Virtual Desktops As The New Normal

With everyone hunkering down during this current crisis, working from home has gone from an option practiced by some businesses to an absolute necessity. Before you get comfy in your favorite pair of sweats and bunny slippers, the logistics of that move can get challenging if your regular office workflow depends on internally shared files hosted on an internal file server or NAS.

One solution is AWS Workspaces and its storage and collaboration partner AWS WorkDocs. These provide a fully managed, turnkey cloud solution for businesses to deploy a set of secure, preconfigured Windows 10 or Linux desktops, sized to fit your organization’s needs. You can configure a virtual workstation in the AWS cloud with the applications you need, and then connect to it using either a Workspaces client app available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android or IOS, or using the web interface which should work on any modern browser. All your data stays secure in the cloud and not on your client device. Applications include remote work, quick onboarding of new staff, temporary classes or seminars that require students or attendees to have access to particular applications or collaborative materials.

The pricing model is either monthly, which is good for those who spend a lot of their time in front of their computer, or a small base rate plus hourly when the virtual desktop is running. The hourly plan turns the virtual desktop on when you first connect and shuts it down after it detects 1 hour with no connection. With either plan the state of your desktop is saved before shutdown so you can pick up where you left off once you reconnect. Tools are also available to optimize your Workspaces spend based on an analysis of your usage patterns.

Top 5 Advantages of Virtual Desktops With AWS Workspaces

  1. Scales to Suit Your Workforce - Set up is as simple as configuring the bundle and software you need, and then you can deploy one or one hundred new machines in minutes instead of waiting for hours to have IT support staff buy a new system, configure it, and deliver it to your workplace. The reverse is true as well when you need to get rid of workstations. Most offices have that one storeroom filled with old machines gathering dust that need to be recycled or just removed. With virtual desktops when you no longer need a machine you can backup the data and delete the desktop, without carting it to the recycling center.

  2. Secure - The connection to your virtual machines and the data stored on them is secured with state of the art encryption as well as the physical security that is standard at AWS datacenters. Replicating your data to more than one region ensures against loss due to catastrophic failure at any one data center. Plus, no data is saved on your client device so there are no security worries there either. The end result is that your data is more secure in the cloud than it is on the desktop in your office.

  3. Bring Your Own Device - AWS Workspaces lets you run your virtualized desktop from downloadable app for Windows, Linux or Mac desktops, Android or OSX tablets, or from a modern web browser, all while maintaining a secure and consistent interface.

  4. Fully Managed Service - Your virtual desktops get updated automatically so there’s no need to apply patches yourself. Customers can set a maintenance window, usually at night when no one is typically working, and patches and upgrades are applied during that time.

  5. No Death. - Social distancing has shown itself to be remarkably effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19, and other flu-like illnesses. Allowing employees to work from home keeps them safe and sheltering in place while they work.

AWS Free Tier

In response to the global pandemic, AWS is offering new Workspaces for up to 50 users at no charge for new Workspace users. See the pricing page for the gory details, but the short version is if you’re a new Workspace user you can get free Workspaces for up to 50 users until the end of June, at which time regular billing kicks in. That’s a nice deal if you want to stick your toe in the virtual desktop water, though of course you should price out what it will cost you after the Free Tier period is over.

All in all, AWS Workspaces is a pretty good solution if you need to simplify your deployment of desktop workstations, allow for remote work in your organization, or lower your hardware costs . AWS Workspaces Case Studies