Introduction

In today’s business environment, you will still see many organizations that are using the traditional desktop computers and servers that are stored On Premises (aka “On Prem”).  This simply means that an employee has a traditional workstation that they log into, from which they can conduct their everyday job tasks, and that the IT department can secure shared resources directly from the computers that store them.

But given the explosion of the Cloud, and especially that of Microsoft Azure, many of these entities are now migrating large portions, if not the entire thing, to a hosted platform.  The advantages are obvious, especially when it comes down to cost savings, affordability, and scalability.

One area in which this growth is really exploding is that of transitioning the actual workstation to it.  One such example of this is the Workstation as a Service, which is the focal point of this blog.

What Exactly Is the Workstation as a Service (WaaS)?

The Workstation as a Service (WaaS) can be defined specifically as follows:

“It is a type of desktop that gives employees access to their office applications and data from anywhere at any time, regardless of geography using the device of their choice (i.e., desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones).”

(SOURCE:  1).

So as one can imply from the definition, an employee does not have to connect to their physical workstation anymore using a myriad of network protocols and Identity Access Management (IAM) tools.  He or she can access it directly from the Cloud, from any geographic location or time zone that they may be in.  There are a number of key, strategic benefits to this, and is reviewed in the next section.

But as it relates to Azure, the IT department of any kind or size of business can instantaneously create a brand-new desktop computer which makes use of the Windows 10 OS.  But instead of being physically deployed in your office, you can now access it with a few clicks of the mouse in just a matter of a few seconds.

A very nice feature of the Workstation as a Service model is that since it is all based in the Cloud, you do not have to worry about any licensing issues yourself directly, or even deploying any software upgrades and patches.  It is all handled for you by Azure.  For that matter, you do not even have to worry about installing any specialized security features in order to protect the Virtual Workstation, that is all done for you as well.

This breakthrough was actually launched last year by Microsoft  but has not gained serious traction until now.  It stems from the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), in which an end user could access a remote computer virtually and have a direct interface with the desktop.

The Benefits of the Workstation as a Service (WaaS)

Here are some of the key benefit of using the WaaS:

  • It is much easier for all of your employees (if not most of them) to access their work with just a few clicks of the mouse. For example, from one single Virtual Server (aka VM), you can create multiple Virtual Workstation instances, and from there, the employees can access them, depending upon the rights, privileges, and permissions that have been assigned to.
  • For security purposes, all of the user profiles that have been created are actually stored separately from the WaaS environment, in separate Cloud Storage Containers.
  • It offers a more secure way for employees to access data. This was traditionally done by making use of the RDP, but with Azure, a separate Platform as a Service (aka PaaS) is offered so that it can automatically manage the login sessions onto the WaaS.
  • It supports the usage of all employees, not just a select few. For example, these are the kinds of workers that would make the most use of this service:
    • The Kiosk Workers:  If you want your customers to access certain parts of your website that are designed specifically for them, such as a client login portal, you can now migrate this to the WaaS environment, in a safe and secure manner.  This transition actually decreases the security risks that are posed to your Web based application.
    • The Administrative Workers:  These employees are typically the executive administrative assistants, secretaries, and other essential support personnel that are required to keep your business running seamlessly on a daily basis.
    • The Knowledge Workers:  These are those kinds of employees that are always on the go, and need constant, remote access to company resources.  Typically, this group includes the outdoor account managers, members of the C-Suite, etc.
    • The Power Users:  This is the classification that is most often given to those employees that use computing processing powers to its maximum availability.  These are the software developers that are creating new applications for your company to offer to customers and prospects, and even graphic designers that make use of video production in order to advertise/showcase your products and services.  In the past, these employees would very often require having their own dedicated servers and workstations in order to serve these high intense CPU and memory needs.  But, this can now all be offered through the WaaS.
  • Just because you have migrated your employee’s workstations into the Cloud (which in this case would be Azure), no further or specialized training is required. This is because the Virtual Workstation will be configured and look exactly the same as the physical desktop machine that your employees have been accessing on a daily basis.  The only training which would be required, is in instructing your employees in how to access their new Virtual Workstation.
  • Since it is on the Azure platform, it makes the WaaS solution very affordable to all businesses. For example, with the physical devices, once they have reached the end of their lifespan, or if they breakdown sooner than expected, they have to be replaced.  This can cause a huge capital expenditure burden on the company, eating more out of the tight IT budget.  But with the WaaS, there is no issue.  Once you have created your Virtual Workstation, it stays permanently in the Cloud until you decide to get rid of it or move it to another platform.  All you have to do is pay a fixed, monthly fee, which should not change at all during the term of your contract.
  • In today’s project management world, instant collaboration with other team members located at different geographic segments around the world is a must. Time is money, and it cannot be spent in assembling your team at the traditional brick and mortar office.  With the WaaS deployed onto Azure, your team members can access their Virtual Workstations and join into mission critical meetings in just a matter of minutes.
  • The WaaS offers great degrees of scalability. For example, if your business is experiencing rapid periods of growth, and you add more employees, you can ramp up the total number of Virtual Workstations that you need in just a matter of minutes.  Also, if you need to add more software applications or functionalities, that can be done quickly as well.  Likewise, if you need to ramp down your resources, you can do that quite easily as well.  The best news of all here is that by getting a WaaS platform on Azure, there is no extra cost in doing all of this (except if you add new applications and/or functionalities), when compared to having to upgrade or even replace physical machines as scalability requirements change.
  • In the world of Cybersecurity today, one of the key issues that all businesses face is in dedicating the appropriate amount of resources that are needed to back up your mission critical information and data, as well as the databases that they reside upon. This means having a dedicated staff to do all of this, which is dependent upon how large your IT/Network Infrastructure is.  But by getting a WaaS solution from Azure, you do not have to worry about the extra expenditures in all of this, or even doing the backups.  This is all handled for you and is part of your monthly cost.

Conclusions

Overall, this article has provided an overview into what a Workstation as a Service (WaaS) exactly is, and how your company can benefit from it. The bottom line is that in today’s uncertain economic times, the ability to be scalable, flexible, and budget conscience is an absolute must. Using a WaaS will allow you to fulfill all three quickly and efficiently.

Sources

  1. https://smallbiztrends.com/2016/09/what-is-workspace-as-a-service.html