Virtual desktop technology has been around for more than a decade, but adoption has lagged due to perceived cost and complexity challenges. With more organizations looking to use the technology to support remote and hybrid workforces, Microsoft is simplifying desktop virtualization with its new cloud-based Windows 365 service.
Microsoft introduced the service in July to give users the ability to access a virtualized Windows desktop through a web browser. In addition to Windows 10 environments, Windows 365 will support Windows 11 when the new operating system launches in October.
The development comes at a time when more organizations have been evaluating desktop virtualization as a way to provide essential company applications, services and data across increasingly decentralized environments. In a recent ESG survey, 80 percent of organizations reported they intend to launch virtual desktop initiatives in the very near future.
The Complexity Challenge
Desktop virtualization was developed to create a more user-centric model for the delivery of applications and data. It transforms the entire desktop environment — including operating system, applications and data — into an image that is stored on a server and delivered to users as a service. Untethered from a physical device, you can access IT resources whenever and wherever you need them — providing you have an Internet connection and proper user credentials.
However, delivering Windows desktops and applications in this way can be exceedingly complex for organizations without a great deal of IT expertise on staff. The technology stack typically involves compute, storage, a hypervisor, the virtualized operating system, virtualized applications, a personalization layer and remote access protocols.
When these elements don’t work together smoothly, it can result in application crashes, WAN connectivity issues, file access problems and other issues. In addition, serving up desktop environments from the data center requires significant server, storage and networking resources.
Windows 365 resolves these issues by moving virtual desktops to the cloud, removing the load on data center resources and enabling easier IT provisioning and management capabilities. The virtualized operating system and apps can be streamed through any web browser and accessed with any PC or mobile device.
Simplifying the Experience
Most important, Windows 365 makes working with a virtual desktop simple and intuitive for remote users who typically lack the technical wherewithal to troubleshoot problems. With instant-on boot to a personalized Cloud PC, users can access all their applications, tools, data and settings without any special processes. Because the desktop isn’t linked to any particular device, users can switch devices without losing any updates or changes to the cloud desktop.
Windows 365 is secure by design, based on the principles of Zero Trust. Information is secured and stored in the cloud rather than on end-user devices. Multifactor authentication ensures that any attempts to access a Cloud PC are explicitly verified through integration with Microsoft Azure Active Directory. In addition, Windows 365 supports the principle of least privilege access. Administrators can delegate specific access and management permissions for specific user roles.
Microsoft already offered virtual desktops in the cloud through Azure Virtual Desktop, but that solution requires organizations to have a solid understanding of virtualization and the Azure portal. Windows 365 does not replace Azure Virtual Desktop, but it does make desktop virtualization far more accessible to small and midsized businesses that lack those skills and resources.
The IT environment is changing at a rapid pace, as are business needs and demands. Desktop virtualization is a valuable tool for helping organizations adapt to these changes, but it requires resources and expertise beyond the capacity of most organizations. With cloud-based Windows 365, Microsoft is making desktop virtualization much more practical for the vast majority of companies that need to support remote and hybrid workforces. Contact us to evaluate whether Windows 365 could benefit your organization.