How Not for Profits Can Enable Long Term Remote Work

Recently, the team at cubesys hosted a workshop on the topic of facilitating long term remote work at not for profits (NFPs) through Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). These WVD implementations have been a major focus for our company over the last 18 months. In part, that’s because of the tremendous value WVD has for enabling remote work – but it’s also because we believe in giving back to the communities we’re a part of.

We expect to continue this focus because, even though parts of Australia are beginning to return to their ‘new normal’, we believe remote work will remain an enduring priority for NFPs. Many NFP employees – having newly experienced the perks associated with working from home – are likely to want to continue the arrangement, even as offices begin to reopen.

In fact, the Transport Opinion Survey, conducted by the University of Sydney Business School’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS), found that across all industries, “Three in four workers believe that post-COVID-19, their employers are more likely to support work from home than they did before the pandemic.” Further research from Gartner found that, “Desktop as a service (DaaS) is expected to have the most significant growth in 2020, increasing 95.4% to $1.2 billion.”

It’s clear that long term remote work must be on every NFP’s radar. If you weren’t able to attend our session on enabling remote work through WVD, view the recording below or read on for key takeaways from the event:

What is Virtual Computing?

Most people know that virtual computing allows computer users remote access to software applications and processes when they need it, gained via the Internet through a wireless or network server. Fewer organisations, however, understand how remote work solutions like WVD differ from the traditional VDI/RDS setups.

With a solution like WVD, Microsoft manages a number of the requirements organisations would be responsible for under traditional VDI:

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As a result, WVD offers users several benefits, including:

  • Enabling multi-session Windows 10 experiences that allow teams to scale up on a single-session host
  • The flexibility to virtualise both desktops and apps, including persistent and non-persistent desktops, as well as multi-session user experiences
  • Easy integrations with Microsoft 365 security and management features
  • The ability to apply the enhanced conditional access and multi-factor authentication features you have in Azure to your web session hosts

Further, WVD doesn’t require huge infrastructure costs to set up things on-prem. That’s been a huge barrier to entry in the past, but today’s solutions make it possible to get down to one person or one VM and still have a cost-effective solution. WVD can ramp up or ramp down as needed, for a smaller investment than traditional on-prem infrastructure, and it requires significantly fewer skills in-house to be able to maintain everything.

As an example of what this can look like in practice, take South Australia. When they recently went into their six-day mandatory lockdown, they already had a WVD environment running at a small scale. Because of that, we were able to quickly scale up their environment to cater for 500-600 users who needed to access their environments from home, and then immediately scale them back down when the lockdown lifted.

WVD Licensing and Prerequisites

On the licensing side, the licensing costs of running Windows 10 Enterprise for Virtual Desktop or Windows 10 multi-session are essentially covered for organisations if they have any of the following clients in place:

  • Microsoft 365 E3/E5
  • Microsoft 365 A3/A5/Student Benefits
  • Microsoft 365 F3
  • Microsoft 365 Business
  • Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5
  • Windows 10 Education A3/A5
  • Windows 10 VDA per user

After that, NFPs only pay for the costs they consume. Essentially, depending on the number of VMs they have or how big their profiles are, they’re only paying for compute and storage. However, there are a number of pre-reqs to keep in mind.

  • Organisations will need an Azure subscription, as well as Azure Active Directory with Azure AD Connect for syncing users (either an on-prem Azure Active Directory or Azure Active Directory Domain Services running in the cloud).
  • They’ll need an image; if they’re going through Windows 10 multi-session imaging, they’ll need to recreate that because that image is only available in Azure.
  • They’ll need a virtual network. Cloud users won’t need Express Route, VPNs or anything like that. But if they do still maintain on-premise networks, they’ll need to have an Express rail, VPN connectivity and line-of-sight to their domain controllers.
  • Finally, they’ll need storage; generally, options like Azure Falls, on-prem file servers or Azure NetApps.

Optimising WVD

Once NFPs have set up WVD, there are a few optimisation opportunities to keep in mind:

Multi-Session User Experiences

Windows 10 Enterprise, multi-session has been a big-game changer. Basically, it offers the same look and feel as a Windows 10 desktop, but now organisations can have 5-10 users logging into that single machine and have the same consistent experiences from their physical laptop devices over to the WVD environment.

NFPs can have multiple users logging in, they can have Microsoft 365 there, and they can have all of their servicing channels – effectively, the way they manage their Windows 10 devices now, they can manage them in the WVD environment with the multi-session user experience.

P2P Optimisation

Microsoft have done some smarts around audio and video redirection in Microsoft Teams to get better performance out of it. Now, if users make a phone call through Teams, the initial connection will route via the session host itself, but then the actual audio quality and the A/V redirection will be from client IP to client IP.

Improved Autoscaling

With WVD, NFPs can schedule virtual machines to start and stop based on business hours, essentially reducing their cost and complexity. During business hours, scripts run in the background that determine how many users are logged into the WVD environment. If the script detects that more users are needed or that more VMs need to be spun up, that can be handled in the background (though organisations can also set limits around how many machines they want, how many users they want per VM, and things like that).

Getting Started with WVD

While WVD offers several different benefits to NFP organisations, we understand that reading this may have generated as many questions for you as it did answers.

To learn more about the impact WVD could have at your organisation – or for more information on user connection flows, network requirements, user profile management with FSLogix, or image or patch management – reach out to cubesys. https://cubesys.com.au/services/wvd/

Our experienced cloud consultants would be happy to walk you through a personalised WVD demo based on your NFP’s unique needs.