Everything You Need to Know About Windows Virtual Desktops

Microsoft began the public preview of Windows Virtual Desktops at the end of March and it seems it might forever change how we incorporate desktops and connect them to other infrastructures, like printers.

The idea of the virtual desktop isn‘t new, but the way Microsoft built and delivers this product is.

What are virtual desktops?

With a virtual desktop, applications and the Windows operating system run in a data center, and each user is presented with the screen image on another device, such as an iPad or a laptop. The mouse, keyboard and other inputs are collected on the user’s device, sent to the remote desktop and processed there.

Virtual desktops allow companies to provide secure access to applications and data from anywhere, an easy roll-out of new applications and the ability to scale when the company grows. In addition, data doesn‘t have to be stored on local devices that can be lost, while support, maintenance and overall IT resources can be consolidated.

There are customers that have been using variations of remote desktops for more than two decades. These include branch offices, proprietary applications, home office users, and any industry that needs flexible, secure IT such as retail, healthcare, finance and education.

What‘s new about Windows Virtual Desktops?

The biggest innovation in Windows Virtual Desktops is what Microsoft calls a multi-user, multi-session version of Windows 10. This means the user is working in an environment that feels and behaves like a Windows 10 desktop operating system — that ships with most PCs and laptops sold — and offers full support for all applications that would run on a Windows PC or laptop, especially Microsoft‘s own Office365 Professional.

Multi-user, multi-session means this version of Windows 10 is significantly more efficient to run for more than one user because multiple users can share core resources of their desktops instead of — albeit virtually — running one Windows PC for every user.

Another innovative aspect of Windows Virtual Desktops is that it is available exclusively as-a-service in Microsoft‘s Azure cloud and available as part of the Microsoft365 E3 or higher licenses. Customers no longer have to build complex server environments with virtualization layers, storage etc., but can rather simply add the Windows Virtual Desktop enterprise application to their existing Microsoft Azure account, select the number of users and the required amount of computing power, and wait for Azure to set up the environment.

How does this affect printing?

Printing is the company infrastructure most affected by moving the desktops from the local network, where they can directly connect to printers, to the Azure cloud. Some of the most important print challenges to keep in mind as a result of this transition include:

  • The virtual desktops cannot establish a direct connection into the local network without additional work and tools
  • The large data volume generated by printing can incur significant charges, so customers should keep a close eye on network traffic generated by printing
  • Managing printer drivers on the virtual desktops, where all drivers have to be installed on all desktops, can lead to bloated machines and drivers conflicts that make printing unreliable
  • It is critical to ensure print data security as it travels from Azure to the printer
  • Users can access their Windows Virtual Desktop from PCs, Macs, smartphones, tables, Chromebooks, so the print environment needs to ensuring support for printing from any device
  • Every time a user logs into the Windows Virtual Desktop environment, the user has to be assigned the correct printer based on their preference or location

What does this mean for you business?

Microsoft is looking to release Windows Virtual Desktops some time this summer and businesses should use the time to:

  • Learn more about Windows Virtual Desktops. There are plenty of video tutorials to provide information or help you set up a test environment.
  • Learn more about upcoming print solutions for Windows Virtual Desktops. Microsoft has named a number of launch partners that help them bring their new service to market and also cover printing.
  • Evaluate Windows Virtual Desktop for your business. Think about how you might use it to modernize your business, make it more flexible, customer-centric and ultimately more profitable. Also think about what you might not like about the new service and reasons why it might not work for your business.
  • Evaluate which services and products you could offer around Windows Virtual Desktops to ensure printing is flawless and that you are expanding your footprint at the customer.
  • Once you‘ve learned, evaluated and educated your team, have conversations with customers, make sure they not only know about Microsoft‘s new offering but also that you and your team are the right people to talk about it to.

Windows Virtual Desktops will allow your customers to rethink how they run their IT operations, which devices they use, how they connect their users to their customers, and more. Printing will be one of the core topics to address and you’ll be in a great position to capitalize on this opportunity for your business as well as your customers.

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Henning Volkmer

Henning Volkmer

is president and CEO of ThinPrint, a leading provider of print management software and services for businesses.