Windows 365 Cloud PC: how good is Microsoft's new virtual service?
With Windows 365 Cloud PC, Microsoft offers to replace the physical computer with a virtual extension permanently available in the cloud. This Cloud PC would then be accessible from any PC, Mac or mobile device and allows users to pick up exactly where they left off with their applications and data ready to use...
If you find this proposal attractive, you are not alone. As soon as it was launched, the number of applications for a free trial of Windows 365 exploded, forcing Microsoft to temporarily suspend its trial programme. So is the Cloud PC the Windows 365 revolution? Discover the strengths, but also the weaknesses of the new virtualised service from Microsoft in this article.
The benefits of the Windows 365 Cloud PC
A more accessible Cloud PC than Azure's virtual desktops
With its Cloud PC Microsoft offers desktop as a service (DAAS) on Windows 10 (with a planned upgrade to Windows 11). However, the American company is not completely reinventing the wheel with its new service. It had in fact already been offering Windows DaaS for several years with VDI Azure Virtual Desktop, which allowed its users to access their desktop and applications from any device and location in the world.
So what's new about this? Firstly, the ease of installation of Windows 365 Cloud PC. Where Azure Virtual Desktop often requires the help of system administrators or even Azure solution experts to install and configure it properly, Microsoft's Windows 365 configuration can be set up with a few clicks. One of Microsoft's main goals in designing its service is to simplify the virtualisation experience.
Users just have to choose the size of the Cloud PC that meets their needs and apply their organisations' security management policies. All other installation, maintenance and security details are automatically taken care of by the solution.
Finally, Windows 365 Cloud PC includes service analytics, automatic diagnostics and reports on network connection status. Users are then provided with an "Endpoint Analytics" dashboard.
New features with DaaS
Still on the theme of simplifying the virtualisation experience, Microsoft has provided its DaaS with options and features to support:
Flexibility: users can configure the size, CPU and RAM of their PC in the cloud, based on their needs. They can then expand or decrease their resources quickly to respond to their changing activity;
Versatility: Microsoft's solution includes the desktop version of Teams, Office, OneDrive and Outlook email software as well as Microsoft Visual Studio, Dynamics 365, Power BI and Dynamics 365;
Security: Microsoft claims that Windows 365 is "secure by design" because it is "built on Zero Trust principles". The virtualised extension allows employees to access company resources securely from all locations and devices. The data is stored in the cloud and not on their equipment.
Note that the Cloud PC grants local administrator rights to its end users by default. To change this configuration, Microsoft suggests using the Endpoint Manager and also advises activating the attack surface reduction (ASR) rules on Defender.
Versatile, flexible and easy to use, the Cloud PC seems to be a perfect solution for telecommuters or freelancers who need to access their PC from anywhere, or to use, for example, Windows-specific applications and software on a Mac. However, Microsoft's DaaS also has limitations and constraints that may restrict it to very specific users.
The limits of the Cloud PC
Windows 365 is available in two editions: Business and Enterprise. Just the name of the versions suggests that the solution is reserved for professionals and its prices seem to confirm this.
The first "Basic" variant of Business is limited to 300 users per organisation and costs approximately €22 per user per month for:
● one virtual core;
● 2 GB RAM;
● 64 GB of storage.
To have more capacity and resources, you will have to pay up to €150 per user per month. That quickly mounts up to the cost of a new "real" PC. However, the comparison should be more between Cloud PC and VDI Azure Virtual Desktop (where users pay per use) and at this level Windows 365 could be more economical, but less flexible.
A less flexible DaaS than VDI Azure Virtual Desktop
While Windows 365 Cloud PC is simpler than VDI Azure Virtual Desktop, it is also less flexible, as it lacks certain options such as:
● Citrix/VMware integration;
● Centralisation, in the sense that with VDI, hardware, software, licences and distribution are all managed internally.
Microsoft 365 DaaS settings are also more limited as the Cloud PC currently only has 12 configurations ranging from 1 to 8 virtual CPUs, 2 to 32 GB of RAM and 64 to 512 GB of storage.
Although the Windows 365 Cloud PC solution has many advantages that make it a sort of turnkey version of Azure Virtual Desktop, its lesser flexibility and higher costs remain a hindrance, especially for individuals and freelancers in micro-businesses. However, if remote working continues to become more widespread, it is likely to become more popular and to evolve rapidly. In addition, costs vary between suppliers and competition from Amazon WorkSpaces in particular could well push Microsoft to review its prices downwards.
Have you been able to test Windows 365 Cloud PC? What do you think of Microsoft's DaaS? Please feel free to share your opinions and comments on the IT forum.