We recently wrote about the paradigm shift to increasing numbers of employees working from home, its impact on corporate networks worldwide, and potential solutions to ease the transition. Today, we turn our attention to Microsoft’s latest contribution to cloud computing, launched on August 2nd, 2021, and aimed at businesses who value flexibility for their employees, simplicity, and ease of management.
What is Windows 365?
Microsoft has created and supported its own Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) products for years. Integrated with Azure Active Directory (AAD), businesses have enjoyed the ability to run Windows from thin clients and cross-platform web browsers for years with the right know-how, but these capabilities came with some requisite systems administration housekeeping to set up and maintain. Likewise, Citrix, a pioneer in the DaaS (Desktop as a Service) market, requires more administrative lever-pulling than Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD); even in Citrix’s most current offerings.
Bottom-line upfront: for many businesses, Windows 365 will affordably furnish all the benefits of cloud computing with a small fraction of the administration overhead.
Businesses with limited IT resources who find themselves forced to “do more with less” may find offloading their employees’ Windows management to the Microsoft mothership a breath of fresh air. Depending on the subscription tier chosen (more on that later), Microsoft is willing to fully take over management of networking, imaging, updates, profile management, image management, and auto-scaling (for those already on the cloud).
Scalability and flexibility are part and parcel with VDI, and Windows 365 takes advantage of these inherent benefits. System resources can be expanded at will, and system administrators no longer need to worry about the time-consuming tedium of setting machines up for temporary employees or maintaining machines for occasional workers.
Users can bring their own hardware to the virtual desktop party, be it tablets, Chromebooks, or any other internet-connected device. This means companies can re-evaluate hardware purchases, making them less substantial, less frequent, or both.
The security advantages are obvious. Critical company files no longer float in the ether on countless devices in the wild. If fully adopted, crucial corporate data is stored and managed by Microsoft, reducing the need for physical security. Malware is significantly less problematic, harder to propagate, and when encountered will most likely remain relegated to the local device.
Full adoption means putting all your eggs in one mostly reliable basket. It narrows points of failure considerably but also reduces employee productivity in the event of such a failure. If your ISP or Microsoft’s regional servers shut down, productivity may completely stop since virtual desktops require an internet connection.
The more limited business tier restricts troubleshooting and configuration options taken for granted in a more traditional Windows environment.
Silently hovering over these concerns is Microsoft’s track record. Abdicating system administration almost completely to Microsoft necessitates a very high level of trust. Within the consumer market in particular, Microsoft commonly fails to diligently test updates before they are released leading to all manner of unexpected issues; from deleted files to irritating bugs, to outright bricking hardware. Let us all pray Microsoft decides not to similarly use its Windows 365 corporate user base to beta test half-baked updates.
Microsoft launched Windows 365 with two tiers for business. No current plans are yet known for making the product available to individual consumers.
- Designed specifically for businesses who do not currently operate (or who want to transition away from) AAD or a domain (no admin portal)
- Microsoft-managed VDI
- Always fixed cost
- Requires existing domain, Azure, and Microsoft Endpoint Manager for VD (Virtual Desktop) administration (admin portal)
- Cost per usage available but sometimes requires reserved instances and auto-scaling
For those already involved in the cloud computing space, billing is no longer necessarily tied to usage. Billing is flat-rate unless on the enterprise tier and opting for specific use-cases in which cost per usage is more cost-efficient.
It seems Microsoft precisely calculated their subscription rates to produce a tension which a) aggressively competes with other companies in the DaaS space, and b) doesn’t cannibalize sales from their hardware partners such as Dell and HP. For many companies, this makes Windows 365 a tossup in cost-benefit analysis. Depending on your company’s business model, Microsoft’s pricing for Windows 365 may not necessarily be advantageous.
For some, the service is a steal. If your company finds value in reducing the resources dedicated to hardware procurement, configuration, and troubleshooting; malware and security concerns; and image management overhead, Windows 365 might be a fantastic choice.
In our estimation, it comes down to IT overhead cost projections from handling hardware and cumbersome administration systems. You may find your company is in a situation where the complexity of a more traditional Windows domain is more trouble than it’s worth. If this is you, give Windows 365 a serious look.
Microsoft has published detailed pricing here, but a barebones license runs $20 if you already own a traditional Windows 10/11 license, or $31 standalone.
Windows 365 is only one of the latest products in an exponentially expanding and complex market. We can help you decide your company’s future in the VDI space and beyond! ITAdOn thrives at the intersection of cutting-edge technology and business achievement. We are here to help you evaluate your organization’s IT situation and set your company up for success.
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