Evolving employee expectations have turned a new spotlight on workplace flexibility. Deploying effective hybrid work capability is now a business-critical requirement, rather than an attractive optional extra.
This new demand has seen many businesses explore virtual desktop infrastructure, but while these solutions can suitably support a virtualised PC environment, the level of expertise needed to deploy and manage this technology, coupled with the overall costs, is an obvious blocker for small and medium sized business.
It’s for this reason that Microsoft, having already capitalised on this shift with Azure Virtual Desktop, released an alternative solution built for SMEs – Windows 365 Cloud PC.
An attractive fit for an important business need, Windows 365 has already proved to be a popular solution. In fact, Microsoft initially had to suspend the release of trial accounts as demand was so high. Now, over a year on from its release, Microsoft has announced a group of new features that further enhances its simplified Cloud PC offering.
Firsts things first, what is Windows 365 Cloud PC?
In very simple terms, Windows 365 Cloud PC is a simplified Desktop-as-a-Service offering that allows users to stream a cloud-hosted virtualised desktop to any device.
Crucially, this moves compute power away from the device and places it into the cloud, where a high-performance data centre delivers the horsepower.
For users, the desktop experience is no different to that of a physical PC, and the user can edit or customise settings, layout or backgrounds however they like.
There are two iterations of the offering available:
Business – This simplified solution is perfect for small to medium sized businesses, namely those without Azure, Intune or any other endpoint management capability. Accounts can be set up and managed individually via an online portal, with the desktop hosted in the cloud and accessible from any device.
Enterprise – A higher-level version of the Windows 365 offering, Enterprise is designed for larger organisations or those with existing internal IT resource and endpoint management capabilities. This is still a Desktop-as-a-Service offering, but includes some additional Azure tools to help you manage and organise your device estate.
What changes are on the horizon?
Many of the latest enhancements for Windows 365 revolve around accessibility and ensuring that virtualised desktop users can make the most of Microsoft’s latest operating system – Windows 11 – via a Cloud PC.
Windows 365 Boot will allow users to log directly into their Cloud PC from start-up and designate it as the primary Windows profile on their device. This avoids the need to first log into a physical profile before accessing Windows 365.
As well as streamlined access from start up, Windows 365 Switch will allow a user to seamlessly switch from a Cloud PC to the local desktop, something that is of particular use for those working from personal devices.
A new Windows 365 app will also be added to the taskbar and start menus to enable faster access to their Cloud PC alongside a customised welcome experience.
There’s also new features to improve offline capabilities. While an internet connected device is still required, Windows 365 Offline will allow users to continue working even if their connection drops. Any changes made during this time will be captured locally, and synced to the Cloud PC once the connection is restored.
How will this benefit your business?
As with more complex virtual desktop solutions, Windows 365 Cloud PC removes the dependence on user devices and allows you to deliver hybrid working at scale.
Accessibility from any internet-enabled device allows users to more easily work on the go without the need to provision additional corporate devices. A Cloud PC can be accessed from a laptop, tablet or smart phone and provides full access to the entire virtualised PC, as well as the data and apps it requires.
This not only supports more flexible working, but offers some significant commercial benefits for device strategy. As supply constraints continue, availability of hardware is scarce, and businesses are already having to push back refreshes and continue with outdated devices.
This has the potential to hamper performance and increase cyber risk, but with Cloud PCs delivered from the data centre, you can remove the burden on your devices and help to extend the life of your existing tech. This also supports access to Windows 11 for every user – even if they are accessing from a device which doesn’t support the OS – ensuring a consistent experience across your whole workforce.
New Windows 365 Boot and Switch features also open the door to device sharing and bring your own device (BYOD) models, alleviating the need to replace devices without compromising performance, accessibility or security for users.
Are you ready for Cloud PCs?
If you’re looking to deliver greater flexibility across your workplace and are interested in the possibility of delivering a virtualised desktop experience via Windows 365, our experienced team is here to help.
We can assess the needs of your business, the number of Cloud PCs required, and identify whether the Business or Enterprise offering is the best fit for you.
To get started, just get in touch with the team.