Introducing Our New MSP Partner Program and Benefits

It’s an exciting time to be a Managed Service Provider (MSP) and specifically for those who have transformed their business and created a cloud MSP. Microsoft continues to grow their Azure business almost 50% year over year at a seemingly endless pace.  

MSPs who have built their operations to take advantage of all the cloud offers from a SaaS and IaaS perspective are reaping the benefits in the form of greater margins, more attractive pricing and packaging for their customers, and distinguishing themselves from their competitors who are still living in the on-premises world. 

MSPs who have not yet explored a move to the cloud but who support Microsoft technologies and services have likely started to question their stance given the changes to Microsoft’s partner programs and requirements. We are energized by the early adopters and drivers of Azure in our partner community and the ways we’ve seen them use services like Azure Virtual Desktop and Windows 365 to catapult their businesses. 

And yet we are incredibly excited here at Nerdio to see these changes lay a powerful foundation for taking the MSP industry to the next level and reinforcing that service providers need to be taking a cloud-first approach wherever possible to remain competitive and best serve their clients’ needs.  

To support the next generation of MSPs growing alongside Microsoft, Azure and Azure-based services – we are incredibly excited to introduce our revamped partner program, Partnerd.  

Program History + New Partnerd Benefits 

A year ago, we launched our company’s first partner program aimed at arming MSPs with the tools, resources and support necessary to build a cloud-MSP based on Microsoft Azure. Much of our initial investment in Partnerd was geared towards education and enablement; ensuring our partners would be able to quickly bring more of their customers into the modern cloud world using Nerdio as the foundation of their efforts.  

The first year of Partnerd coincided with the launch of NerdioCon—our first in-person user conference which took place in Cancun, Mexico and offered attendees the only MSP conference fully dedicated to Microsoft cloud technology. At the conference, more than 35 sessions and keynotes gave nearly 200 participants from around the world the hands-on knowledge they needed to accelerate their cloud journeys. 

I say this all to reinforce and illustrate that educating MSPs about the Microsoft cloud is a core company value for us. For MSPs who don’t choose to join Partnerd, we will continue to provide free, best-in-class support via our world-class documentation and vast community of users. Furthermore, you will also receive up to 10 Internal User Licenses of Nerdio Manager and Go-Live Engineering support for your first Nerdio deployment.  

The revamped Partnerd program includes important updates and the addition of significant incremental value for all Nerdio partners. The program will continue to maintain four tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. To receive these exclusive Partnerd benefits, MSPs will be required to sign up for a specific Partnerd tier and commit to that level or greater for six months. 

New Partnerd benefits include: 

  • Discounted Nerdio Manager licenses at each new level from 25%-75% off MSRP 
  • Dedicated Partner Success Manager to help accelerate your move to the cloud, coordinate routine Azure Business Reviews, and more!  
  • Discounted NerdioCon participation for Bronze and Silver Partnerds, taking place February 27-March 2 in Cancun, Mexico 
  • Platinum and Gold Partnerds receive all-expenses paid travel and hotel for NerdioCon  
  • Support for your own MSP-led events in the form of an Event-in-a-Box or Marketing Development Funds (MDF)  
  • Travel vouchers across all tiers to attend Nerdio first party events including Nerdio Training Camp, the Economics of Azure Training Camp, and Nerdio CEO Summit 
  • Up to 20 free Go-Live Engineers to support Nerdio deployments 
  • Up to 100 Internal Use Licenses 
  • Free Nerdio Manager certifications 
  • Exclusive webinars with Microsoft leadership members 

There has never been a more exciting time to be a Nerdio partner and an MSP investing in the cloud. We are excited to continue evolving our Partnerd program and bringing you the tools and resources you need to build a profitable cloud MSP. You can sign up for the Partnerd program and view each tier benefits and requirements at   

The Case for Change – Remote Work’s Impact on Healthcare in the UK

Guest Blogger  

Craig Pickford, Solutions Architect, Block

The events of 2020 changed the world as we knew it. Overnight organisations had to drastically adapt as new ways of working were adopted at a breakneck pace, and for most, that pace of digital change has remained as we enter the second half of 2022.

At the forefront of the pandemic, Primary Care organisations across the UK were faced with the dilemma of keeping staff isolated and remote, whilst continuing to provide effective and safe care for the patient populations they serve.

Back then the concept of remote working for general practitioners (GPs) wasn’t entirely new, but it wasn’t exactly commonplace either. Many of the existing solutions, whilst good enough for emergency or occasional use, were just not up to the task of providing effective ways to consult and diagnose from a distance all day long.

NHS organisations that had deployed virtual desktop solutions prior to the pandemic were best placed to act quickly, with staff able to work from home and use their own devices to securely access clinical systems and data. But the continued success of these solutions also brought fresh problems; capacity was soon bursting at the seams, and due to the worldwide chip shortage, long lead times for much needed hardware meant that organisations couldn’t bolster capacity quickly enough to meet demand.

With challenges at every turn, a change in approach was needed, and it was needed fast – step forward Block’s Primary Care Workspace.

Delivering a Better Primary Care Workspace

Built on Azure Virtual Desktop and powered by Nerdio, the service has true elastic scale and already provides over 6,000 GPs and surgery staff across the UK with fast, simple, and secure access to core clinical systems. Designed initially as a pure remote access solution, it continues to drive Primary Care innovation, enabling patient services to be delivered in new ways leading to better clinical outcomes.

Based on personal preferences, patients can now choose to speak with a GP in-person, or over a video call, with the latter often resulting in quicker appointment times, faster diagnoses, and more timely treatment. GPs and support workers are benefiting from improvements in work/life balance as homeworking is now seen in many cases as a win/win for both staff and business owners. Today, due to parts of the workforce operating remotely, the number of appointments per day is no longer restricted by the physical space within a practice meaning more patients can be seen each day – the theoretical capacity of each practice is endless.

The functionality provided by the service has never been more valuable than in remote areas of the UK, where finding and retaining trained medical staff has been problematic for years. Now, with the Primary Care Workspace these practices can deliver improved patient services and choice by rethinking their recruitment strategies, unrelated to where staff live.

Supporting UK GPs

This change in approach was needed, At the height of the pandemic in 2021 almost 30% of all GPs in England felt so overstretched by the demands put on them that it was affecting their wellbeing, and therefore they were considering early retirement. By offering the ability to work remotely using effective technology solutions, we’re not only seeing many GPs continuing to work, but many more have come out of retirement part-time, working remotely to assist with the growing health and social care challenges we face as a nation.

And there is additional value being realised at an operational level too. Developed by Block, a self-service portal is enabling Practice Managers and administrative staff to onboard new users, assign access to applications and scale out additional desktop capacity themselves in a few clicks. What could previously take several days, can now be done in just seconds. As staffing levels across different regions have diversified, the ability for practice staff to onboard locums and agency staff in this way is reducing delays in accessing systems, vital to providing safe and effective care and managing surges in appointments.

The Nerdio Advantage

With far fewer technical issues and faster resolution times the desktop experience has never been greater. IT teams are gaining more time back into their day, freeing up valuable time to drive further positive change. The automation features provided by Nerdio, from their cloud-based Azure management platform Nerdio Manager for Enterprise, are streamlining once-mundane tasks including Windows patching and clinical system updates. They’ve centralised the deployment of VDI via Azure meaning that it’s far easier to deliver and guarantee successful change for every user. Automating security and patching is giving IT, and management, the assurance that they remain compliant with NHS standards such as the Data Security and Protection Toolkit (DSPT). And advanced monitoring capabilities give valuable insight into system performance, allowing the service to adjust dynamically to provide sufficient resources when needed, and to reduce them again when they aren’t.

And the list of benefits doesn’t end there. By leveraging Nerdio’s auto-healing capabilities, Block has built a catalogue of digital workers that continuously check the environment, instantly putting back into place anything that falls out of line. This fortifies our promise and allows us to provide a user experience that is far greater than can be achieved from a traditional PC, or any other solution.

Not Just Better but Greener Too

As our service supports any device, we’re also seeing customers rethink their device strategies, with some promoting BYOD, and others repurposing older devices. This approach not only reduces the overall costs of running their GP practices but is helping to extend the total life of their PC and laptop estates and minimising the environmental impact of ordering new equipment every few years.

Block’s Primary Care Workspace is an all-encompassing cloud-based virtual desktop service designed alongside some of the largest Primary Care organisations in the UK. This new, better way of delivering clinical systems and services to GPs, wherever they are, is helping to transform Primary Care in the UK, supporting new models of care, and driving better patient outcomes.

About the Author

Craig Pickford

Solutions Architect at Block

Craig is responsible for the development of Block’s Workspace propositions and services, liaising with clients, vendors and peers to ensure solutions meet requirements and deliver intended outcomes. Craig has been helping NHS organisations adopt and realise the benefits of virtual desktop solutions and other Workspace technologies since 2012. He has a diverse range of technical knowledge and skills, specialising in VDI for Healthcare, Identity Management solutions, Mobile Device Management, and public cloud (Azure and AWS). Craig also has a wide set of technical certifications within VMware, Cisco, Microsoft and AWS domains. You can find (and connect with!) him on LinkedIn.

When to Use Session-based vs Personal Desktops 

When utilizing Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), there are several strategies that IT teams can implement to keep computing costs down while improving the management experience. One of the most popular tactics is to leverage session-based virtual desktops to maximize resources. 

However, IT teams must understand the differences between session-based and personal desktops and the optimal circumstances for both when architecting their host pools and virtual machine (VM) resources.  

Differences between Personal and Session-based Desktops 

When trying to determine which type of desktop best fits your users’ needs at scale, it’s important to start by ensuring you know the difference between the two.  

  • Personal Virtual Desktop – Where a single VM is used for a single user to run their desktop. This is almost identical to traditional endpoint computing in which every user had their own physical device with its own operating system (OS), memory, etc. In terms of what types of VMs are best for this type of desktop, we typically see personal desktops using the D series (standard CPU to Memory ratio) with D2 being most common for average workers and D4 for heavier, non-GPU, users.  
  • Session-based Virtual Desktop – Where multiple users share the resources of single VM. Each user has their own personalized virtual desktop experience with their own unique profile including favorites, shortcuts, apps, etc. But they share the same OS, CPU & RAM of a single VM. 

How Azure Virtual Desktop Fits In  

Azure Virtual Desktop, introduced to the market in 2019 as Windows Virtual Desktop, brought with it big changes to multi-session computing because it allowed for truly native Windows 10/11 desktops that could be personal or session-based. In the past, the only way possible for session-based desktops was to use a server OS (Ex. Windows Server 2016/2019/2022) with desktop experience (hello RDS). But this unfortunately introduced application compatibility issues when trying to run desktop-based apps on a server OS.  

AVD also introduced webcam/microphone optimizations for Teams, Zoom and multimedia redirection not found anywhere else. For example, you can play an 8K video on YouTube and not degrade your neighbor’s desktop experience. I dare you to try that with RDS! 

AVD is such a game-changer because Azure is the only way to run Windows 10/11 multi-session desktops, keeping costs low and the user experience high. This is a distinct competitive advantage for Microsoft and its partners.  

Advantages of Multi-Session-based Desktops  

The two biggest advantages of session-based desktops are cost reduction and easier management of your virtual desktop environment.  

Cost Reduction 

When looking at a personal desktop, or 1:1 VM ratio, resource utilization typically is only at 20% – 50% on average. This means 50% or more of the resources (RAM & CPU) are not being used, yet someone is incurring the full cost of these unused resources. Multi-session puts anywhere from 2-7 users on a VM so that average resource utilization is closer 80%.  

This is on purpose so that users still have resources to “burst” during times of abnormally high resource utilization across a company’s workforce. Overall, teams can still ensure they have the capacity to serve employees during peak usage periods while saving a lot of money that would otherwise be wasted.   

Easier Management  

Simply put – multi-session reduces the amount of VMs a team must manage. In a 30-user environment would you rather manage 30 VMs or one in a cost-efficient manner? If we run 30 users on one VM we have to monitor, re-image, license and patch one VM. If using dedicated, personal desktops we’d have to do all of this 30 times.  

Specific Use Cases for Personal Desktops, Dedicated VMs  

While session-based desktops can greatly optimize and streamline an AVD environment, in our experience there are certain use cases when a personal desktop is the best option.  

Local Admin Access  

If a user needs to be able to install their own apps or needs more granular access to make changes to their desktop, assign them a personal desktop. If this type of user were on a session-based desktop leveraging multi-session to share resources with others, the user’s changes will now impact everyone else sharing that VM.  

We often see this being the owners of SMB clients our partners serve. For example, a partner at a law firm doesn’t want to open ticket and contact their MSP every time they want to download a new app. Another common type of user we see assigning personal desktops are developers as they have constant needs for installing and uninstalling apps. 

Resource Hog  

Use dedicated desktops for the type of end user that no matter how much CPU, RAM you give them, they’ll consume it all. They are streaming videos, webinars, and operating with a ton of tabs open on their browser. To the example in our first point, if this person were to be on a session-based desktop, they’re stealing resources for everyone else sharing that VM.  

Application Restriction  

This use case is not super common, but one we see from time-to-time. Certain apps won’t work in multi-session environments. Certain apps (ex. AlphaCam) won’t work in multi-session environments because of the way they’re written. So, a personal desktop is the only option.  

Why Windows 365 Business Makes Sense for MSPs

Last year, Microsoft announced their new product, Windows 365. Windows 365 was created with the intent to move the operating system into the Microsoft Cloud and bring a user’s complete Windows experience to their personal or corporate devices. This innovative product is known as the Cloud PC.  Since it was announced, Nerdio has worked to incorporate Windows 365 into our offerings.  

Windows 365 is offered in two forms: Windows 365 Enterprise and Windows 365 Business. In typical Nerdio fashion, we have been able to support all of the new Windows 365 functionality released by Microsoft when they release it, if not prior. We integrated Windows 365 Enterprise upon rollout, and in February 2022, began offering deep integration with Windows 365 Business when the ability became available.  You can read more about Windows 365 via our dedicated page.

Why Windows 365 Business Is Suited to MSPs

For managed service providers (MSPs) working with smaller companies, Windows 365 Business may be a great fit to supply IT services while reducing the management load on your team. Windows 365 Business allows MSPs to provision Cloud PCs as standalone PCs in the Azure cloud without having to worry about networking or security groups, or provisioning policies.  

In addition, there is not a desktop image to manage in Windows 365 Business (unlike in Windows 365 Enterprise, in which you can have the Cloud PC provisioned from an image you have set up a certain way). Instead, Microsoft will provision a clean Windows 10 or Windows 11 install with the following apps already installed: Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise (the new name of the very familiar Office 365 Pro Plus), Microsoft Teams, OneDrive and Edge, and Microsoft Defender Antivirus. 

As an MSP, you can control if the user has the permissions to install additional apps by setting up their account on their Cloud PC as a standard user or local administrator (standard users can only install apps from the Microsoft store, whereas local administrators can install any software). However, this does allow the risk of a local administrator corrupting their Cloud PC with malware. As an MSP, you also have some options to administer users’ Cloud PCs. With Nerdio Manager, you can: remotely restart Cloud PCs or re-provision them to a clean slate, run a troubleshooting wizard that looks for connectivity issues, rename or view system specifications for Cloud PCs, view logs maintained by Nerdio Manager for any of the previous activity, and manage any combination of Windows 365 Business, Windows 365 Enterprise and Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) for the same customer.  

How to Identify the Right Clients for Windows 365 Business

Windows 365 Business is typically used for small businesses. Usually, in these companies, the business owner doubles as the IT administrator of the company. Upon starting the company, it’s up to the business owner to figure out aspects of the business’ operations, and this includes IT responsibilities (setting up a domain, email, purchasing Office licenses, and a PC). As the company grows, these IT tasks remain the responsibility of the business owner, and those tasks can grow with the company as well, as smaller companies do not usually have an IT network or a domain controller. 

Windows 365 Business makes it easier for businesses of all sizes, particularly micro or very small businesses, to be a cloud-only company. If your client is currently considering moving to the cloud or has expressed a need for secure desktops that can be accessed from anywhere anytime, it would be worth educating them on how they could benefit from Windows 365 Business in your next QBR. However, Windows 365 is not always the solution. If your client has an elastic workforce or doesn’t need to have desktops ON and available all the time, you would likely serve their needs better with other virtual desktop services in Azure, such as AVD.  

Why Now Is The Time for Windows 365 Business Exploration and Investment  

With remote work and a distributed workforce, office networks seem like archaic IT infrastructure. We are moving from an office-centric IT to a cloud-first IT world. Technology, including Azure, are a rapidly changing territory. New features are being built into familiar technology almost every day, including Windows 365, which Microsoft is investing in and updating constantly. It remains to be seen how Windows 365 Business will be adopted, but yours truly won’t be surprised if it’s something that is seen in organizations with even a 100 employees & more. With upwards potential for adoption, your MSP can benefit from investing in Windows 365 Business now and creating a scalable model to take across clients as cloud interest and migration continue.