If anybody thought that cloud computing would be limited to back-end functions, complex VDI setups and server hosting, they need to think again. The relentless march of cloud-based consumer and commercial technologies is showing no signs of stopping.
Since the early 2000’s, provisioning and maintaining a virtual desktop infrastructure has been the domain of certified IT professionals, but all that is set to change. Microsoft’s ground-breaking new cloud product, Windows 365, is poised to revolutionise the way that businesses interact with their customers, staff and data by providing a Windows 10/11 experience in the cloud, accessible from almost any device.
What is Windows 365?
Let’s start from the beginning…
On the 14th July 2021, Microsoft announced a new hybrid cloud computing product they called ‘Windows 365’.
Building on the success of Azure Virtual Desktop and continuing the focus of cloud-based methods of working in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Windows 365 is essentially a Windows PC hosted in the cloud, operating on a subscription model and accessible from almost any device with a web browser and an Internet connection, including Mac, Linux and Android devices.
As it stands, Windows 365 only supports the streaming of Windows 10 operating systems, but Microsoft have confirmed in their product launch that as and when Windows 11 becomes available later this, year, Windows 365 will offer it as part of the standard subscription service.
Alongside the familiar Windows desktop experience, Windows 365 also offers full support for Microsoft 365 business apps including Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Power Platform.
Windows 365 & Azure
Yes – they sound the same. No – they’re not.
Windows 365 is built using the same technology as its parent product, Azure Virtual Desktop. The key difference between the two platforms is hardware based. If you’ve purchased a virtual machine (or group of virtual machines and servers) through an Azure subscription then you’re getting just that – instances of virtual hardware that, for all intents and purposes, function as a physical computer network (albeit hosted in one of Microsoft’s datacentres).
When you subscribe to Windows 365, instead of provisioning and networking an entire virtualised network with storage, servers and data customisation options as is the case with Azure Virtual Desktop, you’re essentially paying to stream the Windows operating system to your device via a concept Microsoft have called the ‘Cloud PC’.
Think of it as ‘Azure lite’, but as you can imagine, it’s slightly more complicated than that!
How does Windows 365 work?
Windows 365 subscribers can stream all their applications, tools, data and settings from the cloud across any device (Mac, Linux, Windows, Android).
When you purchase a subscription and link your Windows 365 product to an existing Microsoft account, your settings will follow you wherever you go.
Windows 365 also allows you to customise the amount of power and storage that your Cloud PC uses, both at the point of subscription and once you start using it. IT networks are notoriously hard to scale unless managed properly, so the ability to adjust settings on the fly is a great advantage to cost-conscious IT Managers.
Integration with Azure AD and Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM)
If your organisation already operates with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) via Azure, Windows 365 automatically integrates itself with Azure Active Directory, alongside your other virtual assets. You can apply management and security policies to your Cloud PCs just as you do to all your other devices. Windows 365 is also fully compatible with key networking tools such as Microsoft Endpoint Manager.
Ultra-fast Internet connections
Cloud PCs benefit from an impressively fast Internet connection – 10Gbps download and 4Gbps upload. Microsoft have also tentatively suggested that users may finally be able to utilise webcams and other media devices on their Cloud PCs by becoming the first VDI provider to reliably redirect video from within a virtual session – a function that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to centre stage as the world transitioned from an office-based environment to collaborative remote working solutions.
Windows 365 is available on a variety of different endpoints. Each platform is able to support different aspects of the Cloud PC experience:
Key Windows 365 features
- Instant boot to a personal Cloud PC
- The full Windows experience in the cloud
- Stream applications, tools, data and settings direct from the Microsoft cloud across any device.
- A choice of either Windows 10 or Windows 11
- Secure by design, and fully compliant with Microsoft’s Zero Trust principle
- Flexible per-user, per-month pricing plans
- A scalable set of virtual hardware parameters that lets you adjust to changing conditions on the fly
- Fully compliant with Azure Active Directory and Microsoft Endpoint manager
- Fast setup process that provisions your Cloud PC within minutes
How much does Windows 365 cost?
Windows 365 is only available on a monthly, per-user basis. Unlike Azure-based virtual products, there is currently no option to reserve instances of virtual hardware for 1 or 3 years, and benefit from a discount to the overall price.
Subscriptions can be purchased through intY.
Our Microsoft Consultants will be there every step of the way to ensure that all bases are covered, and you end up with a Windows 365 solution that meets every last one of your business’ unique needs.
When you choose us as your Windows 365 partner, you’ll benefit from the very best the UK has to offer in terms of distributed Microsoft products and professional services.