April marks more than 1 year since COVID-19 restrictions hit globally. We saw many knowledge workers transition to working from home last year. Starting in Q2, we had somewhat expected the return to the office. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like we will be doing that soon as Canada starts yet another wave of lockdowns and restrictions.
This continued remote working scheme has really highlighted the need for a secure distributed work force. Businesses are no longer hoping to just “wait it out”, but are earnestly focusing on tackling an issue they were all hoping would be over months ago. As a result, we’re seeing some very interesting projects surrounding security and productivity.
For April, we want to highlight a couple projects where Windows Virtual Desktop has been the chosen technology to help businesses large and small thrive in this remote working landscape. Let's get started!
*Unless otherwise noted, all client names are fictionalized to protect their privacy and identity.
How Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) Supports Small and Medium-sized Enterprises
Early in March one of our SME clients, Wookie, came to us with a request to review a product. Wookie works with entrepreneurs to help run their business. As an organization, Wookie already has a well configured Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) scheme for their employees. However, as a result of the diverse set of clients they work with, from time-to-time Wookie runs into application incompatibility issues with their staff’s devices. This time, one of Wookie’s staff needed to run a Windows application using their Mac computer.
Wookie contacted us to review if Parallels would be a good solution for them. If you don’t already know, Parallels is a desktop virtualization software that would allow Mac users to run Windows fairly seamlessly at $129.99 CAD/yr for a single license. The caveat being that:
Wookie still needed to bring its own Windows installation media and license.
The staff is limited to the hardware configuration of their Mac.
As it turns out, Wookie’s staff only needed a Microsoft Edge browser to work with the client application, but in testing, they had already determined that Microsoft Edge for Mac didn’t work and the Edge browser needed to run on Windows; hence the request for Parallels.
Instead of sending Wookie down the path of Parallel desktop where they are limited to their staff’s Mac hardware limitations, and having to purchase, install and manage Windows 10 with limited technical experience, we suggested Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) virtual app to Wookie instead.
With WVD Virtual App, we were able to deploy an Edge browser that can natively be accessed inside a web application gateway (read: web browser). This required no configuration by the staff, nothing to download, and nothing to install. Because WVD resources can be scaled up or down as Wookie required, they could add an additional staff person to work with the client using the same WVD instance without any additional licenses or configuration. Should Wookie intend to add another 20 staff to this WVD instance, it can easily be scaled up to accommodate. At the same time, the instance can be powered off when it’s not in use, making the expense very minimal.
While WVD Virtual App was exactly what Wookie needed, we realized very quickly that the true cost of WVD isn’t in the WVD instance - it’s actually in the Azure AD DS infrastructure required to support it. While WVD itself is very affordable, Azure AD DS does get expensive. As a compromise we created a standalone WVD instance for Wookie while utilizing our own Azure AD DS infrastructure. This means Wookie didn’t need to stand up its own Azure AD DS instance just to get an Edge browser and have all the other benefits of Windows Virtual Desktop.
How Windows Virtual Desktop is Quickly Winning Hearts for Large Enterprises
Meanwhile, a large corporation, Isosceles Corp, already had a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solution for several years now. When the pandemic hit, Isosceles Corp continued with their existing VDI solution to enable their quick transition to remote working without too much pain. Then came January 12, 2021.
What happened in January 2021? Well, Adobe finally laid their Flash product to rest, declaring a very unceremonious End of Life. Unfortunately for Isosceles, their VDI solution’s administrative console webpage was running entirely on Flash.
Almost overnight, their VDI admins couldn’t get into the control panel to assign user permissions, check configurations or anything that required interaction with the admin console. As a workaround, the admins discovered they could set their desktop date and time to before January 2021 to allow Flash to still function. But that created its own set of problems since Kerberos authentication relied on clock synchronization with the domain.
Beyond this very obvious Flash problem which required a large VDI upgrade project to overhaul all its server components (there were 7 servers in total that ran this beast, not including the Hypervisor the VDI desktops sit on top of), Isosceles was spending a lot of admin time in updating their VDI gold images every time Windows or guest applications received an update. Isosceles needed a solution that was modern, scalable, and reduced the administrative overhead.
We recommended Windows Virtual Desktop. WVD was a shining star with its ease of administration. Windows 10 desktop images were built-in, so it was a simple “click-to-deploy” with very little learning curve for the Sys Admins. Not only that, but the admins also only had to choose Windows 10 with Office 365 Desktop apps built-in to have every VM deployed with Office 365. Which means the Sys Admins didn’t need to sit there and prep their gold images. WVD also required no on-premise server components, which means no hardware to purchase, no hardware to upgrade, and was not limited by the hardware resources or performance. The WVD infrastructure also required no upgrades or maintenance so Isosceles will never run into another issue like the deprecated Flash version.
With the amount of time and budget saved, Isosceles was able to invest into taking care of their employees during the pandemic instead of keeping busy plugging holes and running into issues with employee burnout.
Are you ready to see how Windows Virtual Desktop can help you achieve secure remote work, reduce scaling and capacity issues, and help reduce pressure on budget and resources? Contact us to see if WVD is right for your business.