Written by: Daniel Haurey on 03/10/21

We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with an IT Director of a 100-employee business to answer questions surrounding Windows 365 Cloud PCs.  During that meeting we were trying to assess their comfort level with Microsoft Azure related technologies.  The prospect currently uses an on-premises remote desktop (RDP) gateway solution to log into their physical desktops.  This solution is sub-optimal for the rigors of pandemic-era levels of remote work.  Connecting to the physical desktops in the office presents challenges.  Some users accidentally shut down their computers while others inadvertently have their PC go to sleep or freeze on them.  These issues result in the user being forced to go into the office to get it working again.  Not ideal.  Windows 365 Cloud PC solves those pain points and adds multiple layers of high availability on top of it.

Here are a few of the Windows Cloud PC questions we answered:

How are Windows 365 Cloud PCs different from traditional remote desktop?

Traditional remote desktop solutions consist of a gateway, connection broker, and desktop session hosts — traditionally a Windows Server operating system with the desktop experience enabled.  A business would need load balancers and multiple servers to ensure high availability for the solution, or they would risk outages from single points of failure. However, with Windows 365 Cloud PCs, Microsoft manages the Remote Desktop Gateway and connection brokers for you. Microsoft ensures these components are highly available, and you enjoy them as a service from the Azure cloud.  You configure your required session host and application pools.  This allows you to focus more on your desktop image and configurations and not worry about the solution’s underlying infrastructure components.

Can I bring my firm image to Azure and use it?  Does each user get a computer in the cloud?

Yes, you can bring your existing Windows Image to Azure.  Your current image is likely Windows 10 single user and is well suited for desktops, laptops, or personal desktop solutions.  You may want to use the new Windows 10 multi-user desktop experience to allow a pooled desktop user experience.  For that to happen, you would start with the Microsoft Window 10 Multi-user image from the Microsoft Gallery and then install your applications and apply your policies and settings.  If your “golden” image is currently in VMware on-premises, you may want assistance converting and migrating it to Azure.

Also See:  https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/virtual-desktop/windows-10-multisession-faq

How do you manage the desktops on Windows 365 Cloud PCs?

Management of the VM is generally completed through adjusting the master image. When an image update is required the image is booted in Azure, adjusted (via RDP) and re-sealed and prepared to be used as a master image for an existing host pool. For user management, the existing Shadow functionality built-in with RDS provides access to each user session for technical assistance tasks. For deployments with static desktops, if you need to modify an individual desktop, you can directly connect to it with RDP.  If you need to power hosts on or off or control a Windows Cloud PC pool setting, you do that from the Azure portal.

Are there any Limitations on Software?  What can’t run on Windows 365 Cloud PCs?

If it runs on Windows 10, it should run on a Windows 365 Cloud PC.  Microsoft even provides a “desktop app assure team” to help streamline getting tricky applications to work.  One place we see issues are with latency-sensitive applications.  For instance, if you have an application that uses a database that resides in your office or data center. The desktop client of that application is in Azure, connected over a site-to-site VPN. The application feels slower than on-premises.  Another example may be an Exchange Server in the office, and you are using Outlook as the mail client in ‘online mode.’

What additional costs are there outside of the licensing fees for each user?

You must pay for the storage, compute, backup services for each server or desktop you deploy, and storage for user profiles.  Typically, you would also put a domain controller in the Azure site.  You can price all of this out on the Azure Pricing Calculator.  However, be careful of going at it alone, as the Azure pricing calculator defaults to the least expensive tier solution in most cases.  So if you want to choose storage, it will select the local redundant standard HDD disks.  When you build your Azure solution, you will be defaulted to the premium tier options and potentially have a substantial difference between what you budgeted for and your final build cost.

Closing Thoughts

We hope this answered some questions you may have about Windows Cloud PCs, too.  Also, please consider that when you select a Windows Cloud PC consultant or managed services provider to outsource your Windows Cloud PC deployment, you gain a team of people with the expertise in the solutions and technologies required to run your business. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, we see the remote desktop and remote work solutions becoming extremely critical infrastructure for a company that previously used it sparingly. Using qualified and experienced Windows Cloud PC consultants, you get a team with the required skill set to deploy Windows Cloud PCs and to appropriately size your environment.  They will guide your organization through the deployment challenges and be familiar with the regular changes as Microsoft continues to develop and improve the Windows Cloud PC product line.