Companies have long been grappling with how to create secure desktop experiences for their teams. The global pandemic blew the doors off any kind of phased migration, when the goal shifted, nearly overnight, to working from home. While the tech community stepped up and kept people productive, those using Microsoft Azure discovered they had a clear pathway to modernising their entire desktop infrastructure.

What is Azure Virtual Desktop?

Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is a multi-session, cloud-based desktop and app virtualisation service hosted in Azure. It provides a unified management experience for Windows 10, Windows Server and Windows 7.

Simplifying modern work environments

According to Colin Hooper, Senior Technical Consultant at Zetta, AVD is especially useful for distributed workforces and the complexity that comes with a mix of full-time employees, contractors and consultants, who have varying requirements. It simplifies user provisioning by removing the need for a dedicated company device and standard operating environment.

“If you’re a company with a head office and a lot of satellite offices around the world, and you work with people on short-term contracts, you don’t have the time to ship everyone a physical device,” Colin said.

“But everyone still needs to access your company’s desktop and company apps using their own personal device.

“Instead of spending a whole lot of additional money on third-party desktop virtualisation software, you’re most likely already licensed for AVD through Microsoft 365.

“One big benefit to using Azure Virtual Desktop is you’re getting a true Windows 10 multi- session VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), not a Server 2016 made to look like a Windows 10.”

Free extended security updates

AVD provides Windows virtual desktops with free Extended Security Updates for Windows 7 until 2023. According to John Bishop, Senior Technical Consultant at Zetta, AVD is a good way to maintain a secure network, especially for those businesses still using Windows 7.

“Windows 7 reached end of life in 2020, but there are still companies who need it to run specialised applications,” John said.

“If you maintain Windows 7 on a physical device, you have to pay for extended security updates.

“But when you have Windows 7 in a VDI, you essentially get free security updates beyond the end of support.”

AVD helps reduce costs in multiple ways

AVD helps keep costs down in other ways. Licensing is included as part of Microsoft 365 and additional costs for storage, compute and throughput are charged on actual usage, making it a scalable and cost-effective way to manage your network. If you’re experiencing latency issues or your network has a low bandwidth, AVD can address those issues.

You can also reduce hardware costs by virtualising applications that require expensive hardware.

“A good example of this is organisations who use heavy processing graphics in programs like ArcGIS, AutoCAD or Bentley,” John said.

“In most cases, they would have to have specialised hardware specifically to run that application.

“They could virtualise that using AVD and eliminate the need for a hardware purchase.”

Modern work practices

Another use for AVD has become common with the popularity of modern work practices like hot-desking and clean desk policies.

“If you have a large number-crunching application or have to process a large quantity of data, it can take a long time. It’s not unusual to have these programs run 20 hours or more,” Colin said.

“You can’t leave a laptop on a hot desk for more than eight hours. You’ve got to take it home.

“If you had your own VDI, you could set the process up, start the job and not worry about it spooling down at midnight or logging you out immediately.

“You can leverage the virtual infrastructure instead of having to buy a dedicated desktop that gets stored in a server room under lock and key.”

Scalability across an organisation

According to John, AVD is infinitely scalable, which also contributes to cost effectiveness.

“If there’s an immediate need, it’s easy enough to assign the right resources to AVD. If you’re not using it, you’re not paying for that extra compute resource,” John said.

“If you invest in a physical box that’s got all the processing power you need, it’s constantly there; you pay for it even when you’re not using it.”

Maintaining a secure network

With the threat of cybercrime growing by the day, securing your network has become paramount. AVD leverages your existing Azure security framework to ensure the security of company data and applications.

  • Staff working on sensitive data in high-risk countries are protected because data is not stored on their device. This is equally true for staff working from non-secure places like cafes.
  • AVD can be used to access resources in a country where it’s prohibited by legislation to have data stored outside of their region.
  • AVD is effective for environments where data must be stored inside of a secure area due to things like privacy laws, IP protections or ‘clean room’ environments.

Maximising the value of your cloud investments

There are a lot of reasons it makes sense to virtualise your desktop using AVD cloud infrastructure. It provides a secure remote desktop experience from virtually anywhere in the world. You can modernise your whole desktop environment and support a modern work and BYOD culture. In addition, AVD reduces costs and security risks, addresses sovereignty issues, and improves latency problems.

Experts in end-user computing and standard operating systems

If you’d like to discuss the benefits of migrating to AVD for your organisation, please reach out to the team at Zetta. We have been working to help customers modernise their work environments and find multiple efficiencies and cost savings using Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop.