Comparing Windows Virtual Desktop with Your Office Anywhere’s Hosted Desktop

For a summary of what Windows Virtual Desktop is please see this article

It’s important to start with mentioning that Windows Virtual Desktop has only just been announced and this comparison is based upon the information released by Microsoft so far.

Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) looks to be an exciting and interesting concept, and for the right organisation it may prove to be the perfect choice.  However, for many businesses, particularly SMEs the services offered by hosted desktop providers will likely provide a superior experience overall.

The comparisons below looks at all the different aspects of running desktops in the cloud and are based on Your Office Anywhere’s hosted desktop service.

 Hosted Desktop Your Office AnywhereWindows Virtual Desktop - Microsoft Azure
System Setup/Implementation


- User Creation,
- Software Installation
- Data migration,
- Liaise with 3rd party software vendors

Active Directory (AD) Domain


- Secure domain user authentication
- Secure Group Policies to manage desktop
- AD groups to manage file and folder security

Requires additional services
System Configuration


- Initial configuration of AD groups and policies
- Ongoing changes, maintenance and support of config

Requires in house skills or 3rd party consultancy
Operating Systems available

Windows 2016


Windows 2012, 2012r2


Windows 2008, 2008r2
Windows 10
Support


- System config changes
- Issues and Outages
- User account maintenance
- UK helpdesk

Support is chargeable extra
Management


- Managed Antivirus
- Managed Windows
- Updates
- Resource Management

CostsFixed monthly fee per user


Support included


Licences managed by Your Office Anywhere
Some fixed costs + some variable costs depending on usage


Support is extra


Requires Enterprise plans for Microsoft 365 or Windows E3, E5
Skills RequiredNo IT skills required by customer

Requires in house skills or 3rd party consultancy

For more detailed information about the services described in the table above please Read More…

Implementation

Windows Virtual Desktops will be quick to deploy, blank virtual machines can be available in minutes.

Hosted Desktops may take a little longer as each solution is built to order.  The build process includes: creating all the user accounts; installing the software for the customer; migrating any existing data, databases or files; making any specific configuration changes required by the software or the customer’s specific security requirements; and configuring backups.  In essence the hosted desktop provider acts as an outsourced IT company creating the perfect bespoke desktop solution for the customer.

Operating System Version

Windows Virtual Desktop will use a multi-user version of Windows 10.  This is the first time Windows 10 has been made available as a multi-user operating system (OS).  The advantages of using Windows 10 as a shared computer OS are that users will now have access to Edge (replacement to Internet Explorer for web browsing), The Microsoft Store and Cortana (virtual assistant).   However, it could be argued that giving users access to the Store on a shared computer is not necessarily a good idea.  If Cortana and Edge are integral to your business then fair enough, otherwise there is no real advantage to businesses of using a Windows 10 remote desktop as opposed to a Windows Server.

Microsoft also argue that there may be applications that run on Windows 10 that don’t run on Windows Server.  This may be true but I’ve yet to find a modern business application that won’t run on a Windows remote desktop server.

Management

Management of a Windows Virtual Desktop is important, it is a shared computing environment and can be the platform for your business critical applications.  Do you really want individual users downloading the latest free game from Microsoft Store and using up all your CPU or introducing Malware.

In a hosted desktop environment the user’s desktops are locked down and managed, preventing the users from inadvertently causing problems for themselves and their colleagues.   A hosted desktop uses Windows Active Directory to manage users and set permissions for applications and data.  Bespoke security settings can be implemented for each customer as needed as part of the initial setup.

A Windows Virtual Desktop on its own has no global management facilities.  These will be added extras in Azure but the customer would need to know how they work, and how to implement and maintain them.  Something that requires a skilled IT professional.

Support

Support is vital for any IT solution or service, just because something is “in the cloud” doesn’t mean it won’t go wrong.  How many small business customers will know how to recover their Windows Virtual Desktop when it blue screens after a user has downloaded and installed something they shouldn’t.

Support in Azure is vital but is an added extra and you could be talking with one of thousands of support personnel, somewhere in the world, and they will expect you to have at least some working knowledge of IT.   You will no doubt need to roll up your sleeves and follow Microsoft’s instructions to sort it.

Alternatively you could have a support contract with your local IT provider who can help fix the issues so you may need to budget for that.

With a hosted desktop service from Your Office Anywhere the support is included, if the system goes wrong they will fix or recover it.  No IT knowledge is required on the part of the customer.  The helpdesk is an experienced team based in the UK with many years combined knowledge of Windows systems and hosted desktops.   Customers can ask for specific support engineers by name.

Costs

Windows Virtual Desktop will come “free” for subscribers of Microsoft 365 E3, E5 or F1 Enterprise plans.  Microsoft 365 also includes Office 365.  At the time of writing Microsoft 365 E3 was about £26.40 per user per month.   This sounds pretty reasonable, however, this is just the licence to use it and doesn’t include the rental of the Azure virtual machine itself, or storage, or backup.  When pricing up an Azure virtual solution for Windows Virtual Desktop the costs may be comparable to that of the hosted desktop provider, depending on the specification chosen.  However, when you add on Microsoft standard support the costs will become more expensive.

With a hosted desktop provider costs are generally fixed so you always know what you are paying.  With Azure there is an element of pay per use so you don’t always know exactly how much the bill will be each month.

Summary

Included as part of Microsoft’s Enterprise plans Windows Virtual Desktop is clearly aimed at the enterprise market, companies or organisations with an experienced IT department or good external IT solutions provider experienced with Azure.  It is priced competitively and is a good addition to Azure for organisations who definitely need a Windows 10 Virtual Desktop.

For smaller businesses the complexity of Azure and the need for additional components, support, and external consultancy means this may not be the best option for running desktop applications in the cloud.   Hosted desktop providers will continue to offer a fully managed and supported Windows virtual desktop environment, and at no greater cost.

For more information on hosted desktops please go to this page or contact us:

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