Embracing the Future of Work: The Business Case for Microsoft's Windows 365 Cloud PC
In the rapidly evolving world of business, we are seeing a seismic shift in the way organizations operate and how their employees work. One key driver of this change is the migration from traditional PCs to cloud-based solutions, like Microsoft’s Windows 365 Cloud PC. We are living in a digital age where accessibility, mobility, and security are no longer optional features, but necessities.
In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into the benefits and drawbacks of using the traditional PC model and the Windows 365 Cloud PC. Our primary focus will be on the core concerns of cybersecurity and the total cost of ownership, alongside the additional features and factors that can impact business performance.
Traditional Desktop PC: The Legacy Workhorse
The traditional PC has been the foundation of business operations for decades, from startups to large enterprises. What you’re paying for with a traditional PC is familiarity. Virtually every new employee at any sized company can open a laptop from a traditional PC manufacturer such as HP, Lenovo, or Dell and be productive within minutes. Most traditional PCs have hardware tuned to run the latest Microsoft Windows operating system with maximum stability and performance. Corporate IT departments are familiar with traditional PC architecture and can support users easily. A traditional PC’s ease of use, reliability, and supportability at scale are key reasons why it is a venerable productivity tool for the business world.
Traditional Desktop PC Positives
- Control: With a traditional PC, businesses have total control over their hardware and software. They can choose the precise components that meet their specific needs, ensuring a customized fit for their operations.
- Offline Work: Traditional PCs allow for offline work, a feature that is particularly useful in areas with unstable or no internet connections.
- Skilling: The modern PC is an evolution of the same tech stack that IT teams have supported for years and is unlikely to represent any significant departure from business as usual.
Traditional Desktop PC Negatives
- Upkeep Costs & Obsolescence: The total cost of ownership of a traditional PC extends beyond the initial purchase price. It includes software licenses, hardware upgrades, maintenance, and IT support. Many veteran IT pros will recount horror stories of how new $1,500 business laptops purchased just before a major operating system release suddenly became almost worthless. These costs can add up significantly over time and aren’t always readily apparent at purchase.
- Cybersecurity: While offline data is safer, PCs connected to the internet are vulnerable to cyber threats. Ensuring robust security requires continuous investments in security software and IT expertise.
- Scalability: When a company grows, adding more PCs or upgrading existing ones can be a slow and expensive process. Added supply chain struggles can exacerbate an already slow process.
- Mobility: Traditional PCs, especially those managed by legacy Active Directory Domain Services, lack the flexibility of being manageable and accessible from anywhere, limiting remote work (and management) options.
Microsoft Windows 365 Cloud PC: The New Frontier
Enter Microsoft’s Windows 365 Cloud PC, a new way to experience Windows 10 or 11 (depending on your preference) for businesses of all sizes. This Cloud PC provides the power and simplicity of a traditional PC with the flexibility and security of the cloud.
Windows 365 Cloud PC Positives
- Accessibility: Cloud PCs can be accessed from any device with an internet connection. This means you can switch between devices and continue working from where you left off, perfect for today’s remote and hybrid working environments.
- Scalability: Adding more Cloud PCs or upgrading existing ones is a breeze, with changes implemented almost instantly. This scalability can be a game changer for growing businesses.
- Maintenance and Updates: Microsoft takes care of all the system maintenance, software updates, and security patches, freeing your IT team to focus on other business-critical tasks.
- Cybersecurity: Cloud PCs are inherently more secure, with Microsoft’s advanced security measures like multi-factor authentication, encrypted data storage, and Zero Trust architecture. Cloud PCs act as a force multiplier for existing security investments in the Microsoft cloud.
- Predictable Cost: With a Cloud PC, you have a fixed monthly fee per user, making budgeting more predictable.
Windows 365 Cloud PC Negatives
- Internet Dependence: The major drawback of a Cloud PC is its reliance on a stable internet connection. If your internet goes down, or if you’re in an area with poor connectivity, your access to your Cloud PC can be compromised. Fear not, an offline mode for Windows 365 is coming soon, allowing users to work without a connection and sync changes once internet connectivity is restored.
- Less Control: While Microsoft does offer customization options, it’s not as extensive as owning a traditional PC. You’re also entrusting Microsoft with your data and depending on their services for your business operations.
- Potential Cost: For smaller businesses with limited IT demands, the monthly cost per user might exceed the cost of maintaining a traditional PC.
Traditional Desktop vs. Windows 365 Cloud PCs: The positives and negatives
|Traditional PC||Windows 365 Cloud PC|
|Positives||1. Total Control |
2. Offline Work
|1. Accessibility |
3. Maintenance and Updates
5. Predictable Cost
|Negatives||1. High Total Cost |
2. Cybersecurity Risks
3. Limited Scalability
4. Limited Mobility
|1. Internet Dependence |
2. Less Control
3. Potential Cost
Cybersecurity: A Critical Factor
Cybersecurity is a vital consideration in our increasingly connected world. Traditional PCs, while offering physical security (we’re looking at you, BitLocker!), face risks when connected to the internet, and cybersecurity measures often require significant ongoing investment and monitoring.
On the other hand, Windows 365 Cloud PCs use Microsoft’s robust security framework Entra ID (formerly Azure Active Directory) for identity and access management. Microsoft employs a Zero Trust approach, where every access request is fully authenticated, authorized, and encrypted before being granted. This greatly reduces the risk of data breaches and ensures secure access to your business data, no matter where your employees are working.
However, no system is 100% safe. Even with all its advanced security measures, Cloud PC users should still adhere to cybersecurity best practices, like using strong passwords and being aware of phishing scams.
Total Cost of Ownership: Making Sense of the Investment
When considering the total cost of ownership (TCO), both the tangible and intangible costs should be taken into account. Traditional PCs might seem cheaper initially, but when you factor in maintenance, software updates, hardware upgrades, device recovery, recycling, and cybersecurity measures, the costs can quickly escalate.
Windows 365 Cloud PCs operate on a subscription-based model, offering predictability in expenses, which is a boon for budgeting. While the monthly cost might seem higher initially, it encompasses software licenses, regular updates, and maintenance. The added benefits of increased productivity, scalability, and enhanced cybersecurity make it a worthwhile investment for many businesses.
Choosing Either a Windows 365 Business or Enterprise Subscription
While we’re on the subject of TCO, it’s worth pointing out that Microsoft created two different product tiers for their Windows 365 solution:
- Windows 365 Business
- Windows 365 Enterprise
Each of these two top-level tiers are further divided into sub-tiers of Basic, Standard, and Premium levels with price points that scale up based on the features included in each sub-tier. Let’s break down the key features of both subscription plans in an effort to help you decide which one is the right fit for your business needs.
Windows 365 Business: The Cloud for Small and Medium Businesses
Windows 365 Business is designed specifically for small and medium-sized businesses. It is tailored to organizations with fewer IT resources and demands, aiming to provide a simple, secure, and cost-effective way for employees to work remotely.
Windows 365 Business Key Features:
- It supports up to 300 users.
- No need for a dedicated IT department to manage the infrastructure, Microsoft handles the maintenance and updates.
- User-friendly setup and management.
- Built-in security features like data encryption and multi-factor authentication to ensure data safety.
- Flexible scalability makes it easier for businesses to adjust the resources according to their needs.
Windows 365 Enterprise: Powering Large Organizations
Windows 365 Enterprise, on the other hand, is geared towards organizations with more complex IT requirements who want to define and manage the user experience. It provides a higher level of control, customization, and security, with additional features and benefits to support large-scale operations.
Windows 365 Enterprise Key Features:
- It supports an unlimited number of users, ideal for larger organizations.
- Provides advanced IT controls, enabling IT departments to customize and manage the environment as per the organizational needs.
- It integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft enterprise products and services like Microsoft Endpoint Manager and Entra ID (formerly Azure Active Directory). This is an important distinction from Windows 365 Business where Cloud PCs are not manageable from an IT team perspective.
- Optionally offers enhanced security measures like Microsoft Defender for Endpoint and Entra Conditional Access, in addition to the standard data encryption and multi-factor authentication.
- It supports Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 11 Enterprise, providing access to additional features and capabilities.
Windows 365 Business vs. Windows 365 Enterprise – Side by Side
|Windows 365 Business||Windows 365 Enterprise|
|Users||Up to 300 users||Unlimited users|
|IT Needs||Designed for businesses with limited IT resources. Microsoft handles maintenance and updates.||Designed for larger organizations with more complex IT needs. Offers advanced IT controls.|
|Setup||User-friendly setup and management.||Requires a knowledgeable IT department for setup and management.|
|Security||Standard security features like data encryption and multi-factor authentication.||Enhanced security measures like Microsoft Defender for Endpoint and Entra Conditional Access.|
|Integration||Standard integration with Microsoft products and services.||Seamless integration with other Microsoft enterprise products and services like Microsoft Endpoint Manager and Entra ID.|
|Versions||Supports Windows 10 and Windows 11.||Supports Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 11 Enterprise, offering additional features and capabilities.|
Windows 365 Business vs. Enterprise – Comparing Costs
The cost of both Windows 365 Business and Enterprise depends on the performance level and resources you choose. Each option provides different tiers of processing power, RAM, and storage space, allowing businesses to select a plan that fits their needs and budget.
|Windows 365 Plan||Business Basic||Business Standard||Business Premium||Enterprise Basic||Enterprise Standard||Enterprise Premium|
|Price (per user, per month)||$31 USD||$41 USD||$66 USD||$31 USD||$41 USD||$66 USD|
|Processor||2 vCPU||2 vCPU||4 vCPU||2 vCPU||2 vCPU||4 vCPU|
|RAM||4 GB||8 GB||16 GB||4 GB||8 GB||16 GB|
|Storage||128 GB||128 GB||128 GB||128 GB||128 GB||128 GB|
|Support for Microsoft Teams desktop app||Yes (chat and audio calls only)||Yes||Yes||Yes (chat and audio calls only)||Yes||Yes|
|Integrated with Microsoft Intune for device management and security||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
For both plans, there is a fixed monthly cost per user, offering predictability in expenses, which can be great for the CFO when budgeting. The cost encompasses software licenses, regular updates, and maintenance, reducing the need for significant upfront hardware investments.
Combining Windows 365 Cloud PC and Microsoft 365 Business Standard/Premium
Enhancing productivity is a top concern for most CIOs today. A compelling case can be made for companies already invested in a Microsoft 365 cloud productivity solution to combine their Microsoft 365 Business Standard or Premium licenses with Microsoft Windows 365 Cloud PCs for a single, unified solution. Companies already licensed for Intune and/or Endpoint Manager (i.e., those currently on plans such as M365 Business Premium, M365 E3, M365 E5, Enterprise Mobility + Security, etc.) will see the best return on their investment as Cloud PCs are able to consume existing Intune management policies.
The idea behind combining the Windows 365 cloud PC solution and Microsoft 365 Business Standard/Premium is to get a seamlessly integrated experience. Because Microsoft 365 includes top productivity apps such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Teams, adding those to a secure on-demand Cloud PC experience based on Microsoft Windows 11 provides users with powerful productivity tools coupled with a virtual desktop environment accessible from anywhere. There are several benefits that CIOs gain from combining Microsoft’s Windows 365 cloud PCs with a Microsoft 365 Business plan.
Benefit 1 – Empower Remote Work: With Windows 365 Cloud PCs, your team can access their desktop from any device, enabling them to work from anywhere with an internet connection. Pairing this with Microsoft 365 Business, which includes apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Teams, and more, means your team can collaborate and work efficiently no matter where they are located. This integration is especially valuable for remote and hybrid work models, which have become increasingly common.
Benefit 2 – Streamline IT Management: Microsoft’s integrated solution simplifies the role of IT administrators. With a combined solution, managing users, assigning licenses, and ensuring software is up to date is easier than ever. This unified approach reduces the complexity and time spent on management tasks, freeing up your IT department to focus on strategic initiatives.
Benefit 3 – Robust Security: Combining Windows 365 Cloud PC and Microsoft 365 Business brings a comprehensive suite of security features, including multi-factor authentication, encryption, and advanced threat protection. With integrated security measures, businesses can ensure data safety across all devices. This feature is increasingly crucial given the growing sophistication of cyber threats.
Benefit 4 – Scalability and Flexibility: As your business grows, so do your IT needs. The combined solution is easily scalable, allowing you to add new users or upgrade existing services as needed. This flexibility is beneficial for companies that anticipate growth or experience seasonal fluctuations in staff numbers.
Benefit 5 – Cost-Effectiveness: While the cost might seem higher initially, in the long run, the combined solution is often more cost-effective. It eliminates the need for substantial upfront hardware investment, as the desktops are hosted in the cloud. Additionally, with the software-as-a-service model, you get regular updates and support included in your subscription, reducing the costs associated with maintaining and upgrading separate systems.
Benefit 6 – Seamless Integration: By combining Windows 365 Cloud PC with Microsoft 365 Business, your organization benefits from seamless integration. Your team can access their familiar Windows desktop and all their Microsoft 365 apps from one place, improving workflow and productivity.
It should be noted that almost any traditional PC for business will come preloaded with Microsoft Windows 11 and Microsoft Office productivity apps. However, having a traditional PC preloaded with Windows 11 and Microsoft Office does not gain any significant advantages over the Windows 365 Cloud PC with Microsoft 365 apps. If anything, the Windows 365 Cloud PC with Microsoft 365 is arguably better positioned to deliver a more unified, secure, and flexible solution that caters to the evolving demands of the modern workplace.
Blue Mantis Can Deploy Both Traditional and Windows 365 Cloud PC Solutions
As with any business decision, choosing between a traditional PC and Windows 365 Cloud PC depends on your specific needs, budget, and business model. While traditional PCs offer more control and function offline, they can be costlier to maintain, are less secure, and lose their value almost as quickly as driving a new car off the dealer’s lot.
Microsoft’s Windows 365 Cloud PC, on the other hand, offers greater flexibility, robust security measures, easy scalability, and can remain technologically viable for a longer period of time than a traditional PC—making it a compelling choice for businesses navigating the modern work landscape. However, businesses need to consider their internet stability and whether they’re comfortable relinquishing some control.
In today’s business world, staying competitive often means staying ahead of the curve. Blue Mantis can assess your organization’s requirements, future growth plans, and IT resources to help you make an informed decision on which IT solution is best for your desired business outcomes. As a Microsoft Partner, we can help you unlock new levels of productivity, security, and growth for your business with a Windows 365 Cloud PC solution or empower you with a simple and reliable traditional PC setup. Feel free to reach out and speak to one of our Microsoft experts today.