Windows 365 released: What it is, what it costs — and is it right for your business

Does your business enjoy the flexibility that comes with software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud-based apps that your employees can access from anywhere and from any device? Have you wondered what it would be like to extend this flexibility to a PC operating system? Well, this is now a reality with Windows 365, a brand-new offering from Microsoft that combines SaaS with DaaS (desktop-as-a-service).

Let’s dive down into what Windows 365 is, its capabilities, costs, and more.

windows 365
Microsoft

What is Windows 365?

Windows 365, which Microsoft has dubbed the Cloud PC, delivers the same personalized experience you have been getting from Windows 10 and can expect from Windows 11 on your laptops and desktops.

The obvious advantage is that Windows 365 can be accessed from any device and from any location because everything is stored in the cloud. At the same time, you have the same look and feel that you are used to, so you can get started right away. In fact, Windows 365 has the same apps, data, and settings available on Windows 10.

So, why should you choose Windows 365? What benefits does it offer besides the device-agnostic flexibility?

Let’s first take a look at the features of Windows 365 to answer this question.

Features of Windows 365

Windows 365 leverages the power of the cloud with the simplicity and convenience of a PC, so it is essentially a little more than what cloud and PC offer separately. Here are some of the notable features of Windows 365:

Streams data across devices

windows 365 laptop
Microsoft

With Windows 365, you can stream your operating system, data, content, and apps across devices to enable the same user experience regardless of the device used. Since everything is stored in the cloud, you can work out of tablets, laptops, or even mobile devices, and from anywhere.

All your work and your changes to the settings are stored in the cloud and can be accessed again when needed. This ability to stream data across devices is what makes Windows 365 so unique and valuable.

Here is a practical example. Today, many of us have a laptop and a tablet that we take with us while traveling or use for working remotely. Let’s say you work on your laptop in the morning while at home and take the tablet with you when you do some errands out of the house. You can simply continue accessing Windows — in this case, Windows 365 — on your iPad (or Android tablet or even your smartphone) through the browser — any browser. Windows 365 has native apps for iOS, Android, Mac, and Linux, so just open the app, and finish what you were doing at home!

Uniform configurations and settings

Today’s work-from-anywhere culture has made it a nightmare for organizations to authorize devices and ensure security settings and configuration on each of them. With Windows 365, this job becomes a lot easier as the admin can control and manage the configurations.

Also, your employees can access the shared files and folders on your company’s network without requiring a VPN because the cloud PC is always connected to your work environment.

As a result, all settings are uniform across a user’s devices, and the IT department no longer has to worry about authorizing devices. More importantly, it eliminates the security loopholes that emanate due to varying settings across a user’s devices.

Further, employee onboarding is easy as the IT admin personnel can create a PC with all the apps and permissions required for the user, so they can start working right away. There’s also a guided tour that shows up when a user accesses Windows 365 for the first time, which could ease the onboarding process.

Security

Security is built into Windows 365 as admins have full control of the data and usage. Also, it follows a Zero Trust model. For example, you can use multifactor authentication to verify logins. You can also combine this with conditional access policies to discern any potential security risks associated with a login session. Further, it follows the least privileged access model, so access can be granted based on the roles. There’s also a Windows 365 security baseline to help you understand the security features.

Finally, the data, both in transit and at rest, are encrypted, thereby adding an extra layer of security.

Taps into advanced features

All users don’t have the latest laptops, but that doesn’t matter because Windows 365 can have a higher spec than your laptop, so you can work faster and be more productive without worrying about updating your PC’s hardware. This flexibility translates to huge cost savings as you don’t have to regularly update your laptops and tablets to access resource-intensive applications and services. At the same time, you can leverage the higher speed and resources of the cloud environment.

To put this into perspective, the average speed of broadband connection in the U.S. is 99.3 Mbps. Now, if you log in to Windows 365 and run a speed test, it can top at 10GB/sec. That’s the difference in speeds you can experience because everything streams from Microsoft’s cloud.

Microsoft ecosystem

Windows 365 is way more than a “Cloud PC” as it helps users leverage the Microsoft ecosystem that includes Microsoft 365, Delve, and more. Also, you can use the security baselines from Microsoft Defender and Edge to improve security.

Reporting, analytics, and compliance

windows 365
Microsoft

Windows 365 comes with out-of-the-box reporting and analytics that enable admins to quickly understand the problem and take the necessary actions accordingly. You can also stay on top of the health and performance, thanks to the built-in analytics that comes with it. Further, the watchdog service runs diagnostics to ensure that the connections are up and running at all times. If the diagnostic service fails or reports an error, Windows 365 automatically sends alerts and suggests corrective action.

At any time, you can customize the key performance metrics to suit your business needs and add more memory or CPU to resolve the performance issues. Also, Windows 365 complies with existing industry standards and regulations with no additional effort from your end.

Cost savings

Windows 365 can save a lot of money for companies because they no longer have to invest in infrastructure and upgrade PCs to meet the employees’ needs or roles. It requires no new management tools or frameworks and hence, no training costs either. Further, the Cloud PC is secure, and the chances for a hack through a user’s operating system are highly unlikely. This also saves millions of dollars as organizations don’t have to spend on licenses for security and monitoring tools. And there’s no financial loss through data hacks, either.

Further, the built-in reporting and analytics reduce the volume of calls to help desks, which also adds to your savings.

Easy to set up and use

The setup process is easy, too, as there are only two requirements to use this cloud-based tool. You need a Windows 365 license and have to be a part of an Azure Active Directory (AAD) group that’s assigned to a provisioning policy

Thus, these are Windows 365’s features, and Microsoft is hoping it will be an integral part of the future of work.

How much does Windows 365 cost?

Windows 365 works on a licensing model, and the cost is fixed per-user per-month, similar to other Microsoft SaaS products such as Microsoft 365. There are no associated tracking or utilization costs involved, so you don’t have to track the usage levels.

There are two editions to choose from — Business and Enterprise, and there are three plans in each.

  • Basic: $31/user/month
  • Standard: $41/user/month
  • Premium: $66/user/month

As you can see, Microsoft is positioning Windows 365 as a business service. Microsoft has not revealed if it will extend Windows 365 to individual users.

Final thoughts on Windows 365

In all, Microsoft hopes Windows 365 will be a revolutionary product geared for next-gen users as it securely connects you to a persistent and always-ready Windows environment, complete with your personalized apps, files, settings, and even wallpaper.

So, are you ready to try it? Do share your user experience with us.

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