- Windows 365, a Cloud PC that’s been around for years in some form or another.
- Now a part of Microsoft 365 with fixed-price offerings
- Persistant, just like the real thing
- 2 variants: Business and Enterprise. Enterprise is very Enterprise, otherwise known as complex
- The PC is dedicated to the user, and accessible from multiple devices
- Rather expensive
For people that work in the IT industry, ‘cloud’ in reference to IT is a fairly simple concept to grasp. In its most simplified term, ‘cloud’ simply means that the resource you are accessing resides on someone else’s system which you access over the internet. Microsoft 365 or G-suite for example is essentially a ‘cloud’ service.
With that in mind, that’s what Windows 365 is; a PC in Microsoft’s cloud that you can access remotely. It’s nothing new, AWS have been doing it for years and Microsoft Azure themselves have had an additional variant for quite some time called Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). What’s is new about Windows 365 is that it’s now a part of Microsoft 365 and provided at a fixed-price instead of the original consumption model. What does this mean? Predictable expenditure.
Windows 365 has only just been released so it’s still very early but the key points are:
- It’s persistent. If you install a program or put a file on the desktop, it’ll be there next time you login just like a normal PC.
- Each PC is dedicated to its user. It is not a shared system.
- It’s part of Microsoft 365 (not Azure) and now at a fixed price.
- You need Microsoft Business Premium or the E-series licensing at a minimum. Your on-prem Windows licenses don’t apply.
- There are 2 versions of Cloud PC: Enterprise and Business. Business has no further requirements, whereas Enterprise require an Intune license and a host of other Azure Network/AD requirements in addition to some egress network costs.
- In Enterprise, Admins don’t have direct access to the Cloud PCs and are required to use the Microsoft Endpoint Management portal.
- It’s accessible from multiple devices, like iPads etc.
- It’s expensive. We estimate that for a system with average grunt, you’re looking at about the cost of an average PC per year. Therefore, a single user who has a physical PC to access their cloud PC ends up paying for about 3 to 4 machines over 3 years.
What’s the catch?
It’s definitely a step in the right direction and probably should have been made available through Microsoft a long time ago, but before you get ready to throw away your existing PC there are some things you need to keep in-mind:
- It probably won’t replace your PC in most cases. We see a lot of cases whereby the user will still need a PC to access their Cloud PC and the cost of thin-clients doesn’t justify their expense unless it’s large-scale.
- In most cases it doubles your threat landscape. You now need to protect double the amount of PCs
- It can have a negative effect on device-based licensing (think some antivirus software)
- If your other systems are not in Microsoft 365/Azure, it’s probably a waste of time.
- Again, it’s expensive predictable expenditure.
Where we see some real benefit is for organisations that already have systems (think IAAS) running in Azure with roaming staff on-site that use iPad-like devices. They’d be able to connect to their Cloud-PC from anywhere and make real use of the service and could probably justify the price. Or, businesses that have legacy systems, no office and refuse to host their system in Co-lo Data Centres.
Most other businesses would probably be better off investing in a robust, secure and reliable remote access solution that enables their staff to use any PC (even personal PCs) to safely access Office resources. Pair that with backup internal systems etc and you’ll most likely walk away with money in your pocket when comparing, even when including professional consulting costs.
We think the takeaway is this… Don’t rush. It’s been there is some form or another for years, and it’ll be there in the future (probably cheaper). For the time being though, unless there’s a valid justification for it we think most solution providers (including Microsoft) will be pushing it because it benefits them financially.
We’ll keep you posted.