Windows 365 Cloud PC and Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) are both popular and increasingly deployed cloud-based solutions. Both are Microsoft products, leading to many similarities but also significant differences.

So, which option should you choose – Windows 365 or AVD?


Underlying Technology

Let’s start by talking about the underlying technology for both product categories, as that underlying technology is largely the same whether you choose Windows 365 or AVD. In other words, both make it possible to deploy virtual desktops using Microsoft’s Azure infrastructure. Both also offer an end-user experience that is very similar.

If the underlying technology is largely the same, what’s the difference?


The Fundamental Difference Between Windows 365 and AVD

There is a long list of differences between Windows 365 and AVD, including cost and licensing requirements, pricing structure, flexibility, and in-house technical resource requirements.

Another complicating factor when comparing Windows 365 and AVD is the options that are available, as some of the options amplify the differences while others bring the two product offerings closer together.

All that said, there is one core fundamental difference between Windows 365 and AVD:

  • Windows 365 is a Microsoft-managed DaaS (desktop-as-a-service) offering. It’s DaaS made easy, but you will pay Microsoft a bit more for this ease of deployment and management.
  • AVD costs less but it’s not Microsoft-managed. You need to manage AVD which gives you greater levels of flexibility in its configuration and deployment. The trade-off is much higher levels of complexity.

Let’s delve into this fundamental difference between Windows 365 and AVD a bit more.


Brief Overview of Windows 365

Windows 365 is a managed service with a per-user pricing model. This means Microsoft manages your Azure subscription, compute requirements, storage requirements, and more. You pay Microsoft on a per-user basis.

So, if you have 20 users, you pay a set monthly fee for 20 virtual desktops, and everything just works without you having to get under the hood or go through complex setup or configuration processes. This makes Windows 365 a powerful but simplified DaaS offering that is similar to renting a physical PC, only it is in a virtual space.


Brief Overview of AVD

AVD is largely customer-managed, i.e., it is managed by you. This means you can structure and configure your virtual desktops as required, providing you with a large amount of flexibility. However, you also need in-house skills and resources to configure and manage AVD.

While in-house technical resource costs and availability requirements are essential considerations, you will pay Microsoft less when you choose AVD compared to Windows 365. While exact savings can vary, they are the result of the different pricing model that Microsoft uses for AVD.

AVD is priced on a pay-as-you-use basis as opposed to the per-user basis of Windows 365. What does this mean?

  • Pay per user – with Windows 365, you pay for your virtual desktops whether they are being used or not, including during office hours but also overnight, at the weekend, and while staff are on holiday.
  • Pay-as-you-use – with AVD, you only pay when the desktop is being used. So, if a desktop is used for 40 hours a week 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, you only pay for 40 hours of use. And you don’t pay when the user is on holiday and the desktop is not used at all.


Should You Choose Windows 365 or AVD?

As Microsoft AVD and MSIX partners, we are often asked at Access IT Automation which option is better – Windows 365 or AVD.

The answer is it depends.

In fact, sometimes the answer is neither, as there are alternative non-Microsoft virtual desktop solutions that are more suitable in some situations.

For organisations where a Microsoft solution is the best approach, the answer to Windows 365 or AVD depends on your current situation, available skills and resources, and future plans.

For example, if you have a small number of users and no in-house desktop virtualisation skills or experience, Windows 365 is likely to be the best option, especially if you already use Microsoft Endpoint Manager. Windows 365 can also be a good choice if your desktops are needed for longer than the standard working week, especially if users need persistent desktops. This is because you will make the most out of the per-user pricing model.

AVD, on the other hand, could be the better choice if you have in-house technical resources available and want to prioritise cost savings over ease of use. This particularly applies if your users don’t need persistent desktops.

AVD is also the better choice if the number of virtual desktops you need regularly fluctuates or if you have specific technical requirements not available in Windows 365, such as RemoteApp streaming.


Achieving the Benefits of AVD and Windows 365 at the Same Time

Let’s quickly summarise, focusing on the benefits of Windows 365 and AVD. For Windows 365, the overriding benefit is the ease with which you can deploy and manage DaaS in your organisation. For AVD, you have to deal with greater levels of complexity and longer deployment times, but the advantages are lower costs and more flexibility.

Can you get everything?

  • Ease of management and fast deployment
  • Optimised costs for your requirements
  • AVD-levels of flexibility

One option is to use the services of Access IT Automation’s partner Nerdio. Nerdio can deliver all the above benefits by helping you build and maintain virtual desktops in Azure, both AVD and Windows 365.

Add in Access IT Automation’s automated application packaging and testing capabilities, and your transition to virtual desktops can be cost-effective and efficient with minimal strain on your internal resources.

So, maybe Windows 365 is right for your organisation now with a transition to AVD at some point in the future when you need to scale. Maybe Windows 365 is all you need, or AVD might be the best solution right from the start. Or maybe you partner with industry experts like Access IT Automation and Nerdio to get a customised, future-proof, cost-optimised solution. With so many virtual desktop options available, there is a solution for everyone.

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