You may, or may not, have heard the murmurings about Microsoft’s new Cloud PC – Windows 365. It’s been quietly rolled out to business users with a minimal amount of fanfare.
Windows 365 has been in the making since 2013 apparently but has arrived bang on time to help businesses pivot to a hybrid workplace. The pandemic accelerated the 8-year-long project to provide the solution to a post-pandemic world.
So what is Windows 365 Cloud PC and how will it provide a solution for today’s business?
The answer can be summed up in four words: the hybrid workplace conundrum.
By all accounts, Microsoft’s “Cloud PC” has the potential to dramatically convert computer environments to create a secure platform for a remote workforce to work from any device, anywhere without having to worry about security.
There are a few key benefits:
- Creates a personalised computer in a secure environment
- Accessible on any device
- Easy to manage
- Saves costs by eliminating the need for dedicated physical hardware
- Enhances cybersecurity
The crossover to a hybrid workplace will likely see an increase in employees accessing business networks on personal devices. This “new normal” creates the most complex cybersecurity environment we’ve ever known.
We appreciate that’s not what business owners want to hear. The good news is that virtual desktops add an extra layer of security to your business network and allow your employees to work from anywhere whilst lowering the risk of a data breach.
Microsoft also says Windows 365 offers more than tightening cybersecurity in remote locations.
“The user experience is more important than ever for attracting and retaining talent, improving productivity, and ensuring security.”
Oh yes, Microsoft thinks a Cloud PC will keep your top talent faithfully rooted.
What is Windows 365?
What we’re essentially looking at here is access to Windows without the need for a dedicated Windows PC or laptop. Instead, Windows will be streamed from the cloud.
That means the “desktop as a service” (DAAS) is available anytime, anywhere and across any device. Businesses can create Cloud PCs within minutes and assign them to employees.
Windows 365 is a subscription-based service tied to Microsoft Azure cloud computing services. It comes with Windows 10 and (when launched) will allow the user to upgrade to Windows 11.
The app is aimed at businesses with up to 300 employees. The Enterprise edition is available for organisations that have a workforce that is more than 300 strong.
Installing Cloud PC is simple. It shows up in your dashboard menu alongside your physical devices Microsoft Endpoint Manager. From there you can apply management and security policies and away you go.
What are the key benefits of Windows 365?
The biggest challenge facing many businesses today is the prospect of launching a hybrid workplace. IT professionals long for a solution that will secure your business network at all endpoints.
Windows 365 goes one step further than that. In the words of Microsoft:
“Windows 365 Cloud PC is to deliver a new way to experience Windows through the power of the cloud—while solving both novel and traditional challenges for organizations.”
The resolutions could be appealing to medium-sized businesses and larger enterprises that have despatched a remote workforce, share data with outside contractors or engage in seasonal work.
The key benefit of Windows 365 is the ability to create a personalised PC environment from any device anywhere. Users can access apps, data, tools and setting through any device including Apple Mac, Android, iOS, iPadOS, and Linux.
And the experience is consistent across devices so you can always start where you left off when switching from desktop to mobile. There is no need for VPNs and employees don’t have to worry about security on their personal devices.
Microsoft calls Cloud PC an “instant boot” “always-on” solution. It’s a cloud experience like no other. It may not offer anything different from existing solutions but it does bring everything into one place for convenience.
And all you need is an internet connection. This could be a potential problem, however.
If you don’t have a secure connection, you won’t have a workable PC.
It’s, therefore, advantageous for businesses to invest in perfect Wi-Fi that’s reliably stable and delivers fast data transfer speeds. We can help you with that!
Windows 365 is easy to set up. Once you download the software, it only takes a matter of minutes to update the settings and upload it onto a device.
The major benefit for firms is you avoid having to purchase physical hardware for your employees to work on at home. The cost-savings Windows 365 offers is massive.
Lastly, Cloud PC is designed to sure-up business networks. Businesses can produce, store and share data in a cloud environment that adds another encrypted layer of security to your network defences.
Multifactor authentication (MFA) is built-in and enables you to pair MFA with dedicated Cloud PC accounts through Microsoft Endpoint Manager. You also receive security recommendations that identify risks and helps you quickly discover and investigate any security incidents.
What’s the difference between Windows 365 Cloud PC and Azure Virtual Desktop?
At first glance, Windows 365 Cloud PC seems very much like Azure Virtual Desktop – formerly known as Windows Virtual Desktop or Microsoft Virtual Desktop.
Whilst the end goal of the two services are the same, Windows 365 makes creating virtual machines far easier. There are some significant differences between Cloud PC and Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD).
To learn more about AVD refer to our earlier article (written before Microsoft changed the name in June 2021).
In brief, both services create virtual machines on secure servers. Access is then streamed from the cloud to any device anywhere.
First of all, Microsoft will offer its Cloud PC service as a desktop at a service solution. Azure Virtual Desktop is only available with an Azure subscription. The Cloud PC service also resides in the companies Azure framework but will be offered as a managed service at an additional cost.
The main difference is that Windows 365 does not require customers to have the specialist knowledge an IT professional needs to set up virtual machines.
To use AVD, IT professionals also need to understand the inner workings of the Azure Portal. Ultimately, Cloud PC makes a huge difference to businesses that don’t have the IT expertise or the funds to adopt AVD.
Windows 365 will, therefore, be fully managed by Microsoft. This will include automatic security updates – so there won’t be any requirement for patch management within the Cloud PC app.
Although the initial subscription fee may appear more costly, you can remove admin and management costs further up the line. You may also be able to get by without an in-house IT professional thus saving you significant costs on salary.
Storage also comes within the fixed pricing structure of Windows 365. We’ve seen some commentators complain that storage is not flexible in Windows 365, but on closer inspection, it will meet the needs of most companies. The range is from a single CPU with 2gigs of RAM and up to 8 CPUs and 32 gigs of RAM.
User profiles are also slightly different. Windows 365 provides a single-user managed desktop rather than the multi-user profile management used in AVD.
Windows 365 Cloud PC Pricing Plans
Microsoft plans to sell Windows 365 Cloud PC as part of the Microsoft 365 bundle at a flat per-user price. Essentially, it’s an add-on for subscribers to Microsoft 365 Business and Enterprise users.
The pricing plans for Windows 365 are two-tier. The lower end is £17 a month per user. This option is powered by one vCPU and gives you 2GB RAM and 64GB – so it’s only ideal for users that require access to lightweight CRM software.
Heavy-task users will receive software powered by 8 vCPUs with 32GB RAM and 512 GB storage – but it will set you back £138 per month per user.
A Windows 365 add-on basically pays for managing the virtual machines that Microsoft provide. If you’ve already set up, or plan to set up virtual desktops in Azure, then you won’t need Windows 365 Cloud PC. This will save you from paying extended costs for your M365 package.
If you’re not already set up with virtual machines, an alternative option to Cloud PC is to take advantage of the cloud computing experts at Micro Pro.
Our IT specialists in London can also save you long-term costs by setting up AVD on your behalf. We also offer Windows 365 as part of a Microsoft 365 bundle if you prefer.
We trust this article has answered many of the questions you may have been asking about Windows 365 Cloud PC. If you do have any other questions, feel free to reach out to our IT experts who will be glad to field any questions we haven’t answered.