There are many digital technologies that can support businesses in moving to hybrid work models. Microsoft has two technologies designed to enable effective hybrid work through moving desktops to the cloud, Azure Virtual Desktop and Windows 365. Both of these solutions can provide a full Windows 10/11 desktop experience over the internet, but some key differences will dictate which technology is right for your business.
In this article, we discuss the differences between Azure Virtual Desktop and Windows 365 in regards to cost, management and user experience, and some ideal use cases for both.
Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is a virtual desktop interface (VDI) solution that is deployed through Azure that allows users to access Windows 10 and all the necessary applications, from anywhere, on any device. The technology can also be for RemoteApp streaming when businesses only require employees to access a single application on a virtual machine. AVD offers businesses full control over the configuration and management of virtual machines and also supports multi-session Windows virtual machines. Billing for AVD works on a consumption basis, however, there are many features within Azure to optimise a business’s costs.
Windows 365 is a cloud PC service that streams the full Windows experience, including apps, data and settings on any device that has an internet connection. Users can log in to their Windows 365 cloud PC through any browser, or using the Microsoft Remote Desktop app and they will have a fully functional Windows 10 or 11 experience. All of the compute is through the Azure cloud, and businesses can change the levels of compute and storage quickly and easily to suit changing business needs. Billing for Windows 365 is a simple per-user, per-month fee.
With Azure Virtual Desktop, businesses have many options to manage their virtual machines. This makes this solution extremely flexible, with options to suit all businesses. A key management feature is the ability to deliver pooled desktops to users, where the compute resources are shared between a group of users. AVD also has many options in terms of compute level, including everything from simple workloads requiring 2 vCPUs and 4GB of RAM to graphic intensive workloads requiring 12 vCPUs and 112GB of RAM. IT administrators also have granular control over how an AVD environment is managed, however, this is a specialised skill that not all IT administrators will be experienced in.
Windows 365 does not offer as many management features as AVD, but it does create a simpler experience for businesses without VDI expertise. Similar to AVD, there are a variety of Windows 365 plans to suit different use cases, where the business can decide how many virtual processors, RAM and storage is required for each user. New Windows cloud PCs can be easily provisioned directly through Microsoft Endpoint Manager.
The end-user experience for both Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop should be relatively similar. For both solutions, the user can connect via a client application for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, or HTML. Once users are connected, they have a full Windows desktop experience, and can even print or scan off the virtual machine. The one key difference in the user experience is that with Windows 365 users can restart their cloud PC, whereas this is not possible with AVD.
With Azure Virtual Desktop, businesses are billed on their Azure consumption from the virtual machines. This means that the costs can differ each month based on how intensive the workloads were and how long the machines run. There are many methods for decreasing monthly AVD costs, such as creating host pools where a single virtual machine is used by multiple employees. Businesses can also reduce costs with auto-scaling and by turning off virtual machines when they are not in use.
Windows 365 has simple per-user, per-month pricing. The cheapest Windows 365 cloud PC is $20/month, whereas the most expensive is $158/month. A well optimised AVD environment, running for 50 hours per week with auto-scaling is typically cheaper than a Windows 365 cloud PC with the same specifications. However, this does not account for the costs involved with setting up an AVD environment, as this can be a complex and expensive process. Also, a Windows 365 cloud PC is accessible 24/7, whereas with AVD the virtual machines are typically shut off when they aren’t in use.
Azure Virtual Desktop suits businesses wanting more flexibility with their VDI deployment. This way, they can create a customised host pool that is optimised for their usage. AVD is also more suitable for businesses that have a fluctuating number of users, as they would only pay for costs from user consumption. Finally, AVD may be more suitable for businesses that are looking for the lowest cost option, and have some VDI experience, as pooled virtual desktops are typically cheaper.
Windows 365 is perfect for businesses without any prior desktop virtualisation experience, but are seeking the benefits of a VDI solution. As Windows 365 is optimised for simplicity, businesses can quickly and easily start using cloud PCs and can deploy new cloud PCs whenever required.
Depending on your in-house IT expertise, it can be difficult to decide on the right desktop virtualisation solution. We can help you through the decision-making process to ensure you choose the right technology, at the right price, to enable your employees to work effectively, from anywhere on any device.