government

The interest in cloud computing technology has grown significantly over the last few years. Although it has been around for at least a couple of decades, a lot of businesses simply lacked interest in adopting the technology.

But, since the COVID-19 pandemic, many now recognize just what value cloud computing brings to their organizations.

Among the many potential benefits, it can enhance the security of your corporate data, it can reduce IT expenditure, and it can also contribute to greater employee satisfaction. As a leader in this space, Microsoft wants to offer clients a platform that can deliver the best of cloud computing. And this is where Windows 365 comes in.     

What is Windows 365?

Windows 365 is a service that Microsoft designed to offer clients an operating system on the cloud. This means that you can stream a Windows 365 PC to your PC, tablet, or even mobile phone. According to Microsoft:

“Windows 365 is a cloud-based service that automatically creates a new type of Windows virtual machine (Cloud PCs) for your end users. Each Cloud PC is assigned to an individual user and is their dedicated Windows device. Windows 365 provides the productivity, security, and collaboration benefits of Microsoft 365.”

So, what that ultimately means is that all those that are subscribed to the Windows 365 service will get access to all Microsoft apps and can access them using the Cloud PC on their device of choice. This allows Microsoft to address the growing need for hybrid work models as well as a platform that can offer flexible access to the Windows operating system.

And Microsoft assures prospective clients that their data will be extremely secure regardless of what device an individual may be using or where they may be working from. This is because all processes run on the highly secure network of Microsoft servers.

As a result, your IT environment gets an excellent degree of protection that comes with all the benefits of the Windows Enterprise model.

Microsoft offers Windows 365 under two subscription models. Windows 365 Business which is aimed at organizations with 300 employees or fewer, and Windows 365 Enterprise which is meant for much larger organizations.

However, it’s worth noting that these two models both have the same range of features. As far as configurations go, we get twelve Windows 365 Cloud PC configurations with the cheapest one offering one vCPU, 2GB RAM, and 64GB storage, and setting you back $20 per user per month. At the other end of the spectrum, users that perform compute-heavy tasks have the option of purchasing a subscription that gives them 8 vCPUs, with 32GB RAM, and 512GB storage for $158 per user per month.

Analyzing Windows 365 Government

Microsoft wants to ensure that its Windows 365 Cloud PC offering is available to all organizations that require it. And this includes the federal government of the US. With this service, US government users can have Cloud PCs automatically created for them.

As a version of the Cloud PC that is designed for federal employees and contractors, Windows 365 Government will be offered for Government Community Cloud (GCC) and Government Community Cloud High (GCC High). According to Microsoft, this offering provides a full Windows 365 experience that is designed to meet the extremely high security and compliance requirements of the US government.

This will allow US government users to benefit from the power and security of the Microsoft Cloud to enhance the user experience through flexibility and innovation.

This service is going to extend to US government agencies, contractors, partners (State, Local, Federal Civilian, Defense), and native Indian tribes (US only). The users who will have access can stream their Windows apps, data, content, and settings from the Microsoft cloud to any supported device at any time in an extremely secure environment. Microsoft promises to deliver the complete Windows experience by offering the following advantages:

  • Personalization – you can easily stream all your apps, content, and settings to any supported device from the Microsoft cloud.
  • Powerful – Microsoft has made a point of emphasizing that the Cloud PC is a scalable service that brings you the complete Windows 10 experience on the device of your choice. And as of December 2022, clients will also have the option of Windows 11.
  • Simplicity – potential clients can provision and deploy Windows on a Cloud PC at their convenience using either Microsoft Intune or going through windows365.microsoft.com
  • Secure – the Cloud PC already has some great security benefits but those will be even further enhanced with the new security features that you can expect to get with Windows 11.

As one would expect, the cloud environment that US government users have access to is understandably different from what’s available to other organizations. For most other organizations, there is Microsoft 365 Commercial which is the standard Microsoft 365 cloud.

This is where we will find Enterprise, Business Essentials, Academic, as well as home Office 365 tenants. It comes with a comprehensive list of tools and features, widespread availability across the globe, and a very competitive pricing model. As far as the Government Community Cloud is concerned, we can look at it as a version of the commercial environment specifically designed for government use.

We’ll find that the majority of the features available are generally the same but the biggest difference is that in this case, the data centers can only be found in the continental United States. This is so that the environment complies with the FedRAMP Moderate and adheres to the following requirements:

  • DFARS 252.204-7012 (As of February 2021 Microsoft will now attest to compliance)
  • DoD SRG Level 2 (with no provisional authority)
  • FBI CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Services)
  • FedRAMP High

Importance of the Government Community Cloud

The government cloud environment has to meet stringent security and compliance requirements some of which do not apply to the commercial environment. This is why Microsoft has found it necessary to create several, different cloud environments that can meet the various needs of the US government. Therefore, we find that there are 3 types of government clouds that Microsoft offers. These are:

  • Government Community Cloud – this particular type is meant for local, civilian, and federal government agencies.
  • GCC High – this type is similar to the previous one but is designed for highly classified government users as well as those that they have business dealings with.
  • DOD cloud – this one is a level higher than GCC High and is specifically for intelligence agencies.

Microsoft has several cloud services and solutions that uniquely serve government employees. These are the services that we’ll find:

Microsoft Azure Government

This cloud gives you a platform that is designed with the key principles of security, privacy and control, compliance, and transparency at the heart of it. Because of this, government entities will benefit from a physically isolated instance of Microsoft Azure that provides the highest level of security services to ensure that US government systems and applications can run seamlessly.

There are hundreds of different services available for businesses, organizations, and agencies that are looking for cloud computing services. Among these services, there are full virtual machines, services for mobile and web apps, file storage, backups, and databases to name a few.

What Microsoft Azure offers organizations is the ability to leverage the resources provided by the vast network of highly secure Microsoft servers. Doing this eliminates the need to host your own infrastructure which would come at great expense to both purchase and maintain.

By using Azure, on the other hand, you can pay for what you need and no more. And if the need arises to scale your environment, then you don’t need to worry about purchasing even more hardware to do so.

With Azure, organizations can host email servers, user directories, web servers, databases, virtual machines, and file storage servers among other things. Taking advantage of what Azure has to offer means that organizations can basically hire a very secure data center that doesn’t cost as much as on-premises infrastructure.  

Office 365 US Government

Office 365 is undeniably one of the key productivity tools for plenty of organizations. And Microsoft ensures that this service is also available to the US government. The Microsoft 365 for US Government Cloud offering for clients will include Windows 10, Office 365, and Enterprise Mobility + Security features for US government customers.

Additionally, to cater to the varying needs of different organizations, Microsoft offers several versions of this service. This means that educational institutions, nonprofits, customer service employees, and more can all get a version that meets their needs. It also goes without saying that the service is built to adhere to the strict security and compliance requirements of the US government.

Microsoft avails this service to various organizations including tribal entities and governments at the local, state, and federal levels. Those in the defense sector along with the contractors they work with can also benefit greatly from using Office 365 for US Government.

Dynamics 365 Government

The US public sector has a large number of very unique requirements that are constantly changing. So, to cater to the needs of qualified US government entities Microsoft came up with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Government. This service represents the continuing progress of the highly protected environment that was previously named Microsoft CRM Online Government. With the evolution of the service, Microsoft offers protections to the government community cloud in the form of eight separate functions:

  • Customer Service
  • Customer Voice
  • Field Service
  • Finance
  • Guides
  • Omnichannel Engagement Hub
  • Project Service Automation
  • Remote Assist on HoloLens or HoloLens 2
  • Sales
  • Supply Chain Management

The service is available for several different organizations including the following:

  • Federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government entities in the United States.
  • Private organizations that are using Dynamics 365 Government to provide solutions or services to various government entities.
  • Private organizations that deal with customer data and use Dynamics 365b Government to meet the government’s regulatory requirements.        

Familiar experience

One of the best things about Windows 365 Government is how it aims to offer the same Windows experience to government users that all other clients are used to. When using this platform, all Cloud PCs will be provisioned within a US government data center.

But, for those familiar with the Cloud PC, the experience will remain largely the same. If you’ve already experienced Cloud PCs in the commercial cloud then the experience you’ll get in the Government Community Cloud environment will offer you familiar tools and provisioning policy configuration.

This makes getting up to speed with Windows 365 Government significantly easier because there is no need to train users to use a completely new service. Additionally, clients that use both Commercial and GCC environments will get the convenience of using the same identities and credentials.

Cloud computing using the Windows 365 Cloud PC is meant to eliminate as much as possible the complexities that have been previously associated with virtualization technology. End-users get a transparent platform that is easy to use but also extremely secure.

But, using Windows 365 Government is also great for IT admins because they don’t need to worry about meeting the stringent security and compliance requirements of the US government. Ultimately, this gives Windows 365 clients a service that enables them to potentially reduce their operational costs while effectively managing their hybrid environments as well as both legacy and modern applications.      

Are all the available features supported yet?

One of the key things that government users would like to know is how extensive are the features available for Windows 365 Government. Especially for individuals that are already familiar with the Cloud PC experience. However, it’s worth noting that there are features that aren’t as yet available. These include the following:

  • Configure installed language and region for provisioning Cloud PCs
  • Digital forensics and placing a Cloud PC under review
  • Unified dashboard
  • Virtualization-based workloads
  • Endpoint analytics support (this is supported in GCC)
  • Windows 365 Security baseline
  • RDP Shortpath for public networks
  • Windows 365 System based alerting on Microsoft Endpoint Manager for Cloud PCs
  • User initiated feedback in End User Portal and Windows 365 Web Client
  • Resize VM

How does it compare to AVD?

This is, as you would expect, one of the most frequently asked questions by people considering Windows 365. Windows 365 offers clients virtual desktops known as Cloud PCs that come at a fixed per user per month cost whereas Azure Virtual Desktop uses a consumption-based pricing structure. Windows 365 Cloud PCs are dedicated to a single user, unlike AVD which is a more traditional VDI setup accessible to multiple users.

When it comes to management, Windows 365 offers a simplified system that resembles the management of physical devices. However, AVD is heavily reliant on Azure management concepts. Ultimately, what you get with Windows 365 is a platform that is built to fully enhance the user experience while AVD is geared more towards flexibility.

Setting up users

Microsoft has put in place a system that makes it relatively easy to set up users with Cloud PCs. Even when you need to onboard thousands of Windows 365 devices you aren’t going to necessarily require an entire team of admins to get the job done. One of the key areas of focus when it comes to Windows 365 is simplicity and that applies to the onboarding process as well. This means that the ease with which users can be set up allows a single admin to be able to onboard hundreds or even thousands of devices.

As Microsoft has explained, the tools available to admins and the management of Cloud PCs are very much similar to how admins handle physical devices. So even for federal government clients who want to bring their own image the simplified, accelerated onboarding process remains the same.

Regardless of whether you’re talking about a handful of devices or a thousand. The admin can easily upload a custom image to the provisioning policy and can then assign groups to it with each group having a single user or a thousand.

Establishing ease of use

Windows 365 aims to make the use of Cloud PCs a simple process for all its clients. But, working in a regulated US government cloud is typically not the easiest of things. This is why Microsoft is determined to extend the ease of use of Windows 365 to its government clients. For instance, GCC customers that want to have their data and Cloud PCs to be hosted in the government cloud can use the same identity and credentials as for the commercial cloud.

So, by doing this, Windows 365 Government makes it significantly easier for clients to access their Cloud PCs on the secure government cloud. On the other hand, admins will still be able to meet the very high security requirements of the US government. Also, organizations can potentially run their operations more cost-effectively as they adopt an increasingly cloud-based approach.

End-users have their experiences made simpler because of the potential to have one identity that can authenticate both to on-premises resources as well as provide easy access to their Cloud PCs in Microsoft Azure for Government.

And users can do this through the Windows 365 portal at windows365.microsoft.com or through the remote desktop app on Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. There is also a recent addition to this list with the Windows 365 native client app which has recently been put in public preview and can be found in the Microsoft Store.

Looking at the admin experience

Administrators will find that the cloud-native Windows 365 architecture for GCC is delivered to customers FedRAMP compliant.  This means that admins will not need to make any other configurations thus keeping in line with the concept of simplicity. Admins can also stay in Entra (AAD) and Intune in Azure Commercial for the provisioning and administration of Cloud PCs in Microsoft Azure for Government (MAG).

Microsoft has also addressed the issue of clients who are already invested in the Microsoft Azure Commercial environment. Trying to rebuild everything in MAG would be a huge task that would probably come at a significant cost.

Therefore, Microsoft came up with the idea of a dual cloud execution that would see the identity and management planes remaining in the Azure Commercial environment. On the other hand, all the Cloud PC resources would be provisioned and accessed in the Azure for Government environment.

Management tools

One of the reasons why Windows 365 can repeatedly highlight how easy it is to use is the availability of the same tools that you use to manage physical devices. This means that end users and admins can operate in the same familiar environment that they have become accustomed to over the years.

Therefore, clients don’t need to learn how to function in a completely new environment and admins can keep the same controls and tools that they want. So, the way that you have been using tools for Endpoint Configuration Manager is going to translate to Windows 365 Cloud PCs. And this is regardless of whether you are operating in the commercial cloud or the government cloud.

Wrap Up

The modernization that we are seeing in the modern workplace is not only limited to the commercial sector. It goes beyond that and we can now see that government agencies are also leveraging cloud services at a faster pace than in the past.

As a result, this is having a massive impact on the way these entities operate. But, to do this effectively there is a need for a platform like Windows 365 Government that can provide the services needed for optimal operation.

Not only that but Windows 365 Government meets the stringent security and compliance requirements of the US government. This allows government entities to take advantage of the vast array of tools that Windows 365 offers to commercial entities without compromising security.

Analyzing the Economic Impact of Windows 365 on Businesses

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 weve 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.

Financial considerations

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.

Operational flexibility

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.

Accessibility

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.

Support availability

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.

  • Design

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.
  • Costs

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 365Azure Virtual Desktop
Control planeAVDAVD
Business<300 Business, >300 Enterprisepersonal desktop (small deployments), pooled desktops (large deployments)
Active Directory requirementsAzure AD Connect (Hybrid Azure AD supported)Azure AD
ComputeFully Microsoft managed, admins have no access to VMsCustomer-managed, flexibility to configure VMs
StorageFully managed storage, fixed pricingCustomer managed, flexibility with OS Disks, FSLogix profiles
CostFixed per-user/per month costConsumption-based cost
User profileNo FSLogixFSLogix optional for Single-User, and mandatory for Multi-User
RemoteApp supportNoYes
Pooled desktopsNoYes
Supported endpoint operating systemsWindows, macOS, iOS, Unix, Web, AndroidWindows, 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 365Azure Virtual DesktopVMware Horizon
PlatformWindows, SaaSWindowsSaaS
Target marketBusinesses requiring Windows Clouds PCs that are always availableIT professionalsIT professionals, app developers
SupportOnlineBusiness hoursBusiness hours, online
TrainingDocumentationDocumentationDocumentation
FunctionDaaS, VDIApp virtualization, DaaSDaaS, VDI, VM, virtualization
IntegrationsMicrosoft Endpoint ManagerAuthPoint, 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  

Wrap up

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.

Useful Things You Can Learn from the Windows 365 Community Right Now

As most people have probably experienced in the past, getting up to speed with a new service or product can sometimes involve a lot of trial and error. How often does it happen that you accidentally ‘discover’ a new feature on an app or a device that you’ve had for a while?

While it may generally make for an exciting finding, it’s arguably always better to be fully aware of the features and capabilities of a product or service. This is part of what Microsoft wanted to address with the Windows 365 Tech Community.

A lot of organizations have been hesitant to migrate to the cloud and adopt cloud-based solutions for various reasons. Some of those may be security-based but others simply have to do with a lack of know-how about a service like Windows 365. So by giving you a Windows 365 community, organizations and users can find support and helpful information.

Getting familiar with Windows 365

Organizations that are looking at innovative tech solutions to address modern needs are at some point going to encounter Windows 365. So, Microsoft has to begin by introducing what this service is and how organizations can benefit from it.

This is something that Microsoft begins to address in the Microsoft Mechanics series. In recent times, there has been a huge demand for cloud-based technology. And a simple online search will show you that there are several services that businesses can utilize for their needs.

Therefore, you can justifiably ask why exactly Windows 365 is the service you need. The short answer to that would be how this service is designed to modernize the way that you can experience Windows from anywhere on any device.

This will ultimately serve up an optimum experience for both IT pros and end users. Without the need to hire expert tech support to set up and manage Windows 365, it makes it a service that is both easy to use and manage.

Device compatibility

Another key piece of information that users will need has to do with device compatibility. Before you even consider types of devices, you should know that using the Windows 365 platform is something that should help you to lower your hardware expenses in the long term.

This is because of how the Cloud PC runs on the cloud. With the heavy computing done on the Microsoft Cloud, end-users don’t need to worry about purchasing expensive high-end devices to access the Windows 365 Cloud PC.

All anyone needs is a decent internet connection and they’ll have access to a relatively powerful Windows PC that they can stream on most devices. Accessing your Cloud PC can be done via any modern browser or the Remote Desktop app.

As one can imagine, if your organization has a significant number of people working for them remotely then a hybrid setup like this will be immensely beneficial. You’re not going to have to make a huge investment to provide all these individuals with devices.

All those Windows 10 and Windows 11 devices that you already have are perfectly compatible with Windows 365. But, it’s not just Windows devices that you can use. Users can easily stream a Windows 365 session to hardware running macOS, iPadOS, Linux, and Android.

However, for the best experience, Microsoft recommends using devices that have a traditional keyboard and mouse.

For the most part, as long as your device has an HTML5 browser and a DSL connection or a wireless internet connection capable of streaming a video you will be just fine. The amount of bandwidth that you’ll need, however, will depend on your workload.

Microsoft Teams update

Microsoft Teams is a collaboration platform that is based on the cloud and was launched in 2016 as part of the Office 365 productivity suite. The key features that have helped to establish Microsoft Teams include business messaging, calling, video meetings, and file sharing. It’s also designed to be accessible for use to most organizations regardless of size. Understandably, the popularity of this tool has grown significantly over the last few years.

Therefore, it’s crucial for Microsoft to keep updating the platform so that it keeps up with the evolving needs of clients. And part of that has involved offering background effects on Windows 365. The tech community platform has just made the announcement that this feature has now been made generally available.

What this recently announced development means is that you can now personalize the communication experience to your liking. Being able to apply background effects can help eliminate unwanted intrusions when having important meetings. Users can select their preferred background from a choice of several available.

Or, you can simply choose to blur out the background. This blur feature helps to subtly conceal everything in your background while keeping your image clear and isolated. These effects are designed to place all the focus on the topic of discussion and remove anything that may potentially cause disruptions.

The cost of Windows 365

Microsoft offers two editions of Windows 365 and both of them have a range of configurations that clients can pick from. This means that smaller businesses with less than 300 users and larger organizations with greater numbers of users can both be accommodated.

Fees start from $20 per user per month for the lowest-end SKU and go up to $162 per user per month for the most expensive one. Therefore, with Windows 365 you get fixed monthly subscriptions unlike with Azure Virtual Desktop.  And if you need to scale up then you are given the option of getting a different subscription as well.

Clients with the Windows 365 Business subscription can get a single virtual core, 2GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage for the starting price of $20. However, this fee is only available for clients that have Windows Hybrid Benefit. The latter is Microsoft’s Bring-Your-Own license model which is designed to help clients to apply existing (or new) licenses toward the cost of a product.

If not, then that cost goes up to $24. But, if your organization requires a lot more, you can pay $158 for eight virtual cores, 32GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. The same situation regarding Windows Hybrid Benefit applies here and so without it, the fee goes up to $162.

The pricing model is pretty much consistent and the range of prices remains the same for Windows 365 Enterprise clients. Those that aren’t looking for a lot of computing resources can get a single virtual core with 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for the same $20.

However, if your computing needs are a lot greater then you can get the option that offers eight virtual cores, 32GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage for $158 per user per month.

Deleting Cloud PCs

Occasionally, you may need to redeploy your Cloud PCs for any number of reasons. And from the discussion on the Windows 365 tech community, we learn about how we can go about that. Microsoft allows us to use the reprovision feature to delete a user’s current Cloud PC and create a brand new one for that same user. The reprovisioning process, which is a remote action, will cause the deletion of the original Cloud PC along with all user data, applications, customizations, etc.

You should also be aware of the issue regarding the grace period. What happens during this seven-day grace period is that a user will continue to have access to the Cloud PC. However, as soon as those seven days expire, the user loses access and the Cloud PC is deprovisioned. But, you can also opt to use the End grace period option to immediately end the grace period.

Multiple user assignment

Most organizations will want to know how many users can be assigned to a Cloud PC. So it’s worth noting that the Cloud PC is designed only for a single user. Therefore, if you want to permanently reassign that Cloud PC, you have to first remove the license from the previous user. You also have to make sure that the Cloud PC is deprovisioned before you can reassign the license to a new user. Once the license reassignment has been done, the provisioning of the Cloud PC can begin.

Teams multi-window support

Another recent development that the Windows 365 community has learned about is that Teams Multi-window support and Call Me are now generally available on Windows 365. With Multi-window support, you can now pop out chats, meetings, calls, or documents into separate windows. I’m sure most of us can agree that this will help to create a less cluttered work environment enabling you to work more efficiently.

The new update is going to significantly enhance the user experience. The Multi-window support allows users to view full-size, separate windows for meetings or calls as well as the main Teams client during a Teams meeting.

This means that you no longer have the meeting window minimized to the corner of the screen. Furthermore, by leveraging the Call Me feature you can now transfer Teams calls to your phone over a PTSN network.

Custom device images

This is something that interests a lot of people out there and it’s possible to do on Windows 365 Enterprise. You can put your desired custom device image into your Azure subscription and then use it for provisioning Cloud PCs. The image can be obtained from Azure Marketplace gallery images or alternatively, you can create your own custom managed image. To upload the custom image to the Windows 365 service, you follow the steps below:

  • Sign in to the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center.
  • Navigate to Devices > Windows 365 > Custom images > Add.
  • In the Add image pane, you’ll need to provide details about the image name and version, subscription, and source image.
  • Then you simply select Add to add the image to your device image list.

Customizing languages

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced another great update that can improve end-user comfort and potentially productivity levels. Setting up that localized Windows experience can now be done by configuring a provisioning policy or creating a custom device image.

The objective is to enable you to configure a Language & Region pack that can be installed on the Cloud PCs during provisioning when you are creating your provisioning policy.

At present, there are 38 languages available and Microsoft will allow you to change the configured language for already existing provisioning policies and subsequently reprovision any desired Cloud PCs.

Resolving various challenges

There several issues that one can come across during the use of the Windows 365 Cloud PC. Fortunately though, Microsoft provides a troubleshooting page that can help you to deal with various issues.

So if you’re facing connection errors, audio and visual problems, network issues, or any other challenges then the troubleshooting page can provide potential solutions.

And if you are encountering problems with app compatibility then Microsoft offers you App Assure for that. With this service, you’ll get assistance for remediating issues with your ISV, line-of-business, and Microsoft-developed apps at no extra cost.

Wrap Up

Cloud-based solutions are here to stay and they are providing us with some incredible new ways of modifying our work environments. Over the last year, the Windows 365 Cloud PC has given us a great example of what migrating to the cloud can look like.

The agility that the service provides in addition to the high level security protocols mean that organizations can redesign their workspaces to suit the needs of a modern, hybrid workforce. And the Windows 365 tech community platform plays an important role in all of this.

We can find all the latest Windows 365 updates that we need as well as get answers to any enquiries that we may have. That way, we can take full advantage of the capabilities that the Cloud PC has to offer.

Apps In Windows 365: What Everyone Wants To Know

Windows 365 provides organizations with a virtualization service that encourages remote work. It offers clients a simplified way of having a PC that runs on the cloud and that you can access anywhere.

This means that Cloud PC users don’t need to be at a physical workstation in the office to complete their tasks. They can easily do so in the comfort of their homes on whatever devices they have – whether MacOS, Linux, Android, or iOS.

However, with all the convenience that comes with Windows 365, the issue of apps cannot be ignored. Most people have certain apps that are essential to the way they work and they are not willing to substitute them. Therefore, we need to know what the app situation is with Windows 365.

Default apps

Let’s start by looking at what Microsoft is going to offer you straight out of the box. This is important for users to know what their Cloud PCs come with and what they will need to do for other apps. The following are the apps that you’ll get by default:

Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise

Users will be thrilled to have this available. According to Microsoft, this offer gives you the most productive and secure Office experience for your organization. By using Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise, your teams can easily collaborate from anywhere, anytime. Users get all their favorite Office apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and more.

And to enhance your security, all these Office apps will get the latest software updates as soon as they are available. Users will also be able to utilize this platform across multiple devices and thus work remotely on iOS, Android, or Windows devices. In addition, Microsoft will enable users to leverage AI to improve the quality of work produced.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a cloud-based service designed to provide workers with a platform to facilitate collaborative teamwork, video chats, workplace conversations, and sharing of documents. Features such as recording of meetings offer great convenience to your workforce, especially those working remotely.

By integrating with other Microsoft business apps such as PowerPoint, SharePoint, and Exchange, Teams provides you with a comprehensive alternative to the likes of Slack and Google Workspace. As the push for remote work has grown over the last few years, Microsoft Teams has taken a central role in Microsoft’s workplace productivity and collaboration strategy.

Accessing Teams can be done via a desktop app, a web browser, or a mobile app. Furthermore, it is supported by all major operating systems including Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.

Microsoft OneDrive

This service provides clients with an online storage platform. Users can take advantage of OneDrive to store all their files in one place as well as easily collaborate and share with other users. What’s more, you can access your files or photos from any device, anywhere.

Arguably the main benefit of using OneDrive is that it syncs across multiple platforms and integrates with some of your favorite apps and services such as Office, Outlook, and plenty more. Files that you uploaded on your PC or Mac can be edited later on your laptop, tablet, or phone.

And with support for well over 200 file types, you’re unlikely to run into difficulties. As you can imagine, this makes it an ideal storage solution for users of the Windows 365 Cloud PC.

Microsoft Edge

In 2015, Microsoft finally decided to put Internet Explorer behind and released the new and improved Microsoft Edge. And many would argue that it was long overdue. By definition, Edge is what is known as a Chromium browser.

What this simply means is that it can run hundreds of extensions that are typically aimed at users of Google Chrome. Also, by signing up for a free Microsoft account, you can sync your browsing data across different devices.

With its sleek appearance and multiple features, Microsoft can now offer a browser that is a good alternative to the likes of Chrome and Firefox. The most attractive features include smart copy, vertical tabs, tracking prevention, Password Monitor, and plenty more.

As it expectedly continues to improve, Microsoft’s flagship browser will look to cut into the browser market share that has been dominated by Google Chrome.

What app formats are supported?

One of the key things with Windows 365 is the principle of ease of use. Microsoft wants the Cloud PC to be simple to provision and deploy even for organizations without a team of specialized IT professionals. To that end, there are several app formats that are compatible with Windows 365. And these include:

  • .MSI – within Intune, MSI format installers will be supported by both LoB and win32 options.
  • MSIX – MSIX is an application packaging solution for Windows that is designed to enable easy and optimized app installations for users. Meant to set a new standard, MSIX is said to contain all the best components of the packaging solutions already available in the Windows ecosystem. It enables modern packaging and deployment features to Win32, WPF, and Windows Forms apps. In short, it brings together the best of MSI, .appx, and App-V.
  • AppX – these are distributable file formats used for the distribution and installation of apps. In the Windows Store as part of Windows 10/11 Enterprise, apps will be automatically distributed in AppX-UWP format. The AppX approach is more effective across multiple platforms than traditional installers. Thus it’s a great way for distributing apps suited for multiple devices such as PCs, tablets, and smartphones.
  • Office – as far as Office is concerned, Windows 365 Cloud PCs will only support the Microsoft 365 Apps version.
  • Universal Print – this platform offers a way for your organization to simplify its print infrastructure by leveraging cloud services from Microsoft. For Windows 365 Enterprise, Universal Print can be used either natively or through one of the Universal Print partners. However, it still remains possible to opt for legacy print-server environments when using Windows 365.

Installing apps

In addition to the default apps that come with Windows 365, users can install apps on their Cloud PC just like they normally would in Windows. For whatever application you want to install, simply go to the application’s website and download it.

Or, you can download it from the Microsoft Store. Simply put, whatever apps you are currently using should work with Windows 365. As Microsoft said at the launch of Windows 365:

Windows 365 is a powerful system that offers instant boot-on to personal Cloud PCs thereby allowing users to stream all their applications, tools, data, and settings from the cloud across any device. Windows 365 provides the full PC experience in the cloud. The cloud also provides versatility in processing power and storage, enabling IT to scale up or down, based on their needs. With a choice of either Windows 10 or Windows 11, organizations can choose the Cloud PC that works for them with per-user per-month pricing.”

And with what Microsoft is offering it is not surprising that one of the main goals of the Cloud PC was to ensure compatibility. As a potential user, I’d like to know that being able to stream my apps means that I won’t have compatibility issues.

But, Microsoft has suggested that as long as your apps worked on Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10 then they will also work on Windows 365. Microsoft goes so far as to say that if you happen to have any problems with your apps you will receive help at no cost with an eligible subscription through the Fast Track App Assure program.

If you want to download an app from the Microsoft store, you can follow the steps below:

  • Open the Microsoft Store app on your Cloud PC.
  • Use the search feature to look for the app you want.
  • Once on the app’s page, select Get.
  • When the download is complete, you can open the app.

In some instances, the app will require you to have administrator privileges. And so to modify a user’s role/privileges, you can check out the information here.

What is App Assure?

As mentioned above, app compatibility is a major concern for most people. It’s one of the things that could hinder an individual from using certain services or upgrading their operating system. To address this potential problem, Microsoft provides us with a free program called App Assure.

By using this service, users can work with Microsoft engineers to ensure app compatibility and to gain assistance in resolving challenges. The services offered by Microsoft’s engineers include:

  • Remediation of in-house developed LoB apps.
  • Helping you engage third-party software manufacturers to remediate their apps and provide Windows-As-A-Service support statements.
  • Addressing challenges that you may encounter with Microsoft products.

Assigning apps to Cloud PCs

Just like setting up most of the other features of Windows 365, the assignment of apps to Cloud PCs is relatively straightforward. To deploy Intune Windows client apps to your Cloud PCs, you’ll only have to follow the steps below:

  • Navigate to the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center and sign in. After that, go to Apps > All apps > select an app.
  • Select Properties > Edit (next to Assignments) on the app page.
  • Next, you’ll need to find the Assignments page where you’ll select Add group under Group.
  • In the Select groups to include, choose the groups to which you want to assign this app > Select > Review + Save.
  • With all that done, you can select Save on the Review + Save page.

Data storage

One of the things that help to make Windows 365 as flexible as it is, is the way data is stored. Because Windows 365 allows users to access their Cloud PCs on almost any device, it’s only logical that data is stored on the Microsoft Cloud. Doing so ensures that users can remain as mobile as they need to be without worrying about carrying devices with them.

Organizations should know that Windows will store all Office apps, settings, and work data in the cloud. That means all Word documents, Excel spreadsheets PowerPoint presentations, or animations, among others, will be safely stored on the cloud.

This will not only help you to save on storage by backing up application data on the Azure Cloud, but it significantly enhances data security as well. When you consider the massive data breaches that we have witnessed in the last few years alone, storing application data on personal devices would present huge risks.

However, Windows 365 leverages the very high security standards of the Azure Cloud to ensure that your organization’s data remains extremely secure.

Wrap Up

Flexible working environments can be of great benefit to the development of an organization. The ability to engage people who can work remotely opens up so many possibilities.

For instance, your organization doesn’t have to limit its talent search to those who are available locally. Because of the features that the Windows 365 Cloud PC offers, certain projects can be completed by individuals working together and collaborating from different parts of the world.

And Microsoft ensures that you’ll be able to do that without difficulty by providing you with your favorite apps including Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Edge, Microsoft OneDrive, as well as your trusted Office apps.

In addition to the applications you get by default, you’ll also be able to use the various other apps that you’ve come to love. As long as they worked on recent Windows OS versions, then you shouldn’t have too many difficulties on your Cloud PC. So as far as features that enhance the user experience for Cloud PC users, the access to various apps certainly makes Windows 365 a better product.

Tackling Hybrid Work Environments With Cloud PC Integration

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.

Flexible requirements

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.

Employee collaboration

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.

Staff management

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.

IT expenses

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. 

Licensing concerns

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).

Wrap up

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.

Everything You Want To Know: The Anatomy of Windows 365

There is no denying how cloud-based solutions have evolved over the decades to become an integral part of most organizations’ operations. Businesses have grown to depend on these services to improve the ease of doing business as well as bolster their cyber security.

With Windows 365, Microsoft enables businesses to operate more effectively as well as offer their workforce greater flexibility.

The arrival of Windows 365 coincides with an increasing need in the workplace to offer employees more agility. Organizations can take advantage of virtualization technology to increase their talent pool by hiring the best people from anywhere in the world.

By using services like Windows 365, these individuals can easily communicate and collaborate with team members from across the globe. Given how much there is to gain from Windows 365, I will today be going through everything you may need to know about this platform.

Breaking new ground

In July of 2021, Microsoft announced a brand new service that would enable users to access Cloud PCs from anywhere. Although similar features have been available through virtualization and remote access software, Windows 365 has now become the first official service from Microsoft.

As businesses increasingly embrace the idea of a hybrid work environment, Windows 365 is aiming to be at the forefront of the services that potential clients will be looking into. By streaming Windows 10 or Windows 11 onto almost any device, Microsoft will offer users the ability to take their desktops anywhere.

And Microsoft has assured clients that Cloud PCs will be highly secure thus users will be able to work remotely with greater peace of mind.

Accessing your desktop on the cloud will also be relatively easy because all you need is a modern browser or Microsoft’s Remote Desktop app. So as long as your internet connection is good enough to stream videos then you’ll be able to access your Cloud PC on most devices.

Users will get instant access to their Cloud PCs and can stream Windows sessions with all of their same apps, tools, data, and settings across Macs, iPads, Linux machines, and Android devices.

And according to Wangui McKelvey, a general manager for Microsoft 365, “You can pick up right where you left off, because the state of your Cloud PC remains the same, even when you switch devices.

Windows 365’s solid foundation

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. Because the company that has given us Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is the same that is 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 you can rest assured that if you go with Windows 365, you’ll be investing in a service that is founded on a tried and tested platform. Therefore, we can take a look at AVD’s track record and some of what it has been able to offer clients.

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 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 while still retaining overall control and keeping security standards high. 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.

Selecting an option

Microsoft wants to avail its Windows 365 services to as many organizations as possible. Obviously, that is not going to be a simple task considering the vast differences and needs between smaller companies and large enterprises.

However, Microsoft is determined to cater to the needs of the businesses that require this virtualization service. To that end, Microsoft offers us two different editions – Windows 365 Business and Windows 365 Enterprise.

The former is designed for smaller organizations while the Enterprise edition is aimed at larger ones. And the great thing about these options is that they share a lot of the same range of features.

Windows 365 Business

This edition of Windows 365 is going to be targeting smaller businesses that require no more than 300 Cloud PCs. The service allows these companies to get a simple way to purchase, deploy, and manage Cloud PCs.

So if you do sign up for Windows 365 Business, you can easily provide Cloud PCs to any of your users that need them. Doing so allows them to stream their apps, data, content, settings, and storage from the Microsoft cloud.

Purchasing Windows 365 subscriptions can be done either through the Windows 365 product site or via the Microsoft 365 admin center. And once you have purchased your subscription, you can assign licenses to users in your organization using the Microsoft 365 admin center. As far as sizing options are concerned, there are fixed-price licenses for the different Cloud PC sizes. During the assigning of licenses to users, you need to choose a size option. The options come with different numbers of CPUs, RAM, and storage to cater to the different work needs. The table below details this information:

* Microsoft is retiring the first option (1vCPU) so clients are encouraged to select the 2vCPU option as the minimum configuration going forward.

The Windows 365 Business edition doesn’t have any licensing pre-requirements to purchase and deploy. Also, Microsoft has simplified the provisioning process which will use the default configurations.

After Cloud PC licenses have been assigned, provisioning of those Cloud PCs will happen automatically using a standard image. When it comes to Windows updates, the default Windows Update for Business settings will be configured for users.

And if you have an Intune license then these settings can be edited. Moreover, device management is only going to be limited to the assigning and unassigning of licenses in the Microsoft Admin Center. Although, those that have Intune licenses may get some device management via Microsoft Endpoint Manager.

Users will be able to access their Cloud PCs from windows 365.microsoft.com or alternatively, they can use the Microsoft Remote Desktop app. During usage, users can restart, reset, rename, and troubleshoot their Cloud PCs.

Windows 365 Enterprise

The second option that Microsoft gives clients is for larger organizations that have significantly greater computing needs. Unlike with the Business edition, in this case, users will require licensing for Windows 10 or 11 Enterprise, Microsoft Endpoint Manager, Azure AD P1. The networking situation will see the networking go through a client’s Azure VNet since it’s not part of the license.

As the provisioning process goes on, each business can customize and configure the process to meet their specific needs. It’s the role of your admins to choose the network, configure user permissions, and then assign the policy to an Azure AD group.

With that done you can then provision the Cloud PCs using either standard gallery images or custom images. Microsoft Endpoint Manager can be used for managing Windows updates as well as for troubleshooting purposes.

Users can access their Cloud PCs in the same way as Enterprise clients from the Windows 365 website or via the Microsoft Remote Desktop app. Furthermore, users can restart, rename, and troubleshoot their Cloud PCs and will be assigned a standard user role by default.

However, the admin can change that in the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center. Windows 365 Enterprise offers high-end security measures through the use of features such as Conditional Access and integration with Defender for Endpoint.

In addition, for clients with E5 licensing, their Cloud PCs will respond to Defender for Endpoint policies and appear in MDE dashboards.

Cost of service

Regardless of how good a product may be, choosing whether or not to subscribe may ultimately come down to cost. As we’ve already discussed above, Microsoft offers two editions of Windows 365 and both of them have a range of configurations that clients can pick from. This should help all businesses that want Cloud PCs to find something that can fit within their budget.

So small businesses with less than 300 users and massive organizations with countless users can all potentially find a subscription that suits them. The pricing model has fees starting from $20 per user per month for the lowest-end SKU, up to $162 per user per month for the most expensive one. In addition, unlike with the consumption-based pricing model that you get with Azure Virtual Desktop, Windows 365 gives you fixed monthly subscriptions. And if you need to scale up then you are given the option of getting a different subscription as well.

Clients with the Windows 365 Business subscription can get a single virtual core, 2GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage for the starting price of $20.

However, this fee is only available for clients that have Windows Hybrid Benefit. The latter is Microsoft’s Bring-Your-Own license model that is designed to help clients to apply existing (or new) licenses toward the cost of a product. If not, then that cost goes up to $24.

But, if your organization requires a lot more, you can pay $158 for eight virtual cores, 32GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. The same situation regarding Windows Hybrid Benefit applies here and so without it, the fee goes up to $162.

The pricing model is pretty much consistent and the range of prices remains the same for Windows 365 Enterprise clients. Those that aren’t looking for a lot of computing resources can get a single virtual core with 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for the same $20.

However, if your computing needs are a lot greater then you can get the option that offers eight virtual cores, 32GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage for $158 per user per month.

Cloud PC Provisioning

The provisioning process in Windows 365 is an automated one that is going to:

  • create a Cloud PC virtual machine.
  • set it up for the end-user.
  • perform any other necessary tasks to ready the Cloud PC for use.
  • send access information to the user.

Life is made easier for admins as they only need to furnish a few configuration details to get the provisioning process going. Once that’s done Cloud PCs will be automatically provisioned for all users who have a Windows 365 license and matching configuration details.

Because this process is a one-time per user and per license process, a user and license pair can only have a single Cloud PC provisioned for them. The complete process is going to follow the steps below:

  • Starts with the creation of a provisioning policy to manage access to the Cloud PCs. Provisioning policies are key to the entire process as they are responsible for building, configuring, and availing Cloud PCs to end-users. Each policy will require you to provide details regarding the on-premises network connection, the image used to create each Cloud PC, and an Azure AD user group.
  • Assignment of a Windows 365 license to users in the Azure AD user group will begin the provisioning process. And the provisioning of the Cloud PC will be carried out automatically by Windows 365 after which it will then send the necessary access information to the user. The automation is going to proceed in 3 phases that will be invisible to the administrator.
  • The last part of the process involves the end-user receiving the necessary access information that will allow them to sign in to the Windows Cloud PC from anywhere.

Windows 365 Architecture

Virtual network connectivity

All Cloud PCs are going to have a virtual network interface card (NIC) in Microsoft Azure. There are two available NIC management options:

  • Bringing an Azure subscription or managing the NIC won’t be necessary for those using Azure AD Join and a Microsoft-hosted network.
  • NICs are created by Windows 365 in your Azure subscription in instances where you bring your own network and use an OPNC.

The configuration of your OPNC is what will determine how the NICs are attached to an Azure Virtual Network. There are many regions in which Windows 365 is supported and to control which region is used you can:

  • Choose the Microsoft-hosted network as well as an Azure region.
  • Choose an Azure virtual network from your Azure subscription during the creation of the OPNC.

The region selected is what determines where the Cloud PC will be created and hosted. However, with your own virtual network access can be extended between your current Azure regions to other Azure regions supported by Windows 365.

Microsoft Endpoint Manager integration

Management of all Cloud PCs is handled with MEM. The latter along with associated Windows components have various network endpoints that must be allowed through the Virtual Network. If you don’t use MEM to manage Apple and Android devices then you can ignore the endpoints.

The system requires you to only grant access to a subset of endpoints based on your MEM tenant location. Microsoft recommends allowing access to an entire region and not just a specific endpoint to allow for the possible relocation of tenants within a region.

Identity services

Windows 365 relies on both Azure AD and on-premises AD DS. With Azure AD you get:

  • User authentication for Windows 365.
  • Device identity services for MEM via Hybrid Azure AD Join or Azure AD Join.

For the configuration of Cloud PCs to use Hybrid Azure AD Join, AD DS offers:

  • On-premises domain join for Cloud PCs.
  • User authentication for RDP connections.

And for the configuration of Cloud PCs to use Azure AD Join, Azure AD gives you:

  • The domain join mechanism for the Cloud PCs.
  • User authentication for RDP connections.

Azure AD

User authentication and authorization for the Windows 365 web portal and Remote Desktop client apps is provided by Azure AD. Azure AD Conditional Access can be included to offer.

  • multi-factor authentication
  • sign-in risk management
  • restrictions based on location
  • device compliance controls
  • session limits

Active Directory Domain Services

Microsoft gives you the option of having your Cloud PCs either Hybrid Azure AD Joined or Azure AD Joined. Your Cloud PCs will require domain joining to an AD DS domain if you want to use Hybrid Azure AD Join. And that domain should be synchronized with Azure AD. The domain’s domain controllers need to be hosted in Azure or on-premises.

If it’s the latter, connectivity should be made from Azure to the on-prem environment and the type can be either Azure Express Route or site-to-site VPN. The connectivity should be set up to enable communication from the Cloud PCs to the domain controllers needed by AD.

Hosted on behalf of” architecture

This type of architecture enables Microsoft services to attach hosted Azure services to a customer subscription. Using this type of connectivity model allows a Microsoft service to provide options other than the usual consumption-based services. These include software-as-a-service and user-licensed services.

All Cloud PC connectivity comes from the virtual NIC. Because of “hosted on behalf of” architecture, you have Cloud PCs that exist in the subscription owned by Microsoft. This basically means the costs for running and managing the infrastructure are borne by Microsoft.

Azure Virtual Desktop connectivity

AVD is responsible for the provision of Cloud PC connectivity. Thus, there aren’t going to be any inbound connections directly from the internet to the Cloud PC. Rather, the connections will be established from:

  • The Cloud PC to the AVD endpoints.
  • The Remote Desktop clients to AVD endpoints.

Microsoft recommends the use of Service Tags for AVD to identify these endpoints. By doing so you should be able to ease the configuration of network security controls. It’s also worth noting that configuring your Cloud PCs to make these connections is not a pre-requisite.

The integration of AVD connectivity components into gallery or custom images is seamlessly performed by Windows 365. Furthermore, third-party connection brokers aren’t going to be supported on Windows 365 Cloud PCs.

How businesses will benefit

Having a great-sounding service availed to you is one thing, but after looking into what Windows 365 is, you still need to know how exactly this product will help your business. After all, there are plenty of great services out there that just aren’t a good fit for your business. So just what are the benefits that Windows brings to an organization?

Remote access

Most people across the globe have probably familiarized themselves with remote work over the last couple of years. Although plenty of businesses saw the need for remote access during the pandemic, the need for it has grown beyond the pandemic scenario.

One of the things that some people may be looking at when considering career opportunities is the availability of remote access. This may just prove to be key in attracting as well as retaining the best people you can find for your organization.

The Windows 365 Cloud PC gives users the ability to carry their desktops with them wherever they may be. Therefore, access to the cloud is going to be simple and hassle-free because users won’t need to be at a workstation in the office to access corporate resources.

Lower hardware costs

If you tell any business that you can potentially help to lower operating costs then most would probably at least want to give you a few moments of their time. And this is what Windows 365 aims to achieve with the Cloud PC. The cost of purchasing high-end computers for the office that can meet the needs of the various users is no small one.

But, when your PC is running in the cloud then the actual device that you need is less important. Microsoft allows users to access their Cloud PCs from most devices including those running macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux.

This means that users don’t necessarily need to invest in new devices. Not only that, but in the long run, you may not need to refresh your hardware as often thus lowering your expenses even further.

Secure hybrid work

As attractive as the possibility of working remotely may be, without top-notch security the option is not viable. So Microsoft has enhanced security measures by implementing Zero Trust principles enabling each request to be fully authenticated, authorized, and encrypted before access is granted.

Add to that the fact that data is not stored on the physical devices but on the cloud and you have even more protection around your data. These measures should help to assuage concerns about the security of remote work as well as the risk of security breaches.

Not to forget as well that Windows 365 clients can benefit from the already existing solutions that are part of Microsoft Endpoint Manager. Microsoft has also made specific security recommendations that I will be addressing below.

Simple to use

Another feature that Microsoft puts forward as a highly attractive one for Windows 365 clients is how easy the service will be to use.

In fact, Microsoft has gone so far as to say that organizations won’t need to hire specialist IT professionals to set up and manage the Cloud PCs. Features such as easy management and instant start-up enable users to have the ability to work traditionally without any prior virtual work experience. This is something that may also help you to lower overall operating costs.

Furthermore, your IT staff can manage, deploy, and configure the PC environment just as they have done all along.

Windows 365 security measures

Continuing on from what I touched on above, there are other security features that are important to know. Microsoft gives Windows 365 certain capabilities straight out of the box that are meant to enhance your security. Just as you have with your physical computers, Windows 365 Cloud PCs will come with Microsoft Defender. This helps to ensure that your device is secure from the first-run experience.

Also, the provisioning of the Cloud PCs is done using a gallery image. To ensure improved security, the image will have the latest updates for Windows 10 through Windows Update for Business. There are some differences that must be noted regarding the security measures for Windows 365 Business and those for Windows 365 Enterprise.

Windows 365 Business

Since Windows 365 Business is a service aimed at smaller organizations, particularly those that may not have IT staff, users on this edition are granted local admin rights to their Cloud PCs.

So this situation basically replicates what happens with a lot of small businesses whereby users purchase computers and retain local admin rights.

For IT departments that want to use Windows 365 Business for particular cases, they need to follow standard security practices if they intend to make those users standard users on their devices. To use MEM for this approach, you’ll need to follow the guidelines below:

  • The process starts with device configuration to enroll the devices in MEM

               using automatic enrollment.

  • The next step involves the management of the Local Administrators group.

               This can be done using Azure AD or MEM.

  • In addition, it would be a good idea to have Microsoft Defender Attack

               Surface Reduction (ASR) rules enabled. This would be very useful because

               these rules are in-depth defense mitigations for specific security concerns,

               such as blocking credential stealing from the Windows local security

               authority subsystem.

Windows 365 Enterprise

When it comes to Windows 365 Enterprise you’ll start to see some significant differences because this edition was designed for organizations that have dedicated IT teams.

This makes things slightly easier for IT as you have a system that is molded on the management and security that Microsoft Endpoint Manager provides. All Cloud PCs in Windows 365 Enterprise configure users as standard users by default.

However, admins still have the ability to make exceptions on a per-user basis. Furthermore, all Cloud PCs will be enrolled in MEM with reporting of Microsoft Defender Antivirus alerts.

You’ll also get the ability to onboard into the full Microsoft Defender for Endpoint capabilities. Microsoft makes the following security recommendations for users of Windows 365 Enterprise:

  • Users should stick to standard Windows 10 security practices. This also means restricting access to your Cloud PC using local administrator privileges.
  • You need to deploy Windows 365 security baselines to your Cloud PC from MEM. Furthermore, you should utilize Microsoft Defender to protect your endpoints, especially all Cloud PCs.
  • Taking advantage of Azure AD conditional access is a must. With features such as MFA and user/sign-in risk mitigation, you can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access to your Cloud PC.

Communication and collaboration

Windows 365 not only provides a platform that facilitates remote work for your organization but also ensures that team members can work together regardless of location. Clients can take full advantage of the power of Microsoft Teams to ensure that communication in your organization happens smoothly.

By using Teams, your organization can set up your environment in a way that best suits you. And when you are ready to use Microsoft Teams, the users can download the Teams client from https://teams.microsoft.com/downloads. And just like Windows 365 itself, you can install the Teams client on various devices such as Windows, Mac, or Linux PCs as well as on your Android or iOS devices. 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. And then 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 conferences 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. 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, you can utilize 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.

Easy administration management

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 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 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 AD 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.

Wrap Up

Windows 365 is a service that has countless different applications that can help businesses, both large and small, to completely change their IT environment. Taking advantage of the Cloud PC can mean potential changes in policy about who and how your organization hires. The ability to give employees remote access without compromising collaboration gives you a far deeper pool of talent to choose from when looking to hire people. The cost of the service is something that can also help your business by reducing expenditure on hardware. Not having to provide employees with brand new high-end computers and reducing hardware refresh rates can go a long way in improving your bottom line. In addition, when you consider how Microsoft has designed Windows 365 to be easy to use then you begin to see a platform that can change the virtualization sector. Undoubtedly, there’s still a lot more to come as the service improves but for now, Windows 365 has certainly offered a lot to be excited about.

Reasons You Should Invest In Windows 365

For a lot of businesses, making the switch to cloud computing services 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. A PC that you can take with you anywhere and access at any time on almost any device.

In this blog, I will be going over the major reasons why Windows 365 would be 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 would 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. When it comes to the on-premises computing model, this refers to the physical hardware that 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, when looking at cloud service providers, the latter owns 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 virtual machine that is going to allow users to have an enriched Windows desktop experience. This takes Windows and gets it running on the Azure cloud.

As Microsoft 365’s General Manager Wangui McKelvey has 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 will also be provided 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. Because the company that has given us Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is the same that is 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 you can rest assured that if you go with Windows 365, you’ll be investing in a service that is founded on a tried and tested platform. Therefore, we can take a look at AVD’s track record and some of what it has been able to offer clients.

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 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 while still retaining overall control and keeping security standards high.

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 that businesses like 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 go with. But, Microsoft has designed 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 is designed with flexibility in mind 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. When it comes to 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 are given to you under the two editions available – Windows 365 Business and Windows 365 Enterprise.

Business edition

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 will be charged a fixed rate for the Business desktop and the prices will depend on the hardware configuration that 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 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 gives you 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.

Enterprise edition

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 that may be interested in integrating the desktops with their existing Azure virtual network, 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 gives you 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 to put the right people in the right place at the right time to 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 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.

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 allows you, 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 thus increasing 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 going to be required for your network servers. As you can imagine, you’ll need to have plenty of space for the servers themselves and the 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 draw more clients to you.

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.

And then 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.

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, you can utilize 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, as well as 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, such as hardware/software failure, natural disasters, and power outages, to ensure high application availability and business continuity.

Increased accessibility

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 may not have had.

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. Because as one would expect, 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 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 will allow 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 neither do they need access to their office PC. 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

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 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 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.

Wrap Up

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.