If you manage virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), you likely know the challenges of supporting remote workers while trying to minimise IT costs.
Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) offers a secure cloud solution for deploying virtualised desktops and apps. With AVD, you can leverage the Microsoft cloud to easily scale Windows desktops and apps.
AVD allows you to provide users with cloud-hosted virtual desktop access from anywhere, on any device. In this post, we will provide you with all our tips and tricks to get the most out of this system.
Understanding Azure Virtual Desktop
Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is a desktop and app virtualisation service that runs on Azure. It allows you to deploy simplified Windows virtual desktop environments and remotely access them from any device.
Key components of AVD include:
- AVD session hosts - These virtual machines hosted in Azure provide users access to their virtualised desktops, apps, and resources. You can scale up or scale out session hosts to accommodate more users.
- Host pools - AVD host pools are groups of identical session host VMs which you can allocate for users. You can also create pools optimised for specific workloads.
- Integration with Microsoft 365 - AVD offers seamless integration with Microsoft 365 apps and policies when coupled with FSLogix profile containers. This provides a familiar desktop experience for users.
The flexibility of AVD allows you to create multi-session Windows 10 desktops as well as remote desktop session hosts (RDSH) based on Windows Server, depending on your needs. You can provision and scale these host pools easily through the Azure portal.
With AVD, you don't manage the underlying infrastructure. Instead, you can leverage the power and scalability of Azure to deliver virtualised desktops and apps with a consistent experience across devices.
Optimising Your Azure Virtual Desktop Deployment
To get the most out of your AVD deployment, it's important to optimise your configuration.
Here are tips on key areas:
Azure Virtual Machine Configuration
Choose VM sizes wisely when provisioning your AVD session hosts. Opt for processors with higher CPU cores and memory for demanding workloads like 3D modelling or video editing. For lighter office work, smaller VM sizes should suffice.
Also, make sure to optimise the session host image itself. Debloat the OS, disable unnecessary services, and apply tuning scripts to enhance performance. Integrate profile containers like FSLogix to provide a consistent user experience.
Host Pool Management
- Organise your host pools logically around specific workloads, departments, or applications. Set up load balancing across pools during peak times for optimal resource utilisation.
- Enable auto-scaling on the host pools to dynamically adjust capacity based on demand. Set appropriate thresholds to trigger scaling out additional session hosts or powering off underutilised VMs.
- You should also regularly update images for host pools to maintain performance and compliance. Drain connections gracefully using maintenance mode when rolling out updates.
User Session Management
- Implement load balancing across session hosts to avoid overloading any single VM, ensuring a consistent experience for end users.
- Set session timeouts based on usage patterns. Decrease timeouts for task workers who sporadically access desktops. Increase timeouts for power users needing persistent access.
- Use Microsoft Endpoint Manager to configure user policies that follow workers across devices and sessions. Settings roam with the user no matter how they connect.
Leveraging Azure Virtual Desktop for Remote Working
Azure Virtual Desktop is a powerful solution for enabling a remote workforce. It provides key capabilities to keep employees productive when working outside the office.
Integrating Remote Apps
One of the biggest benefits of AVD is the ability to publish single remote apps alongside full desktop access. For example, you can set up specific productivity apps like Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Excel or custom LOB apps to appear separately in users' catalogues.
Remote apps launch faster than full desktop sessions, often in under 5 seconds. Prioritise publishing the apps workers use most frequently for optimal efficiency. Apps can be accessed through the AVD client apps or by direct URL.
When accessing a remote app, it runs on a shared session host. This means you can deploy fewer hosts for app workloads as opposed to full desktops, which reduces costs. Users can access multiple apps simultaneously on the single host server.
Enabling Multiple Concurrent Desktop Sessions
A key advantage of AVD is supporting multi-session Windows 10 deployment. This allows each user multiple concurrent interactive virtual desktop sessions instead of being limited to just one.
With multiple sessions, users can more easily multitask, copy/paste between desktops, compare documents, run workflows spanning apps, and collaborate with teammates. IT can deliver the sessions cost-effectively using shared session hosts.
Users can customise shortcuts or pin apps to each virtual desktop session for more personalised workflows. They can also switch between sessions seamlessly. Skype, Teams, and Outlook always remain open in the background of sessions for continuity.
Cost Savings and Azure Virtual Desktop
Azure Virtual Desktop provides significant cost reduction opportunities through flexible scaling capabilities and avoiding expenses required for on-prem infrastructure.
With AVD, you pay only for the Azure compute resources used, down to the minute. Easily scale session hosts up or down to precisely match demand and minimise waste.
Set auto-scaling rules to trigger adding or removing hosts. For example, add hosts whenever CPU usage exceeds 60% for 10 minutes to maintain performance. Remove hosts when usage drops below 20% for 30 minutes to optimise costs.
You can also experiment with reducing host count during predictable low-use periods like nights and weekends. Always plan for seasonal variations.
With AVD, there’s no need to maintain excess stand-by capacity for peak scenarios. The elasticity and availability of Azure resources enable aligning costs very closely with actual usage.
Comparative Cost Analysis
When compared to on-prem VDI solutions, AVD shifts infrastructure expenses from capital outlays to operating costs. This means there’s no need for upfront investments in data centre hardware and licensing.
When working with Azure, you additionally eliminate ongoing costs which come from managing your own infrastructure like maintenance, power, cooling, and IT labour. This also reduces downtime risks and disaster recovery expenses.
The ability to scale precisely and only use exactly the resources needed at any moment results in significant AVD cost reductions. Adding and removing hosts takes just minutes, allowing real time optimisation.
Built-in security features like conditional access, multifactor authentication, and endpoint management avoid add-on expenses needed for hardening on-prem environments.
Over longer terms, AVD demonstrates very compelling cost savings over traditional VDI deployments due to its cloud efficiencies. The flexibility and scalability enable right-sized expenditures.
Enhancing User Experience with Azure Virtual Desktop
Creating an exceptional end user experience should be a top priority for any AVD deployment. Microsoft provides powerful tools to customise and optimise the environment.
Boost Engagement Through the Azure Portal
The Azure portal is your one-stop-shop for enhancing the user experience:
- Upload custom background images and logos to brand the desktop clients with your look and feel.
- Configure the feed shown to users with relevant apps, messages, and alerts tailored to their roles. Keep them in the loop!
- Logically group apps into collections that make sense for your users. Finance teams get finance apps, developers get dev tools.
- Tap into usage analytics to see connection volumes, session durations, and activity levels. Identify issues dragging down performance.
Deliver a Consistent Windows Experience
Integrating AVD with Windows Server provides familiarity and seamlessness:
- Access the same Windows Server apps, data, and tools that users rely on to be productive. No retraining needed!
- Get the recognisable Windows interface including a customisable Start menu and taskbar. Single sign-on across resources.
- Scale compute power during traffic spikes so performance won't falter at peak times when users need it most.
- Implement tight role-based security and auditing inherited from Windows Server to keep data safe.
Azure Virtual Desktop provides a complete cloud solution for VDI and remote work needs. Some key benefits include flexible scaling, reduced costs, customised user experiences, and tight integration with Microsoft 365 and Azure.
Whether you're enabling remote staff or modernising legacy VDI, AVD is worth exploring for your organisation's use cases. With the right configuration tailored to your needs, AVD can deliver performant and cost-optimised virtual workspaces.
With AVD, you can empower employee productivity and satisfaction through cloud-hosted digital workspaces. To learn more about deploying and optimising Azure Virtual Desktop, contact the experts at Spidergroup. Our team has extensive experience implementing and managing successful AVD solutions. Get in touch today!