On the surface, Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop look like a similar product. Both systems are user-friendly and can be managed using Microsoft Intune. However, there are noticeable differences between the two systems upon closer examination. Microsoft made two solutions for different uses largely for remote work, addressing the complexity scale in different businesses.
In the insight below, we explore those differences between the two products and outline where it is appropriate to use one as opposed to another.
What is Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD)?
Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is a VDI solution from Microsoft Azure. It is designed for multi-session use, temporary use, high-end computing, and application virtualization. AVD has many more customizations available than Windows 365 and is priced based on usage, rather than a fixed monthly price.
AVD is the more complex solution. Here are some instances where AVD is a good solution.
Advantageous Instances of Azure Virtual Desktop
WHEN A LEGACY APPLICATION IS REQUIRED TO SIT ON A MAINFRAME NEXT TO A DATABASE
This use case is commonly deployed for performance reasons. There are instances where administrators decide not to place certain apps in the cloud and therefore performance slows. When this is the case, AVD provides a fine alternative for users to access these apps. By using AVD virtual machines, end-users can remotely access these apps for individual sessions.
2. APP VIRTUALIZATION SESSIONS
This use case is specific to the application itself. The app session will run completely through virtualization technology delivering end-users a ubiquitous experience. This option is popular when a specific app needs to be virtualized but, all other activities do not.
3. HIGH-POWERED COMPUTING
There are many occasions where end-users need to leverage high-powered computing on a temporary basis. For instance, employees that have video editing responsibilities often require high-powered computing to render high-resolution videos that contain terabytes of memory. However, they don’t need high-powered computing at all times. For the specific times that they do, AVD can make high-powered computing possible. End-users can simply leverage it as needed, and then move along in their regular environment.
Where using Azure Virtual Desktop becomes a challenge
The opposition to using a tool like Azure Virtual Desktop stems from the sizable amount of overhead it requires to manage. This is largely due to the freedom of customization – the more configurable a solution, the more overhead to maintain and update. AVD requires a good deal of attention to first implement and then manage, creating overhead for administrators. For simple use cases, AVD may be too overpowered.
What is Windows 365?
Windows 365 is specifically designed to require less overhead than Azure Virtual Desktop. There is a contrast in architecture between the two as well, as show below.
Windows 365 is designed to be the main PC for workers during their time with the company. Because of that, Windows 365 is priced on a flat per-user license model that scales with the number of users and with the power of the Cloud PC e.g., CPU cores and RAM.
Windows 365 is optimized for experience as opposed to Azure Virtual Desktop which is designed for flexibility. Because Windows 365 provides tiered licensing (Business and Enterprise), the pricing per user is predictable, whereas Azure Virtual Desktop’s pricing operates on a consumption-based model.
Windows 365 also provides a complete end-to-end Microsoft service, meaning you won’t need additional software to stream personalized desktops, apps, settings, and content.
Which Windows 365 License Tier is Right for you?
TIER 1: WINDOWS 365 FOR BUSINESS
Windows 365 for Business is designed for companies with fewer than 300 seats. This solution can only be connected to Azure AD, meaning that there is no option to connect to on-premises network drives (Hybrid AD Join). It also does not require the use of Intune to manage. All it requires of your admins is to assign licenses to individuals or groups. From there, end-users can log in directly through windows365.com. If you do use Intune, the option exists to control and configure those licenses as well, but only in pure play Azure AD.
Windows 365 for Business is an excellent option for small companies that don’t need the complexity of AVD.
One significant advantage is that Windows 365 provides the opportunity for groups to purchase computers that act as Thin Clients, enabling users to boot directly into the cloud PC without ever seeing a login screen on the physical device. With Windows 365 for business, smaller IT departments can easily manage their environment without a great deal of technical knowledge.
TIER 2: WINDOWS 365 FOR ENTERPRISE
The more robust tier of Windows 365 exists in the Enterprise package. Windows 365 for Enterprise is specifically designed to work in conjunction with Intune. It allows for the ability to provision devices, define categories, test connectivity, create flexible routing and leverage your own security architecture. Further, Windows 365 for Enterprise can connect to on-premises network environments through hybrid AD join – or it can still be pure play Azure AD.
The complexity of Enterprise, however, requires that a team will need to configure the interface between your network and the cloud. This process is easier said than done. There are specific routing requirements from your desktop protocol, firewall rules, and DNS complexities that make the configuration best left to the experts.
Should Windows 365 for Enterprise look like the best solution for your group, it may be best to explore hiring an external architect to get everything functioning correctly. Management for Windows 365 for Enterprise is also something groups may want to consider outsources as it can be quite complex and time-consuming.
What are the common Windows 365 Use Cases?
INTERNS AND TEMPORARY WORKERS
Need a PC for 3 months? Windows 365 is an excellent solution. Instead of purchasing a physical device, tell the intern or temporary worker to use their own personal device and connect to your Windows 365 Cloud PC for work. You can even provide the employee with a small stipend for using their personal laptop. Employees like using their own equipment and keeping work separate from personal.
Have a fractional C-suite employee? Provide them with a Windows 365 Cloud PC. They can use whatever physical equipment they prefer, which is often already under management by their own firm. When they are on the clock for you, the Cloud PC provides them with a managed and secure PC already hooked into your environment.
This use case is popular for C-suite executives, physicians, and other high-salary workers who may perform work for several companies at once.
OVERSEAS EMPLOYEES OR TEMPORARY OVERSEAS TRAVEL
In many situations that involve overseas employees, device compliance is simply unattainable. However, you can ensure your international employees are accessing company assets safely and efficiently by offering access to Windows 365 Cloud PC. Using their personal machines, they’ll be delivered the same experience as your domestic workers – without risk to your business.
As a bonus, Windows 365 Cloud PC negates the need to ship devices to employees overseas. As international teams increasingly become the norm, many groups are finding Cloud PC an attractive option in lieu of facing the logistical nightmare that is getting physical machines to workers aboard.
One of the features that Windows 365 Cloud PC touts is the ability to deliver a secure experience from anywhere. End-users with job requirements that demand a high level of security can confidently access apps, tools, and other company resources regardless of location.
What’s better is that admins have the ability to control access to the most sensitive company assets by applying specific privileges and roles to unique users and groups.
SUPPLY CHAIN SHORTAGES
Many businesses can attest to facing challenges stemming from hardware shortages since the beginning of the pandemic. The cost of purchasing new machines has become prohibitive for many companies, especially those experiencing accelerated growth.
In this situation, Cloud PC has been used to alleviate supply chain woes. New employees and those with the need for new hardware can use their personal devices in tandem with Windows 365 Cloud PC to access company resources safely, without a disruption in productivity.
Windows 365 is a fixed-price monthly SaaS service designed for simple usage and management. Azure Virtual Desktop, billed on usage, is a highly configurable virtualization solution offering complex capabilities in trade for higher overhead requirements.
If you have questions about how to start with either, or which one is right for you please