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Learn all about the ins and outs of Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) below, as well as how organizations can easily deploy, manage, and save up to 75% savings on Microsoft Azure.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Exploring the Versatility and Benefits of Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD)

What is AVD?

Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), previously Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), is a Microsoft Azure-based (Windows) virtual desktop operating system used to securely host desktops and applications in the cloud. Windows 10/11 Enterprise Multi-Session is arguably one of the biggest differentiators for Azure and AVD compared to other public clouds. Using Windows 10 or Windows 11 Enterprise Multi-session with AVD is a cost-effective cloud-based alternative to on-premises Remote Desktop Server (RDS) and is typically deployed on a virtual machine (VM). In terms of licensing and pricing, all AVD license costs are already included in several Microsoft 365 subscriptions, including Microsoft 365 Business Premium or Microsoft 365 E3, but more on that below.

Azure Virtual Desktop enables users to not only access their desktops any time and from any location, but also the specific applications on them via almost any browser without the need for that application to be installed on the device. It’s also compatible across Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. Let’s dive into some of the specifics of the AVD service, including aspects of architecture, management, benefits, use cases, and so much more.

Azure virtual desktop architecture

Read more in-depth about the complete Azure Virtual Desktop technical architecture here, otherwise, the graphic below provides a quick summary.

Azure Virtual Desktop
Personal
Pooled
Control plane
Azure Virtual Desktop
Azure subscriptions
Customer-managed
Compute
Customer-managed, usage-based cost, flexible
Storage
OS disks, FSLogix, customer-managed, usage-based cost, flexible, easy to back up
Networking
Customer-managed, usage-based cost, flexible routing, IPs, and security
User profiles
FSLogix is recommended
Identity
AD DS is required. Windows AD or Azure AD DS supported. Native Azure AD join coming soon.

All components of Azure Virtual Desktop are managed via the Azure portal, PowerShell, or third-party tools like Nerdio Manager.

AVD supports all current versions of Windows, including Windows 10 and 11 Enterprise (singleand multi-session). This allows you to tailor deployments to specific user needs. 

Azure Virtual Desktop can leverage all image types. These include Azure Marketplace images, custom images, and shared image gallery images. Session host VMs can be created from these images and be kept up to date by updating the image and then re-imaging session hosts to the latest version. Images can be stored in one or more Azure regions for geographic distribution and resilience. Images can use any supported operating system and be both Gen1 and Gen2 VM hardware. There is no limit on the number of Azure images that can be used in an AVD environment.
Azure Virtual Desktop session hosts can be updated via Microsoft Endpoint Manager, through a golden image, or manually in the Azure portal. Applications can be delivered to session hosts via image updates, manual installation on host VMs, or using MSIX app attach. The update and application delivery process in AVD is very flexible and can be fully automated. Read more about AVD application management in this article.
Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) session hosts can be backed up and protected in several different ways including using native Azure services like Azure Site Recovery and Azure Backup. Azure allows organizations to create a robust backup, disaster recovery (DR), and business continuity strategy for their virtual desktop environments. For further reading, check out this article about making AVD deployments more resilient with DR considerations.
Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) includes robust logging, diagnostics, monitoring, and reporting capabilities. Logs are generated by the AVD service and AVD agent running on session host VMs. This information is streamed to Azure Log Analytics where it is captured and visualized with Azure Monitor workbooks. Many third-party monitoring tools are available for AVD to help monitor and measure performance, issues, etc.

Azure Virtual Desktop user profiles

Azure Virtual Desktop leverages FSLogix for user profile encapsulation. This allows users to easily roam between session host VMs without losing their user state between sessions. Personal AVD desktops can be deployed without FSLogix, but even in persistent scenarios FSLogix profiles provide a valuable profile backup capability and make it easier to manage session host updates through images. An SMB file share is required to host the FSLogix profile containers. This can be an Azure Files share, Azure NetApp Files volume, or a file server VM.

Azure Virtual Desktop networking

IT admins fully control all aspects of Azure Virtual Desktop networking since it runs in a customer-managed Azure subscription. Static IP addresses can be assigned, VPN tunnels configured, and firewall rules enforced. Azure allows for the creation of self-contained virtual networks (VNets). These can be peered (connected) directly to other Azure VNets, with firewalls or Network Security Groups (NSGs) attached to control traffic. Routing is handled by Microsoft, but route tables can be created if required.

Optimize costs with auto-scaling

While the native Microsoft AVD auto-scaling feature provides basic automation to adjust the number of active session hosts based on demand, many third-party tools offer more advanced and customizable options.  

Leveraging the Azure usage-based pricing model, the native capabilities can be used to drastically reduce Azure compute and storage costs. However, using third-party automation and management tools has been shown to save up to 75% of the costs of peak Azure demand.  

It is also possible to use Azure Reserved Instances to reduce costs and guarantee available capacity. 

Read more about native vs non-native auto-scale comparisons here 

The complete Azure-native DaaS guide: Azure hierarchy, Azure Virtual Desktop, and Windows 365

Learn more about the technical aspects of Microsoft Azure, Azure Virtual Desktop, and Windows 365 in this free whitepaper. Instantly download now!

Benefits of Azure Virtual Desktop

With Azure Virtual Desktop, organizations benefit from over 3,500 global cybersecurity experts working tirelessly to defend against every threat and protect their data and assets in Microsoft Azure.

Azure Virtual Desktop leverages an organization’s existing Azure security framework to ensure the security of company data and applications. Staff working on sensitive data in high-risk situations are protected because data is not stored on their device. This is equally true for staff working from non-secure networks like cafes, ensuring an organization is fully protected. More information on Microsoft Azure security can be found here..

Azure Virtual Desktop is a much more affordable option compared to on-premises options. Aside from the absence of expensive, outdated hardware that an organization must maintain and store, Azure Virtual Desktop is included in most M365 subscriptions already.

Click here for more information on how Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) saves your organization money.

Click here for our free comprehensive Azure Cost Estimator!

Although Azure Virtual Desktop can be complex when deployed and managed natively, with the help of Nerdio Manager, almost all functions can be performed by any staff member within just a few clicks. Most customers realize up to 80%-time savings when using Nerdio Manager compared to managing AVD natively.

Unlike traditional on- premises options, Azure Virtual Desktop allows multiple sessions on a Windows 10 VM. This means that an organization can have multiple users access the same virtual machine while reducing the cost of maintaining multiple VM licenses. Also, these sessions are isolated from each other, which gives higher security and privacy.

Get more out of your resources. Unlike traditional setups, Azure Virtual Desktop allows multiple users to access a single virtual machine, reducing licensing costs. These sessions are isolated, ensuring security and privacy for each user.

Use cases for Azure Virtual Desktop

Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop offers flexible, scalable, and secure virtual desktop solutions that address all the needs of a modern business. AVD is ideal for organizations that require more customization within Azure. 

If an organization’s number of virtual desktops fluctuates often, AVD is highly cost-effective since admins can closely dial in Azure compute to reduce overall costs for the organization. 

However, to achieve greater granularity, IT will either need to have an experienced Azure engineer on staff or will need to implement an AVD deployment and management platform like Nerdio.  

Microsoft does offer another DaaS solution (Windows 365), but it is a simpler, pre-configured option. Read more about the use cases of Azure Virtual Desktop here: Azure Virtual Desktop vs. Windows 365: Comparing Two DaaS Products.  

Azure Virtual Desktop
Personal
Pooled
Management portal
Azure Portal
Operating system
Windows 10/11 Enterprise (Single session, multi-session), Windows Server
Desktop images management
Custom and Microsoft-provided. Image-based management possible with FSLogix.
Custom and Microsoft-provided. Image-based management.
Applications and updates
Delivered via MEM, image updates or MSIX app attach
Backup and DR
Full backup and DR flexibility of Azure
Monitoring
Azure Monitor
User Profiles
Native stored on C: drive or FSLogix stored on SMB file share
FSLogix stored on Azure Files, Azure NetApp Files or file server VM
Networking
Flexible, customer-managed
Auto-scaling
Flexible and can save up to 75% of peak Azure costs

Azure Virtual Desktop IT Admin User Experience

Who should use Azure Virtual Desktop?

Azure Virtual Desktop is well-suited for businesses of all sizes seeking to modernize their desktop infrastructure and adapt to the evolving workplace. Particularly in a post-pandemic world where remote work is increasingly common, Microsoft AVD offers a flexible and scalable solution for providing secure access to desktop environments. Organizations with varying desktop needs (such as those with seasonal or fluctuating workforce requirements) can benefit from AVD’s ability to quickly provision and de-provision virtual desktops as needed. 

How much does Azure Virtual Desktop cost?

Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop requires the user to have an assigned Windows 10 or 11 Enterprise subscription license. Windows 10 or 11 Enterprise can be purchased as a standalone subscription or be included as part of a Windows 365 suite subscription (e.g. M365 E3/E5 and Business Premium).   

This Windows subscription license includes usage rights of the AVD control plane and entitles the user to connect to Windows desktops hosted in Azure. All other costs compute, storage, networking). This includes the compute costs of running session host VMs, the cost of OS disks, and the usage of Azure Files for FSLogix storage. All costs are based on actual usage — if a VM is powered off, there is no compute charge. 

AVD networking costs are incurred at the Azure subscription level where session host VMs run. These charges typically include egress bandwidth, Network Address Translation (NAT) gateways, VPNs, and firewalls. 

Intune is a fantastic option to manage Azure Virtual Desktop session hosts but is not required for an AVD deployment. Most environments can be managed via images. 

Find more information about the true cost of Azure Virtual Desktop here. 

Azure Virtual Desktop
Personal
Pooled
Windows 10 Enterprise
Any subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise or Microsoft 365 suite that includes Windows 10 Enterprise
Compute and storage
Azure consumption
Networking
Azure consumption
Intune
Optional
Office
Office subscription with SCA rights

Accurate Azure pricing tool

Discover our free Azure Cost Estimator: a user-friendly, accurate price calculator providing a comprehensive breakdown of your Microsoft Azure environment. Avoid unexpected costs and explore potential savings with reserved instances, Nerdio Manager, and more.

How to connect to Azure Virtual Desktop

To connect to Azure Virtual Desktop, users navigate to https://aka.ms/wvdwebarm or download a client app from https://aka.ms/wvdclients.

Users connect to AVD sessions and cloud PCs using the same client app, which is available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android and as a HTML client. Admins can control the resources visible to individual end-users and the user will see everything in a single feed using the same app. The authentication and multi-factor experience will also be very familiar since it leverages Azure AD, which is used for M365 and AVD authentication.

Azure Virtual Desktop
Personal
Pooled
End-user connectivity
HTML, Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux (https://aka.ms/wvdwebarm)
Printing and scanning
Redirected via client, Universal Print, and network-based
User self-service (e.g. restart)
No, only with third-party tools like Nerdio Manager

How to deploy Azure Virtual Desktop

Using Nerdio Manager for MSP, there are several ways to automatically and very easily deploy Azure Virtual Desktop depending on an MSPs’ unique needs. Read about each of them here, as well as how long each instance takes.
Note that the Nerdio Help Center holds hundreds of helpful articles that will walk the MSP reader through almost any scenario.

For enterprise organizations, Nerdio offers our Zendesk Knowledge Base. And you can read more in this article about how to quickly and easily move existing AVD deployments with Nerdio Manager for Enterprise.

Why choose Azure Virtual Desktop with Nerdio?

By combining the power of Azure Virtual Desktop and Nerdio, modern businesses are able to optimize their deployments and address the complexities and expenses that have long been associated with traditional VDI.

Historically, deploying and managing virtual desktop solutions required significant upfront investments and expertise, making them inaccessible to many organizations. However, Nerdio simplifies this process by offering automated deployment and configuration tools that streamline setup and reduce administrative overhead. 

Automatically deploy a complete virtual desktop environment in a couple of hours or connect to an existing environment in 10 minutes, manage all users from one intuitive management platform, and save up to 75% on Azure compute and storage costs with Nerdio’s auto-scaling feature.

Plus, Nerdio’s intuitive interface allows organizations to easily provision virtual desktop environments with minimal manual intervention, saving time and resources. This automated approach ensures consistency and reliability across deployments, mitigating the risk of errors and ensuring a seamless user experience.

Moreover, Nerdio optimizes Microsoft AVD’s cost-effectiveness and scalability, enabling organizations to customize their VDI according to their budget and needs. Nerdio’s auto-scaling feature allows organizations to fine-tune resource allocation up or down as needed, ensuring that they only pay for what they use. This flexibility makes Microsoft AVD and Nerdio an attractive option for organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to large enterprises.

Nerdio plays a crucial role in making Microsoft AVD accessible and manageable. The team’s expertise in virtual desktop technology, combined with the user-friendly management platform, simplifies the deployment and administration of AVD environments. Additionally, Nerdio provides comprehensive support services, ensuring that organizations have access to assistance and guidance throughout the implementation process and beyond. 

Whether it’s troubleshooting technical issues, optimizing performance, or navigating licensing requirements, Nerdio’s support team is dedicated to helping organizations maximize the value of their AVD investments. By partnering with Nerdio, businesses can confidently embrace AVD as a strategic tool for enhancing productivity, security, and flexibility in their operations.

Schedule a Demo Today

Schedule a demo today to see how AVD and Nerdio can fit your organization’s needs.

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