Azure Files – Storage Sizing Is No Longer a “Guessing Game” 

Azure Files storage, released back in late 2015, has quickly turned into the go-to solution for hosting files and folders, including user-profiles, on Microsoft Azure. It is often used in combination with Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), and more specifically FSLogix profile containers. In short, Azure Files storage is consumed as a service, offering more flexibility. But what is it exactly? How does it work and what common mistakes do we need to look out for when using the technology? Let’s have a look.  

Below we’ll discuss what Azure Files is, how it works and the various (pricing / performance) options available. More importantly, we’ll address how Azure Files helps make sure that provisioning storage is no longer a “guessing game” when it comes to the number of gigabytes (GBs) we may or may not need, and eventually must pay for.  

What Azure Files Is All About (The Use-Case) 

Azure Files offers fully managed file shares in the cloud that are accessible via the SMB and NFS file system protocols. In other words, Azure Files can be used to replace your infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) based virtual machines, or NAS systems traditionally used as a file server.  

Azure Files  is based on so-called serverless technology and therefore much more elastic and scalable than the aforementioned technologies. Adding additional GBs is done via a few mouse clicks. The service itself is kept secure and highly available by Microsoft — meaning no more virtual machines, NAS software, or hardware to patch and monitor.  

The use case for Azure Files is quite obvious. Any task you can think of where a file server = the solution, Azure Files = an even better one because the overall management burden will be much less.  

When it comes to Azure Virtual Desktop, for example, Azure Files are often used for storage related to FSLogix profile containers. Anecdotally, 75% of the customers I talk to are leveraging Azure Files in this way – and very successfully, I might add. 

How Azure Files Works 

Azure Files shares are based on storage accounts within Microsoft Azure. These are top-level objects that make up a shared pool of storage. This storage account can then be used to deploy multiple file shares, as well as other storage resources such as blob containers, queues, or tables.  

When creating a new file share based on Azure Files  you can choose between the Standard  or Premium storage tier. Depending on your choice of tier, you will utilize either a storage account backed by standard hard drives, or HDDs (Standard), or one backed by solid state drives, or SSDs (Premium). 

Important to note, the Standard tier was officially recently renamed to Transaction Optimized; however, we’ll continue referring to it as Standard throughout this article to keep things simplified. In tandem with the name change, Microsoft recently added two more (cheaper) options to the Standard tier. Both are based on traditional HDD storage, defined as Hot and Cold by Microsoft as follows: 

  • Hot: Hot file shares offer storage optimized for general purpose file sharing scenarios such as team shares. Hot file shares are offered on the standard storage hardware backed by HDDs. 
  • Cool: Cool file shares offer cost-efficient storage optimized for online archive storage scenarios. Cool file shares are offered on the standard storage hardware backed by HDDs. 

Your choice of Azure Files tier will mainly depend on your use case. In the example I gave earlier, where Azure Files is used in combination with FSLogix profile containers, we’ve noticed that the Standard storage tier is not sufficient, and that many organizations choose the Premium tier option to avoid performance constraints. For more details on Azure Files performance characteristics, which were upgraded in Q4 2021, read Microsoft’s documentation. The performance characteristic of Azure Files Premium has been upgraded as of Q4 2021.  For more information and differences between the various Azure Files pricing tiers use this link

The price difference between Standard and Premium has dropped considerably throughout the last couple of years, making the Premium version much more palatable and primed for utilization. Premium storage is around $0.19 per GB, and pricing differs per Azure region. Do note however, that there might be some other costs involved related to the type of data redundancy applied, if backup is enabled, the number of transactions involved, etc.  

There are many elements related to Azure Files tier options and criteria for evaluating each based on your needs. However, this article is meant to give you an overview of Azure Files, where it fits into your design, and how to benefit from this resilient service. Having said that, there are a couple of things I wanted to mention, a few notable insights that apply to all Azure Files tiers: 

  • Data can be protected by storing multiple copies of a file, setting up replication between multiple availability zones, and a Geo-redundant option where files are stored six times in total spread over two separate Azure regions.  
  • Data can be backed up using share snapshots, these are incremental, and you can have up to 200 snapshots per file share.  
  • Files can be protected using Microsoft Defender for Storage.  
  • Data can be encrypted in transit as well as in rest.  

Pricing and Performance Tiers 

I already highlighted a few differences between Standard and Premium Azure Files, but there is another important difference to be aware of as it relates to the pricing of the two options.  

When using the Premium tier you will be charged for all provisioned storage, even when not in use. This is also referred to as the “provisioned model.” For example, let’s say you have provisioned 500 GBs of storage you may potentially use, and already have 250 GBs in use. In this scenario you will be charged for the full 500 GBs even though you are only consuming half of that. Also, beware that 100 GBs of storage is the default minimum amount of storage when using Azure Files Premium. 

With the Standard pricing tier, it works differently. You only pay for what you consume. There’s no set minimum as with Premium and as your storage consumption grows, so will your monthly bill. In other words, this is the “pay as you go” (PAYG) model.  

Reserved Capacity 

As with Azure virtual machines (Reserved Instances) there is an option to reserve storage for one or three years upfront to reduce your overall costs by committing to Azure. This is a nice addition to some of the existing pricing options. But in remembering the cost concern in the aforementioned 500 GB example, committing to one or three years of storage without knowing how much you’ll actually consume can be a hard pill to swallow.  

In Conclusion 

As you can see Azure Files is a robust and flexible service when it comes to replacing the more traditional ways of provisioning and offering storage to your users, even when AVD might not be in the picture. I love what Microsoft is doing with the service as it’s always in constant development, being improved and fine tuned. I recommend checking out “What’s new in Azure Files” for the latest updates. 

Hopefully, the above has helped in clearing up a few things. Of course, there is always more to talk about and show – like shrinking your FSLogix profiles, reclaiming unused storage, saving on additional resources, etc.  

If you are interested in learning about managing and cost-optimizing Azure Files and FSLogix profile containers, you’ll want to read the below. We profile how you can, using Nerdio Manager for Enterprise, only pay for your Azure Files Premium storage consumed. Yes, really! You won’t have to worry about running out, performance issues, or the need to frantically monitor all this manually.  

Turning Azure Files Premium into Pay-As-You-Go with Nerdio Manager  

When using Azure Files Premium to store your FSLogix profile containers, the 100GB minimum will not be much of a concern. Most environments will have at least a few dozen users, if not hundreds or thousands even. On average, an FSLogix profile container will be somewhere between 5 to 20GB in size. 

The challenge is that storage provisioning based on Azure Files Premium will continue to be a guessing game because of its provisioned model. If we do some basic table math and calculate 15 GB of storage per 100 users, we get 1.5 terabytes (TB). Great – we know how much storage we’ll need, but when will this level of usage be reached? We can confidently say not in the first couple of weeks, or months even as this is a lot of data, but we never really know for sure.  

If we start out with let’s say 1 TB of storage, the billing meter starts running immediately. In other words, even though only 30-40% might be in use, you will be invoiced for 1TB. Here at Nerdio, we hate seeing money go to waste. So we have architected a way to make Azure Files Premium PAYG using our patented storage auto-scaling technology.  

How Nerdio’s Storage Auto-Scaling Optimizes Azure Files Premium  

Azure Files Premium is easy to set up, join to the domain etc, especially when Nerdio Manager is thrown into the mix. You’ll be up and running in minutes.  

Nerdio Manager for Enterprise offers an advanced auto-scale engine specifically designed for Azure Files Premium. It ensures you never have to over-provision or guess how much storge is needed by effectively turning the Premium tier into a PAYG model.  

When we enable auto-scale for Azure Files Premium in Nerdio Manager, storage auto-scale will grow the provisioned share size in response to anticipated usage demand or increased storage latency. It will also decrease the provisioned capacity to reduce costs when  extra storage / performance is no longer needed (not more than once every 24 hours, which is based on how the native Azure Files service works). 

What does this mean exactly? If we take the above example where we calculated 1.5 TB  of storage needed for our 100 users, we can start with the default, 100 GB minimum and Nerdio’s autoscale engine will add additional storage as needed.  

When the 100 GB reaches full use you can configure our auto-scale engine to automatically add any number of GBs that you specify. This could be in increments of 10, 20, 50, 100 GB etc. —  literally any number you want. It will continue to do so until it has reached the maximum allowed by Azure Files, or when it reaches your own set limit. You can set quota units to either GBs or percentages. Configure this all once and you don’t have to look back anymore, Nerdio will take care of the rest.  

And I should mention our auto-scale engine does this FAST. It constantly monitors the latency in milliseconds. Based on your configured metrics it will scale out or in. This means adding or removing a predefined number of GBs as per the example above. The auto-scale trigger can be set to the average or maximum time used to process a successful (I/O) request by Azure Storage. 

If the number of GBs in an Azure Files Premium file share go up, the performance characteristics will grow with it. Meaning, you are able to scale in and out based on performance as well. The performance characteristics are clearly shown in Nerdio Manager’s auto-scale configuring page. They change in real-time when storage metrics are edited.  

Finally, we also have the ability to scale based on quotes. If you need additional storage or performance during certain weekdays or the weekend, you can pre-configure it. When the storage is no longer needed you can scale it down.  

Interested in learning more about Nerdio Manager for Enterprise? Check out its features and access our 30-day free trial here.  

How Do I Add Users to Microsoft Azure and Azure Virtual Desktop? 

When it comes to the ongoing maintenance of your Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) environment, assigning users and administrators is a common task. Users can be added natively through the Azure portal or streamlined through Nerdio Manager.  

While we will outline in this article how admins can add users to AVD, you will also need to configure the appropriate amount of host pools, session hosts, workspaces, app groups, user groups and access policies for your organization’s needs. Especially for those natively managing Azure, these grouping elements are important for streamlining management across users, ensuring security of the environment and saving IT staff precious time.  

Adding Users to Microsoft Azure 

You will need to add users to Microsoft Azure first before adding to the AVD environment. We recommend you use AD Connect. It’s worth noting that there are also third-party applications that allow you to add users to Azure, albeit for an additional cost.  

AD Connect is a free Microsoft application that is deployed on a system in your on-premises environment. It will replicate local domain users and local domain groups from your on-premises AD (Active Directory) to Azure AD. Once AD Connect has been set up, you can confirm results and verify users and groups have been replicated to Azure by going to Azure Active Directory -> Users or Groups to make sure the accounts show up. 

Adding Users to Host Pools Natively in Azure Virtual Desktop 

To add users to AVD natively through the Azure Portal, go to Azure Virtal Desktop in the Azure Portal. Select the Application Group that is associated with your Host Pool. On the next pop-up, select “Assignments” then select “Add” at the top left. From there you can add your individual users or user groups to that Host Pool. 

Adding Users to Host Pools Using Nerdio Manager 

You can find a complete overview of Host Pools on our Knowledge Base site. Here we will provide the steps you need to take to add users to a host pool using Nerdio Manager.  

When deploying a “new” AVD host pool in Nerdio Manager, you can type the name or group into the last box “Quick Assign” and Nerdio will look up those names in Azure AD to assign them to the host pool. 

If your host pool has already been created, you can add or remove users in the following manner. Log into Nerdio Manager, select Workspaces in the top left menu and select the specific one you want, then select the Host Pool you would like to add users to. On the right side of the page, select the drop-down menu next to “Manage Hosts” then select the first menu item “Manage.” In the pop out menu select “Users and Groups.”  

When finished with these steps, the screen will show you all users and groups within your Azure AD environment. You can search for the Users or Group and select multiple users or groups. After selecting your users or groups, click on the “Assign” button on the bottom right of the page.  

NME Case Study: U.S. Local Government Succeeds with Azure Virtual Desktop

Pivoting to Azure Virtual Desktop  

When a large city in Oklahoma decided in mid 2021 to move 3,000 of its employees to Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), previous experimentations with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) raised concerns around implementation and how security, management and enabling collaboration tools for remote collaboration would work in AVD.  

Security and recoverability capabilities of cloud environments were strong considerations as the City made their decision to transition to AVD. Other influencing factors in choosing Microsoft’s service centered around their needs regarding rapid deployment and streamlined management and reusing and extending the life of a variety of aging PCs used across their workforce.  

To ensure these needs were met and the AVD proof-of-concept (POC) was successful, Microsoft introduced the City to Nerdio and NComputing. Both companies are preferred Microsoft partners that are compatible with the Azure Government Cloud and have demonstrated results and experience working with state and local government organizations. As the City’s Chief Information Officer explained, “Finding the right vendors to make our Azure Virtual Desktop proof-of-concept a success was pivotal in scaling our secure computing environment and cloud-first approach. The support and hands-on assistance from both Nerdio and NComputing were top-notch and high touch.”  

Implementing A Cloud-First Mentality in Tandem  

Before using AVD, the City used a variety of individual systems and hardware that made IT management cumbersome due to differing system updates, software licensing, hardware compatibilities, security considerations and more. The City’s IT department at the time of the AVD POC had a staff-to-support ratio of 1:100 – so it was clear they needed solutions that could optimize and streamline IT management and provide automation to maximize the staff’s time and efforts.   

Additionally, being a cloud-first organization was an important element to the City’s transition to AVD. As their CIO detailed, “We decided to take a cloud-first approach. Users had to convince us they could not use the cloud to be exempt.”  

Because NComputing’s LEAF OS allows a desktop, laptop, or thin client to be reborn as a cloud computing device, the City was able to extend the life of their PCs and hardware investment by repurposing a variety of Dell and HP devices into high-performing Linux AVD endpoints. Leaf OS also helped support the City’s collaboration objectives via the cloud, enabling them to run both Microsoft Teams and Zoom within AVD sessions with ease.  

By deploying Nerdio Manager for Enterprise, the City’s IT department was able to manage a larger number of virtual desktop users without disrupting employee experience. This saved the City a significant amount of time and reduced desktop deployments that used to take weeks to just a few hours, enabling the City to quickly and efficiently equip its workforce with their preferred workspaces and apps. Additionally, Nerdio’s centralized management interface allowed IT staff to more easily manage hundreds of users at scale and quicken help desk responses because access issues could easily be involved by any level of IT staff.  

Modern, Scalable and Empowered IT  

In using Nerdio Manager for Enterprise, the City was able to aggressively speed up their transition to AVD while creating an IT environment that’s much more robust, secure, and scalable than their previous on-premises solutions. They were able to deploy over 600 users within the first month and easily manage all Azure services that AVD relies on. 

“Nerdio was instrumental in our move to Azure Virtual Desktop. They were able to quickly migrate all our existing applications and resources to the new cloud environment and greatly streamline ongoing management for our IT department.” 

Because the City utilized remote, highly secure datacenters in Azure, they did not need to buy servers or additional infrastructure nor worry about planning investments around government budget cycles. Nerdio’s free Cost Estimator also helped the City determine what their Azure costs would be and how much they would save using Nerdio Manager.  

It was a helpful tool used during the evaluation and purchasing phases, but surprise still resulted for the City after seeing an average savings of $10,000 per month when using Nerdio Manager and AVD. In addition to cost savings, the time saved on AVD management and maintenance was significant because Nerdio Manager could be used by any IT staff member, regardless of their level, technical expertise or certifications in Azure.  

Find Nerdio in the Azure Marketplace at and download our case study here.

What is Azure Virtual Desktop? 

Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), formerly known as Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) is a Microsoft Azure cloud-based service for virtualizing Windows Operating Systems (OS) and applications. It enables companies to easily set up and configure Windows-based virtual work environments, in a secure, flexible manner. Within hours of deployment, AVD users can work remotely from anywhere using their (own) device of choice while accessing all their (collaboration) business applications and data. It was launched in September 2019 and has matured into THE go-to solution for remote working.  

Azure Virtual Desktop Alternatives and Requirements 

Before AVD, companies spent a great deal of effort and time designing, configuring, and securing “traditional” end-user-based computing solutions to bring applications and data to their users. These solutions consisted of various, loosely coupled software and hardware components, which once set up, took hours to patch and monitor on a weekly basis. And of course, it is widely understood that setting up secure remote access has always been a huge challenge as well.  

With AVD all of these issues no longer apply. The virtual and/or physical machines once needed to stand up such an environment have been transformed into easy to consume (pay as you go) Azure Cloud services by Microsoft – including secure remote access. With AVD Microsoft  maintains and patches these services for you and ensures   they are  highly available.  

So, the short and tall of it is – all you need is an Azure subscription and internet access!  

Who Should Use Azure Virtual Desktop and Why?  

For years companies have been struggling with the “working from home” concept, or the “bring your own device” challenge, well, AVD makes all this a lot easier to handle, control, and maintain. Working remotely has become the new standard and supporting remote work is one of the main use cases of the service. More importantly, it provides a way of working that your employees  are already used to. AVD supports the well-known and popular Windows 10 and 11 OS, amongst others, and thereby supports all the applications that an organization’s staff has likely been using throughout the last 5-10 years.  

While the backend might have changed (for the better), the way end users are used to working has not. If anything, they will probably experience an even smoother and personalized experience now that they are able to work from anywhere, on any device. All their trusted applications and collaboration tools will be available on their desktop, including but not limited to Outlook, Teams, the Office 365 suite, easy and secure Internet access – you name it!  

Scalability and Cost Effectiveness 

Whenever a new employee joins an organization, or when a contractor needs a temporary place to work, for example, AVD has you covered. Typically, within 30 minutes   these types of users are provided a full-blown virtualized desktop, securely accessible from the Microsoft Azure Cloud with all business application ready to go.  

Also, different virtual machine (VM) types can be mixed and matched to best serve organizational needs. When a VM is no longer needed, simply turn it off or dispose of it and you will no longer pay for it. This makes AVD one of the most cost-effective solutions out there since companies only pay for what they are consuming. No upfront hardware investments either make the service attractive from a cost and procurement perspective.  


Given its flexibility, ease-of-use, and scalability, Azure Virtual Desktop is suitable for companies of all sizes. Any organization can get up and running in no time and easily manage ongoing maintenance by leveraging an AVD management platform like Nerdio Manager.  

5 Ways MSPs Can Reduce Azure Virtual Desktop Costs with Nerdio Manager for MSP

Let’s get right to the point, the cloud can be expensive, especially if you do not know what to focus on or lack the proper tooling or expertise. If I were to say that you can save up to 70% on Azure compute and storage costs when it comes to Azure Virtual Desktop, would you believe me? Maybe not, and I do not blame you, after all, I am a sales guy as well.

MSPs (Managed Service Providers) would probably “buy it” when talking about large(r) environments with hundreds, if not thousands of users. However, often MSPs manage multiple smaller customer environments where savings as high as 65-70% seem unlikely.

This article outlines five cost reduction options delivered by Nerdio Manager for MSP (NMM)  that lower the costs of a typical MSP-sized AVD deployment by more than 65%. Though typically we see that the bigger the environment gets, the higher the savings will be.

What Costs Are Associated with Azure Virtual Desktop? 

Across our product portfolio we now manage two million users, giving us deep insight and expertise into the typical cost components of using Azure Virtual Desktop.  We have carefully looked at, studied, and analysed several thousand Nerdio AVD deployments ranging from 5-10 users up to 10,000+ users.  Putting it all together, the costs of an AVD deployment can be broken down into five categories: 

  1. Compute (Virtual Machines used as AVD session hosts) – 70% 
  2. OS disks storage (managed disks attached to session host VMs) – 12% 
  3. FSLogix storage (Azure Files or Azure NetApp Files hosting user profiles) – 9% 
  4. Networking (egress bandwidth, VPN gateways, global VNet peering) – 3% 
  5. Other (images, Log Analytics, Azure Automation, backup) – 6%

As you can see, the first three bullets (compute and storage) make up more than 90% of the total. Needless to say, these will be our main topics throughout this article. Other optimizations are possible as well, like with images, for example, though the cost savings will be minimal in comparison.  

To perform the upcoming breakdown and costs analysis we’ll work with a sample use-case based on a real-world scenario. We start by looking at the “unoptimized” costs, which will be calculated on a per-user basis. Then we break down the five cost optimization strategies MSPs can leverage when using NMM – in our sample use case of 32 users, the solution reduces AVD costs by almost 70%! Lastly, we explain in detail how NMM is evolving to add Reserved Instance analytics so MSPs can reduce compute costs even further.

Here are the assumptions we’ve based our calculations on when illustrating the five cost optimization strategies using NMM:

  • Number of users: 32 
    • MSP client environments typically range from 5 to around 50 users, with 30+ being the sweet spot. Of course, there are exceptions, again, more users will mean higher overall cost savings. 
  • User type: Heavy (per-Microsoft definition this means 2 users per vCPU) 
  • Session host VM size: E4s_v4 (common VM used in AVD environments) 
  • OS disk: P10 – 128 GB Premium SSD (common disk size used in multi-session deployments) 
  • FSLogix profile size: 20 GB (stored on Azure Files Premium) 
  • Hours in typical work week: 50 (10 hours per weekday) 
  • Azure pricing: South Central US (list pricing) 

Given the above, the “unoptimized” costs are as follows:

  • Compute: $882 
    • E4s_v4 VMs are needed to support 32 users (8 users per VM) 
  • OS disks: $72 
    • Each of the 4 VMs needs a P10 SSD disk 
  • FSLogix storage: $123 
    • 20 GB per user at $0.19 per GB 
  • Total: $1076 ($33,64/user/month) 

This is how we normally see AVD being deployed. Even without any optimizations applied, the cost per user is $33/month, which is not too bad. However, we can do a WHOLE LOT better than that. Let’s see how low we can go using our five cost optimization strategies.

Strategy #1: VM Power Management 

The compute cost of an AVD session host is by far the largest cost component. Since users will only be using their machines on average for 50 hours per week, there is no need to have them running 24/7. Nerdio can control the starting and stopping of these machines, even when they are all turned off at night and in the weekends, for example. Again, machines will only be running when they need to be running.

Below is the breakdown of how this strategy reduces our unoptimized cost figures. Implementing power management lowers the compute cost component and the total cost per user is decreased by 58% using just strategy #1.

  • Compute: $262 (reduction of $620 or 70%) 
    • 50 work hours is 30% of the total 168 hours in a week. Keeping VMs on 30% of the time means that the remaining 70% of the time we’re saving on VM compute costs. 
  • OS disks: $72 (no change) 
    • Even when VMs are powered off the OS disks are still incurring costs 
  • FSLogix storage: $123 (no change) 
    • Even when VMs are powered off the storage of user profiles is incurring costs 
  • Total: $475 ($14.28/user)

Strategy #2: Burst Capacity, Provisioning VMs Just In Time

When VMs are shut down, you still pay for the attached storage, well the attached OS disk that is. If we remove these VMs, all of them or some, you will no longer have to pay for the associated storage. But what happens if I need them again, you ask? Read on…

For the analysis below, we will assume that 50% of the VMs (2 in our case) will always exist (this is known as base capacity) and the remaining 2 (burst capacity) can be created automatically only as needed and deleted when no longer in use. This is where the Nerdio magic comes in. We ensure that our session hosts are always in a “pristine” state and avoid configuration drift. This is because burst capacity will delete and re-create half of the VMs each day and makes sure that all VMs are being rebuilt from the latest image version on a regular basis. This also includes re-joining it to the domain, for example.

Below is the breakdown of how strategy #2 further reduces our original unoptimized cost figures. This includes cost savings from strategy #1 as well. Total per user cost is decreased by 60% when compared to the unoptimized cost.

  • Compute: $262 (reduction of $620 or 70%) 
    • 50 work hours is 30% of the total 168 hours in a week.  Keeping VMs on 30% of the time means that the remaining 70% of the time we’re saving on VM compute costs. 
  • OS disks$47 (reduction of $25 or 35%) 
    • 2 of the VMs with their OS disks will be deleted when not in use and the OS disks will no longer incur storage costs until the VMs are re-created. 
  • FSLogix storage: $123 (no change) 
    • Even when VMs are powered off, the storage of user profiles is incurring costs. 
  • Total: $432 ($13.49/user) 

Strategy #3:  Auto-scaling OS disks

We have already saved 35% on OS disk storage costs by implementing reduction strategy #2. However, there are still 2 VMs remaining as base capacity (to allow for faster boot up times) and these VMs are not always in a booted state, meaning tuned on. 

When these machines are started an expensive, premium SSD disk (P10) is being used, which is great as we want to take advantage of the excellent performance that comes with it. However, what if we could change this to a much cheaper type of disk when the machine is shut down? With OS Disk Auto-scaling that is exactly what NMM does.

When configuring auto-scale on a host pool, all you have to do is to select the “running OS disk type” and the “stopped OS disk type” You probably guessed it, but when stopped, the Premium SSD will be converted to a Standard HDD, and when the VM is started again the disk will be swapped back to the Premium SDD.

Below is the breakdown of how strategy #3 reduces our original unoptimized cost figures.

  • Compute: $262 (reduction of $620 or 70%) 
  • OS disks$30 (reduction of $52 or 58%) 
    • 2 of the VMs with their OS disks will be deleted when not in use and the OS disks will no longer incur storage costs until the VMs are re-created.   
    • Remaining 2 VMs’ OS disks will be converted to Standard HDD when stopped and back to Premium SSD when started back up. 
  • FSLogix storage: $123 (no change) 
    • Even when VMs are powered off the storage of user profiles is incurring costs. 
  • Total: $415 ($12.97/user) 

When applying and combining just these first three reduction strategies, the AVD costs have been lowered by 61% as compared to an unoptimized deployment. Great, but there is more!

Strategy #4: Shrink OS Disk From 128 GB to 64 GB 

Standard Azure Gallery Windows 10 and 11 images are all 128 GB in size – the OS disk that is. This is a whole bunch of unused storage that you can easily do without= so that you aren’t paying for it. Using one of our Scripted Actions these OS disks can be shrunk down to 64 GB, meaning they are 50% smaller and thus cut storage costs down by 50%.

In a lot of environments (multi-session, pooled desktops) there is no data being saved to the C: drive because all user related data is redirected to an FSLogix profile container, for example. Also, since VMs are being regularly deleted and re-created from the image, there is no growing disk space consumption on the system drive. You can also layer on just-in-time provisioning (strategy #2) and OS Disk Auto-scale (strategy #3) with disk-size reduction. 

Below is the breakdown of how strategy #4 reduces our original unoptimized cost figures. There is one more option to go and we are up to 63% savings already.

  •  Compute: $262 (reduction of $620 or 70%) 
  • OS disks$15 (reduction of $57 or 79%) 
    • 2 of the VMs with their OS disks will be deleted when not in use and the OS disks will no longer incur storage costs until the VMs are re-created.   
    • Remaining 2 VMs’ OS disks will be converted to Standard HDD when stopped and back to Premium SSD when started back up. 
    • OS disk size reduced from default 128 GB to 64 GB for all VMs. 
  • FSLogix storage: $123 (no change) 
    • Even when VMs are powered off the storage of user profiles is incurring costs. 
  • Total: $401 ($12.52/user) 

Strategy #5: Profile Container Whitespace Reduction and Storage Auto-scale 

FSLogix profile containers (storing and offering user profiles) are VHD(X) files stored on a file share. With AVD, Azure Files Premium is often used instead of a traditional file server with file shares, a NAS (network attached storage), or any other type of storage. By default, FSLogix profile containers grow over time and never shrink without strategic intervention because they are thin provisioned. You can probably imagine the unnecessary costs that come with this type of traditional growth.

By removing white space from FSLogix profile containers, Nerdio typically saves up to 50% on FSLogix storage costs. However, reducing space usage alone is not sufficient since Azure Files Premium costs are determined based on provisioned quota, not actual usage. Luckily, we have a separate auto-scale engine to take care of that as well.

Nerdio automatically adjusts the provisioned quota on Azure Files Premium shares based on available free space and storage latency. When latency spikes due to insufficient performance, Nerdio Manager will automatically increase the provisioned quota to increase performance and decrease it when it’s no longer needed. 

Below is the breakdown of how strategy #5 reduces our original unoptimized cost figures.

  •  Compute: $262 (reduction of $620 or 70%) 
  • OS disks$15 (reduction of $57 or 79%) 
  • FSLogix storage$61 (reduction of $62 or 50%) 
    • Storage consumption is reduced by 50% by running scheduled white space removal process. 
    • Performance and free space are balanced with costs using Nerdio Manager storage auto-scaling for Azure Files. 
  • Total: $339 ($10.60/user)


After applying these five cost reduction options  using Nerdio Manager for MSP, the total costs have been reduced by 68%! We started with a typical, unoptimized AVD deployment where we payed $33.64 monthly per user and worked our way down to $10.60 per user, per month, which is quite incredible. To make sure all of our calculations above are in one place and easy to digest, we’ve put it into the overview table below.

Coming Soon: Nerdio Manager for MSP Reserved Instances (RI) Analytics (Cost Reduction Strategy #6!)

Typically, auto-scaling pay-as-you-go (PAYG) VMs save more than using Reserved Instances (RIs) for the VMs involved. But what if you could combine auto-scaling to get the 60-70% compute cost reduction and add RIs to save an additional 50-60% on the remaining compute costs? With Nerdio Manager’s RI Analytics (which will be released soon), you can do just that. Here is what to expect in the product this Spring.

Reserved Instances are typically purchased for all, or almost all, session host VMs in an AVD deployment. However, once compute capacity has been reserved and pre-paid, auto-scaling no longer makes sense from a cost reduction perspective. Therefore, we’ve found a more efficient way to use RIs than reserving all compute capacity. 

First, we would implement auto-scaling to reduce the total number of hours the VMs are turned on. In our example, that’s 50 hours out of 168 each week. In most real-world scenarios, the number of hours is even lower because not all users log in at the beginning of each day and not all users log off completely at the end of the day. The capacity “ramps up” and then “ramps down” with fewer hours when all CPU cores are utilized. 

This is where Nerdio Manager’s RI Analytics comes in. After observing a week or more of auto-scale behavior, NMM will recommend the number of CPU cores to reserve based on actual usage. This means the total number of compute hours is first reduced by auto-scaling and then the cost is further reduced by reservations for those remaining hours.  

As mentioned, more on this in the coming weeks!

Learn more about Nerdio Manager for MSP and get started for free!

How Do I Log into Azure Virtual Desktop for the First Time? 

It’s important to consider security, availability and reliability when developing a virtual desktop strategy. Users want to be able to access their desktop and workloads from anywhere, at any time and from any type of device. For many MSP partners the idea of deploying, securing, and managing gateways and connection brokers seems to be an impossible challenge. Thankfully Microsoft provides the gateway and broker services for Azure Virtual Desktops. They have also compiled “how-to” guides for connecting each client type to AVD that you can find here.  

Regardless of how simple Microsoft has made connecting to Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), MSPs and enterprise IT pros alike will undoubtedly still be asked, “How do I log into my AVD desktop?” by end users they support. Setting up the AVD client for login is easy and quick and can be completed in a minimal number of steps. All authentication occurs via your organization’s Microsoft tenant without any need to provide consent or accept permissions. 

Below we’ve explained the two most common ways end users will be connecting to AVD – via their web browser (HTML5) or via the Remote Desktop Client available for Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS.  

Web Browser  

Connecting to the AVD via Web Browser provides the greatest number of device options and availability but there is a small cost in the form of end-user experience and functionality.  The best use cases for browser-based access are generally when traveling or using devices that aren’t specific to (owned by) the end user. 

Simply open your HTML5-compatible browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge) and visit  Authenticate using your Microsoft credentials and the browser will list available AVD Desktops and Apps. 

Remote Desktop Client 

The remote desktop client should be considered first when connecting to AVD, especially if remote printing, multiple monitors, or other features not available in HTML5 are needed. 

This is simple to set up but will require administrative rights to install. This can be done in two easy steps: 

  1. The user will need to download the AVD Remote Desktop Client from Microsoft. Example: 64-bit Windows Desktop client  
  1. Second, the user must subscribe to their AVD Workspace. They will either log in with their work or school account and allow Autodiscover to determine the resources available for them, or by providing the specific URL of the AVD resource. This is pictured below.  

Interested in establishing or optimizing your Azure Virtual Desktop environment? Contact our team of experts today to discuss!