Scheduled for launch in August of 2021, the new Windows 365 cloud-based PC environment was developed for the purpose of providing businesses with the ability to quickly, easily, and affordably spin up secure Windows 10 and Windows 11 virtual machines.
These virtual PCs can then be accessed via multiple browsers on devices including those running Mac/iOS, Linux, and Android operating systems. Once signed into their virtual workstations, remote users can securely access company resources and applications. Businesses pay a monthly subscription fee based on the number of users. Depending on user requirements, subscribers have the ability to configure these PCs using a variety of CPU, RAM, and storage options.
This new Microsoft offering may be an effective solution for those organizations dealing with security and access issues relating to remote workers or those transitioning to a hybrid work environment.
A new version of a proven concept
The new Windows 365 essentially offers similar virtual workstation capabilities already available from Citrix. For some time, Microsoft has also offered a version of cloud-based PC services via Azure Virtual Desktop. The difference, according to a Microsoft manager quoted in an article at TheVerge.com/2021/7/14/22575064/microsoft-windows-365-cloud-pc-launch-date-price-features, is that Microsoft 365 comes with cost savings and ease of use benefits not available with other options. These benefits should allow more companies to take advantage of this technology.
Security is a major consideration that may convince more companies to choose the cloud PC model to provide access to their remote staffers. A number of vulnerabilities associated with use of Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) have led to successful attacks, many involving the deployment of ransomware. RDP vulnerabilities include unrestricted access to the port utilized for most connections and the use of weak login credentials. When compared to RDP, the virtual PC model offers more access control and enhanced security capabilities. Security concerns relating to the use of personal devices to connect to company resources are also reduced.
Per TheVerge.com article, Microsoft had been working on Windows 365 for years and kicked the project into high gear when the pandemic forced a transition to remote and hybrid work models.
The options available
Windows 365 is intended for commercial use by businesses of all sizes that will pay a monthly subscription fee based on the number of user licenses required. To meet the needs of individual users, organizations will have the ability to stand up virtual PCs ranging from those with one CPU and 2GB of RAM to far more powerful PCs that use eight CPUs and have 32GB of RAM. Storage space can also be allocated based on user requirements. Per TheVerge.com article, the process of creating and configuring virtual PCs as they are needed in the Windows 365 environment takes only a few minutes.
Cloud PC environments like those offered by Citrix and Microsoft come with other advantages to consider as well. Employers with remote staffers eliminate at least some of the need to purchase and maintain on-site hardware. Should a user’s needs change, the cloud PC can be easily modified to meet new requirements and perhaps free up resources for use elsewhere. There is no need to upgrade user hardware or to waste resources that are no longer required. Should temporary staff be brought on board or should contractors or vendors require access, new virtual PCs can be spun up quickly and easily and removed from the environment when they’re no longer needed. And finally, virtual PCs can’t be lost or stolen, thus the potential for compromising sensitive company data or personal information through device loss or theft is eliminated.
Replacing RDP access to on-site systems with a cloud-based virtual PC solution will significantly improve security in your environment and provide you with more access controls and configuration options for your remote users. The flexibility offered by this solution allows user PCs to be created, modified, and deleted as necessary. Hardware costs should be reduced as well. If, as Microsoft claims, Windows 365 offers ease of use benefits along with cost savings not available with other virtual machine options, perhaps it could be the right choice for your organization. As with any new technology, however, it is recommended that you do your own research and give it a little time after product launch to allow any bugs to be worked out.