Categories
Windows 365

Windows 365 Frontline – Let’s talk about it

Updated on 20th of April 2023 based on feedback around license assignments.

At Ignite 2022, Microsoft announced that they were working on something they called “Windows 365 for Shift Workers” and a couple of weeks ago this was released in public preview under the name “Windows 365 Frontline” on April 6, 2023.

But what is Windows 365 Frontline and how is that different from the regular Windows 365?

The biggest difference is the license model to be honest. There are technical differences as well for admins, but for the end-user the experience is the same to be honest. Users still get their personal machine, but when the user ends their session, the machine is shut down instead of kept in the state it was left.

But going back to the license, which I think is the most interesting part here. The current setup is that there is a 3:1 ratio on the license, 3 users can be assigned to one license, but you can only use one license/machine at the time. And this is where the confusion begins since it’s positioned to be for shift workers BUT there are no integrations towards any scheduling system for license handling at this point. But this is only the beginning of the frontline user story for Windows 365!

Let’s pretend you have a scenario where your users work shifts to cover the day. The number of shifts you have during the day doesn’t really matter in this sense. What is important is the number of concurrent users you have, you need to make sure that you can cover the number of users who are active at the same time, and the same license can be shared over different departments.

The licens is, like Windows 365 and Microsoft 365 licenses, assigned on a tenant level. Which means; if you have as many licenses as you will have concurrent users you are good to go. You never assign a specific “third” of a license to a user, you don’t even assign the license. You just say that “this group is eligible to use the frontline worker setup” in your provisioning policy, which is a lot different from the Enterprise setup.

This could however of course mean that you have “more” licenses than you need since it might not add up perfectly. But given that you have the license on a tenant level, this means you can share your licenses over several scenarios/teams. But as of right now, this is what it looks like and it’s still in preview.

Image: Microsoft

One important thing with Windows 365 Frontline workers though, we still don’t know what the license cost for this will as of writing this. As GA is set to around June 2023 according to the Microsoft public roadmap, this will be clearer in the coming months.

The second thing around Windows 365 Frontline to remember is that this is not a “Windows 365 version of AVD Multisession”, this is pooled licenses where end-users get their own, personal Cloud PC, not a shared host like multisession. So, the end-users will get a full Cloud PC, it will just not be available for them 24/7 as with the Enterprise version.

In an upcoming blog post, we will dig deeper into how you configure this in your environment, and what the user experience is like!

In the meantime, you can read more about Windows 365 Frontline in the Microsoft release which you can find here.

Categories
Windows 365

Custom name for Cloud PC

Giving computers custom names is something which is somewhat of a hot potato. We have been doing it for years, and I’ve even blogged about it previously (olastrom.com – Naming conventions). It’s something which is important for some, but from an asset perspective it has kind of played out its role since it is not persistent.

However, one thing that has been a really important thing for some, has been the possibility to configure the naming convention for Windows 365 Cloud PCs which has not been possible. Until now!

With the update in the end of March 2023, this is now doable. It follows the same pattern as the naming convention for Windows Autopilot enrolled devices. You can set a prefix followed by variables. For Cloud PCs, these are a bit different, but follow the same idea.

As you can see by the picture, the name can be between 5 and 15 characters and can include some additional characters except for numbers and letters. The computer name MUST include at least 5 random characters using %RAND:y% where y is the number of random alphanumeric characters. I can however leave out the username and only use random characters.

Configure Cloud PC naming

To configure Cloud PC naming, you can either create a new provisioning policy or change an already existing one. In this example, I will change one of my existing policies. This new setting is by default off in all existing policies and you will need to actively set this for new policies.

Head into Microsoft Intune (intune.microsoft.com) and navigate to Devices > Windows 365 and select the Provisioning Policies tab.

Either select “+ Create policy” or modify an existing policy. I’ve chosen to update my existing policy for my Swedish users. When you get to the “Configuration” step in the policy, you can enable the Cloud PC naming by checking the check-box. It will then display the option to enter a custom name.

As you can see by my example, I’ve chosen to set the policy to give my Cloud PC a name which is CPC followed by five random alphanumeric characters followed by SWE. So, the name could end up being CPC-ABC12-SWE.

Conclusion

“With great power comes great responsibility”. Use naming wisely. To be honest, for Cloud PC naming makes slightly more sense since we don’t have serial numbers or such as an identified. However, naming will change once re-deployed since we have a random part of the name if is enforced. But with this function we can adapt it to fit with the rest of our naming conventions a bit more. You could even just set the same as for all other PCs (except you will get alphanumeric and not numeric random characters).

Categories
Windows 365

Why would you use a Cloud PC?

I’ve been reading a lot of posts lately about the “why” around Cloud PC, why and when you would use a Cloud PC and what the scenarios could be. This inspired me a bit!

The way we often see virtual computers is that “yeah they are great, but this is way too complex for us” or the more common one “we triend that 5 years ago, we won’t go down that route again”.

My idea for this post is to talk a little bit about why you should move to Windows 365 for the bulk of your users and use AVD for those niche implementations where Windows 365 can’t really fulfill your needs today.

Why would you work from a Cloud PC?

Image that you are like me, a consultant, who collaborates with several different customers who all have their own environment. Or maybe you have taken the decision to support Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), which would be a similar scenario for consultants.

When I talk to customers and other people about Windows 365, we often discuss two scenarios:

  • Consultants/part time workers,
  • Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A).

The first one is way more common to be honest since most organisations today have at least some consultants in their team.

If you look at a consultant, they usually work for some kind of company which provides them with a computer which they take with them everywhere they go (I know I do). Since they already have a computer, why give them yet another one to fill their backpack with? Why not use a Cloud PC which they can access from a device of their choice, which you can configure in such a way that information cannot leave the Cloud PC.

Using a Cloud PC, you can give a consultant or employee access to the internal network without them having to install anything on their, by your company, unmanaged device. The device they will work from will be fully managed and you can be sure that you have done everything in your power that you have secured your data.

Working from a Cloud PC isn’t that different from using a physical, since all we do today requires an internet connection anyway. Sure, you get reliant on always having an internet connection (until Windows 365 introduces the offline mode). But let’s face it, we are already reliant on that for collaborating in our daily work, I’m myself never offline unless basically traveling on an airplane.

Environmental impact

There is also another aspect of this, which we might not always talk about, but I find interesting. It’s the fact that getting new computers has a significant impact on the environment, and getting hold of hardware isn’t always that easy nowadays (long lead times).

Using Windows 365 has some environmental benefits compared to physical computers. Firstly, it reduces the amount of energy, water, and resources needed to produce and dispose of physical hardware. Secondly, it optimizes the use of computing resources and reduces energy consumption, which lowers the associated carbon emissions.

However, using virtual desktops needs a reliable internet connection and raises concerns about data privacy and security. Overall, while the environmental impact of using Windows 365 compared to physical computers is complex, cloud-based computing services can reduce the need for physical hardware and use computing resources more efficiently, thus benefiting the environment.

The fact that we can run Cloud PCs on any hardware, this also means that older hardware can be used longer (but be careful using Windows 10 after 14 of October 2025 since it will no longer get patched). There are many ways of making use of older hardware without needing to install Windows on them even. IgelOS is an awesome example of this, and there are many other products like them!

The takeaway

So, what do I think you should take away from this blog post?

Firstly, I think you should seriously consider STOP giving your consultants PCs and have them use Cloud PCs instead. This will save you time and money since you will not have to source computers for them, and it’s not too uncommon that we provide consultants with older hardware which might have reached the end of its lifecycle and might not be too reliant anymore.

There are great examples of this, such as the Swedish manufacturing company Alleima who in a Microsoft customer case describes how they look at this. There is also another Swedish example with the energy company Kraftringen who also went down the same path with using Windows 365 for temporary workers.

Secondly, let’s face it. The consultant already has one computer which they bring wherever they go. Why give them yet another computer they need to fit into their already filled up backpack? And when the assignment is over, you have the hassle of getting that computer back, especially if you have used resources which are not local to your area. Then it needs to be shipped or a visit to the office planned and coordinated.

Using a Cloud PC, you can have a consultant up and running within a few hours, without having to get any kind of hardware to them!

But as always, there are of course instances where a physical machine is required, but I would say that you could solve the consultant situation 80-90% of the time! 😊

Categories
Windows 365

Running Hyper-V on a Cloud PC

This is the second version of this post, since the original one got lost in a recovery since my blog went down.

One thing that many IT pros tend to use a lot is virtual machines in e.g., Hyper-V, for testing or running different things. That is also one excellent advantage of having a physical computer, that possibility to run multiple virtual machines (VM) locally. However, what if you use a Cloud PC and want to run local VMs?

This has been possible since a while back if you were running the fancier SKUs of Windows 365 (the 8 vCPU one), but that is also combined with a higher cost. You could enable the hypervisor on the Cloud PC and run Hyper-V.

However, since February you can run Hyper-V on one of the “lower” SKUs of Windows 365, the 4 vCPU version. This is a fantastic addition to the value Windows 365 brings, since you don’t have to get the fanciest version, you can stick to a more resonable machine.

Enabling Hyper-V

Enabling Hyper-V on a Cloud PC isn’t much different from a physical client. You need to have local admin privileges on the machine, either through given rights or a secondary account. Then search the start menu for “Turn Windows features on or off” and open the dialogue.

Look for Hyper-V in the list of features, select it and then press OK to close the dialogue.

Once you have done this, you will be asked to restart your machine to enable the new Windows features. So go ahead and restart the machine directly or do it later if you need to save any work you have open.

If you want to learn more about the different ways you can enable Hyper-V, check this Microsoft article out, since there are other ways than clicking through the interface Enable Hyper-V on Windows 10 | Microsoft Learn.

Run Hyper-V on your Cloud PC

Just like with any other computer, once the Hyper-V feature has been enabled and you have restarted your machine, you can now go ahead and start the Hyper-V Manager. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to start Hyper-V in an elevated context, otherwise you will not be able to connect to your local machine as a server.

From here you can create your virtual machines using either your own image or using the quick create feature. So, this is nothing different from running Hyper-V on a physical client!

Conclusion

Having the opportunity to utilize Hyper-V, or other types of local virtual machines, can be a crucial feature for many IT Pros. Looking at how Windows 365 is being adopted at least on the Swedish market, we see a lot of consultants and temporary workers using this as their “customer computer”. Since you could now use Hyper-V on even that computer, this means that you no longer need to rely on having test environments on your local machine, opening the possibility to work from more types of devices while still being able to perform task from a more powerful computer.

For me, working as a consultant and mostly utilizing Cloud PCs when working with my customers, this opens new possibilities to run tests in the customers environment in a much simpler way.

Categories
Intune Windows 365

Can we build a Windows 365 kiosk for shared use?

Once every now and then you get one of those weird and maybe a bad ideas and ask yourself:

What if I have a Windows 10 computer which cannot run Windows 11, but I really want to run Windows 11 on it in a supported way?

That was what I asked myself when realizing my old Surface Laptop (first generation) does not support Windows 11.

Putting this in maybe a more real-life like scenario “we have some old hardware and Windows 365. We want to keep using the hardware for a few more years but run Windows 11” or something like that.

This gave me an idea. Can we create a kiosk that runs the Windows 365 app only on a managed Windows 10 computer? And to make it more special, let’s make it as a shared device so that I get MY Cloud PC and you get YOUR Cloud PC! 😊

Since Windows 365 Boot is not coming to Windows 10, we need another solution. This solution could be using kiosk mode and shared mode for Windows.

Pre-reqs

What do we need for this to work?

  • Intune managed Windows 10 computer
  • Computer registered for Windows Autopilot
  • Self-deploying deployment profile for Windows Autopilot
  • Shared device policy
  • Windows 365 license of some sort
  • All other licenses required to use Intune
  • The Remote Desktop application installed on a device
  • An Azure AD group containing out kiosk PCs

And that is about it.

My thought is to use the old school ShellLauncher method for this, not the fancy assigned app setup since we can make this more dynamic if we want to re-purpose this for another application. This means that we could also use Win32 applications and not only UWP apps.

Using the ShellLauncher method in Intune has gotten really easy, it’s just one custom policy and we are set.

Creating the ShellLauncher script

When looking around for a good source, and inspiration, for this setup I came across this post by Michael Niehaus which is really good and even provides a sample script we can use (why re-invent the wheel?).

Using the script example in the blog above, I came up with this script which you can download from my Github repo.

Basically, what you need to update, is the <Shell> section of this part to the path for your application (Win32) or the AUMID (UWP). In this case, the Windows 365 app for Windows 10 which is a UWP app (as stated in the V2:AppType attribute).

If the remote desktop session is closed, the application will restart.

Creating the ShellLauncher policy

For this, we need to create a custom policy in Intune.

First step is to go to Intune (https://endpoint.microsoft.com) and navigate to Devices > Windows > Configuration profiles and select “+ Create profile“. Select Windows 10 and later as platform, Template as profile type and then the Custom template.

Next, we will give our profile a good name so that we know what the profile does. This should be based on your name standard and naming convention for policies. Then hit next at the bottom of the window.

On the “Configuration settings” tab, select “Add” and give the configuration a name (e.g., ShellLauncher V2). As OMA-URI, enter:

./Device/Vendor/MSFT/AssignedAccess/ShellLauncher 

As data type, select “String (XML file)” and upload your XML file. When this is completed, press Save at the bottom of the screen.

You will now see that your setting has been added as a row to this configuration setting and you can press Next at the bottom of the screen.

On the Assignment tab, select the group where you have put you targeted kiosk devices and press Next at the bottom of the screen.

You can skip the “Applicability rules” tab and jump straight to the “Review + create” tab to view a summary of your configuration.

Once you have reviewed your settings, you can press Create and your profile will be created.

Shared device policy

The other profile we need to create is a profile for Shared device. This is done by going to Devices > Windows > Configuration profiles and select “+ Create profile“. Select “Windows 10 and later” as platform, “Templates” as Profile type and find and select “Shared multi-user device” and click create.

Give your profile a name, I will call mine “Win365 Shared Kiosk“. When you have given your profile a name, press next.

On the Configuration settings tab, enable the Shared PC mode and add the settings you need based on your requirements. I will use Domain as Guest account type to ensure that only users from my organization will be allowed to sign in. I will also add some additional settings as you can see from the screen. When you have added your settings, hit next.

Assign your policy to the group you created and used for the ShellLauncher policy and press next.

On the last step, review your settings and click create!

Self-deploying enrollment profile

To have this as a zero-touch installation, which would require zero input from an IT person, we can use the self-deploying deployment profile in Windows Autopilot, which means that we need to create a new profile.

In Intune, head to Devices > Windows > Windows Enrollment > Deployment profiles and select “+ Create profile” and select Windows PC.

First step is as always to give you profile a name, I will call mine “Self deployed Kiosk” and then press next.

On the next tab, select “Self-Deploying (preview)” as Deployment mode. You will then see that almost all fields are grayed out. You can leave all values as default, or choose to change the Language, if keyboard should be automatically configured and if a name template should be used.

Notice: If you are to use this on a virtual machine, you will need to use the user-driver deployment mode since self-deploying requires physical hardware.

For this demo, I will leave everything set to default and press next.

The next step is to set assignments, we will select the Azure AD group we created for the policy for this, but you could also use another group. The important part is that the device is in this group.

Press next and you will end up on the review + create tab where you can review your settings before pressing create.

Once the profile is created, it will take around 15 minutes or so for the enrollment profile to be applied to your device, given that it’s not already included in another active assignment. If that is the case, you need to either add an exclusion group or remove it from the other group before the profile will be assigned.

If you navigate to Devices > Windows > Windows Enrollment > Devices you can look at your device and make sure the correct enrollment profile is assigned.

Deploying our kiosk

This is where the fun begins. Let’s deploy our kiosk to our device!

My device needed to be reset, since it’s already managed by Intune, I can simply just use the wipe command and the device will reset. Since I’ve already added it to the target group for my deployment profile, the enrollment will kick off automatically once the device has been reset. However, if you are connecting using Wi-Fi, you will need to select region, keyboard and Wi-Fi network.

Once the Windows Autopilot enrollment process has completed, my Windows 365 kiosk device is ready, and I can now only run the Windows 365 app on my device.

NOTICE!

There is a big flaw in this design at the moment, and that is the fact that we cannot deploy the W365 application during the ESP at this stage, this means that we need to ensure that the application is installed BEFORE we apply the kiosk profile. If and when we can install the application from the “new store” during ESP, this will not be an issue.

This means that we currently need to wait until the W365 app has been deployed before we assign our kiosk profile.

Additional reading:

Awesome post by a fellow W365 MVP Dominiek: Windows 11 Kiosk With The Windows 365 App – techlab.blog

Post by Michael Niehaus how to create a kiosk using ShellLauncher: Creating a kiosk or digital sign using Windows Autopilot, Intune, and Edge (Chromium) – Out of Office Hours (oofhours.com)

Categories
Windows 365

Deploying Cloud PCs in different regions

Windows 365 and Cloud PCs are as you know PCs running in Azure somewhere. But what if you want to control this “somewhere” and pinpoint the region they are running in? You might have noticed that spinning up a Cloud PC in e.g., Western Europe gives you Google and all web-based things in Dutch. This isn’t too convenient for the end-users who doesn’t speak Dutch. So, let’s try to address that and give a more “local” experience.

I’m thinking of putting users in a Windows 365 region as close as possible to them, hopefully even within the same country. And to top it off, let’s provide them with a Windows experience in their local language, just for the sake of it.

How can we achieve this?

Well, we need two things, we need a provisioning profile per country and an Azure AD group which has been populated with users for each country. The region selected in the network for Windows 365 decides in which region the Cloud PC is hosted.

Setting up Azure AD groups

There are as many ways to do this as there are IT pros, but I decided to make this easy and just look at three things for my groups, attributes that I know all my users have.

What I decided to look at is that:

  • The account is enabled
  • Usage location for the user is set to Sweden
  • And the country for the user is set to Sweden

That got me the following query for my dynamic group.

(user.accountEnabled -eq True) and (user.usageLocation -eq "SE") and (user. Country -eq "Sweden")

To create a new group, head to Groups in the Intune portal and create a new group by pressing “New group“.

Give your group a name, in my case I’ve called it “All users Sweden” since we will gather all Swedish users in this group. Also make sure to set “Membership type” to Dynamic User so that we can create a query to automatically populate the group based on user attributes.

Add your query to your group by pressing “Add dynamic query” and enter your rule. You can take my example and modify it if you like, copy the rule syntax above and press “Edit” on the rule syntax windows and paste it there. This will populate the fields for you, and you can modify them to suit your needs. Or create your own! Keep in mind that the usage location uses the two-letter country code e.g., Sweden is SE, Norway is NO, Netherlands is NL, USA is US.

Press Save when you have created, and validated, your rule and press Create.

We have now successfully created a dynamic group which will be populated with all active accounts which has their country and usage location set to Sweden.

Creating provisioning policies

Now that we have our groups, we want to put them to effective use. Let’s head into the Windows 365 pane in Microsoft Intune by navigating to Devices > Windows 365 and selecting the “Provisioning policies” tab. To create a new policy, click the “+ Create policy” button on the ribbon.

First off, as always, we will give our policy a name, in my case I’m giving it a name indicating that this is a Windows 11 image, Azure AD joined and running on Microsoft hosted network. And this is for my Swedish users.

The next step is to select what kind of join type you will use and which network. In this example, I will use Azure AD join and using the Microsoft hosted network. The dreadful thing about using Sweden as an example here is that we don’t have Windows 365 in Sweden Central, so we will use the next best thing. Norway East!

You can do this for Azure v-nets, but then you need to set the region stuff when setting up the Azure v-net. There is a limit to the amount of how many Azure Network Connections (ANC) you can define per tenant, you can find out more here. If you know that you have multiple locations and want to put the service as close as possible to the end-user, it’s much easier to use the Microsoft hosted network.

The next step is to select an image, I will go with a gallery Windows 11 image since this will reduce the amount of maintenance I need to do since Microsoft is curating the image. Press next when you have selected your image.

Next, we will configure language and region settings. Like I said, the ambition here is to provide the Windows 365 experience in the user’s local language. So, for this I will select Swedish for this policy.

In this section, you can also choose to opt-in to Windows Autopatch straight away if you have this enabled in your tenant. If you do not wish to do so, just leave it to the default value. But since I have it activated in my tenant, I will add this as well and then press next.

The next step is to assign this policy to our group created in the first part. If you wish, you can add multiple groups to the same provisioning profile. But I only have one which will be used for this one, so I will select my group with all Swedish users and press next.

Final step is to review the settings we have selected and then press “Create“.

Conclusion

Now when a Windows 365 license is assigned to a user, their Cloud PC will be provisioned in the region based on which provisioning policy they are assigned to using our dynamic Azure AD group.

The groups don’t need to be dynamic and you could just as easily accomplish this using assigned groups. Also, you could utilize this setup to also include e.g., your developers who need access to a specific Azure v-net for example. In this case you would have provisioning profiles connected to those networks instead of the Microsoft hosted network, giving those users access to that network.

Categories
Intune Windows 365

Ignite 2022 – live in Seattle!

So, 2022 was the year Microsoft Ignite was FINALLY a physical event again, and for the first time on Microsoft home turf in Seattle.

Being an ex-Microsoft FTE, this gave me major flashbacks to TechReady, which was an internal training event Microsoft used to host in Seattle. Same location as Ignite, just no hilarious videos with Norm Judah encouraging everyone to fill out the evaluations.

Ignite was different this year since it’s a hybrid event, and the first big such for Microsoft which means that they are still trying out the concept.

Overall, I had a lot of fun. For me, meeting up with peers and having the time to focus on the content is important, if sessions are digital or physical doesn’t really matter. Some sessions made more sense virtually. But in-person sessions are usually the best, and you could really tell that people wanted this. Especially the big keynotes are always more fun in-person.

But I was missing the expo where you can meet vendors or just mingle with Microsoft people, there wasn’t really any space for this, except for an awesome Surface expo.

However, the width that the “old” Ignite had was missing and the break-down sessions were missing. The feeling was that this hybrid thing was more focused on people attending remote, and people on site were more the live audience.

There was a lot of news and I’ve picked out the ones I found most interesting.

Windows

Just before Ignite kicked off, there was a Surface event where some news around Windows 11 was released. Check it out here:

Introducing new Surface devices that take the Windows PC into the next era of computing | Microsoft Devices Blog

If you want to read more about all the Windows 365 news, check this out: What’s new in Windows 365: Microsoft Ignite 2022 edition – Microsoft Community Hub

Microsoft 365 and Windows 365 in the Metaverse

This was released a few days prior to Microsoft Ignite, but Microsoft 365 and Windows 365 will be supported on Meta Quest devices, providing a new kind of experience for productivity in the Metaverse.

This means that you will be able to run a fully supported productivity setup in the Metaverse with e.g., Microsoft Teams and Windows 365. Windows 365 is not yet released for Metaverse, but this indicates strongly which direction VR is heading now.

On top of Microsoft 365 apps being supported, you will also be able to manage the Meta Quest and Meta Quest 2 using Azure Active Directory and Microsoft Intune, which would provide IT admins with a whole new option of what a PC or workstation is for their end-users. You can read more on this blogpost by Microsoft: Microsoft and Meta partner to deliver immersive experiences for the future of work and play – The Official Microsoft Blog

The new Windows 365 app (preview)

The Remote Desktop app has for long been the go-to application for your VDIs, but now for Windows 365 you can use the brand-new Windows 365 app which is now in public preview. This app aligns more with the Windows 365 features found on the web portal but with the advantages of the desktop app! Read more here:

Experience the Windows 365 app: public preview available now – Microsoft Community Hub

Organizational messages

Getting messages out to end-users is always a struggle within IT. There is a new feature for Windows 11 where you can send organizational messages, natively in Windows, to your users instead of sending them email using Microsoft Intune coming in November to Windows 11 22h2. Read more here:

Deliver organizational messages with Windows 11 and Microsoft Intune – Microsoft Community Hub

Microsoft Intune

No more MEM…

The brand Microsoft Endpoint Manager or MEM is going away. The new product-family name will be Microsoft Intune where a bunch of things will be included, Configuration Manager amongst others. You can read more about the anoncment here:

Introducing the Microsoft Intune product family – Microsoft Community Hub

Add-ons for Microsoft Intune

Add-ons for Microsoft Intune is obviously here to stay, and it’s also growing bigger than just Remote Help which has been an add-on for a while now.

Out of the list of new add-ons coming, what caught my eye especially was these two which I think will solve a lot of headaches for a lot of IT admins.

You can read more here about all new add-ons:

Reduce your overall TCO with a new Microsoft Intune plan – Microsoft Community Hub

Endpoint privilege management in preview

Enabling local admin for users on a temporary basis has been a struggle with Intune managed devices. Old solutions relying on attributes in the on-premises AD do not work and there aren’t really any “best practices” established around this yet.

However, Microsoft is looking to solve this with the Endpoint Privilege Management which is in public preview. Read more in the link above.

Automated app patching as add-on

Keeping applications up to date is something that many stuggles with, and there are products around to solve that. Now Microsoft are throwing themselves into this game as well, which makes a lot of sense. This is just briefly mentioned in the “Further value and looking forward” part of the article, but if they are able to deliver on a native Microsoft Intune feature for this, that would simplify things a lot!

Categories
Windows 365

Cloud PC licensing and where to start

This is a topic that keeps on coming back when you start to talk about Windows 365 and Cloud PCs.

“This sounds really cool, but there are sooooo many licenses to choose from. Which one should I get?”

The answer is just as hard as the question. It depends.

It depends mostly on what your users will use their Cloud PCs for, and what you consider to be a fair machine to provide your users with.

Licenses are rarely someone’s favorite subject (I know there are some people who do favorite it thought), but for Windows 365 it’s really simple and straight forward and this is something you as an admin should care about.

Different sizes

Licenses is what defines how powerful your Cloud PC will be, meaning how many vCPUs, how much RAM and how many Gb of storage you will get. Licenses for Cloud PCs are also subscription based, billed on a monthly basis (this could vary depending on your agreements), meaning that you can easily adjust your volumes.

There are a few different ways to look at this, but the image below is a pretty good pointer in when to use what. Like the example below states, you could classify this into three categories:

  • Basic
  • Standard
  • Premium

Depending on what your users workloads are, you can quite easily find a good place to start using this simple matrix.

Windows 365 enterprise plans and pricing | Microsoft

If you want to expand even further, there are a lot more variations available than just those three. There are today 11 different licenses available for Cloud PCs today, divided into 4 different vCPU and RAM categories, where storage adds the variation. Depending on your vCPU and RAM configuration you can select between 64 Gb up to 512 Gb storage.

Windows 365 Plans and Pricing | Microsoft

But where do I start?

Going back to the initial question, what licenses should you get?

I kind of have to stick to my initial statement, “it depends“, because this really comes down to what these machines will be used for. If you are looking at users running mostly productivity and Line of Business (LOB) applications, the 4vCPU/8Gb RAM/128 Gb storage is a pretty sweet deal. Since most of us today are using OneDrive, local storage isn’t that important anymore for many users on a Cloud PC and this license is usually where I recommend many to start since it would fill the basic needs of their user base.

The 4 vCPUs and 8 Gb of RAM will provide you with a great user experience and wont at the same time cost you are fortune. The step-up from this license is the 8 vCPU with 16 Gb RAM if you need a more powerful machine running heavier workloads.

If this size is to small or big, you can always scale up or down using the resize feature (which I’ve written about in this post).

But what about diskspace? To be honest, this is probably the least of your concerns, the performance with RAM and CPUs are more important. Local storage is not to important in a world where most documents are stored in OneDrive or SharePoint, that leaves diskspace to be used by applications. For most scenarios you wont need more than 128 Gb disk, bit of course there are always use cases where local storage is key. But diskspace is like all the other parts, it can be expanded. HOWEVER, you cannot decrease diskspace. This means that you can move from 128 Gb disk to 512 Gb, but not the other way around. This is an important thing to keep in mind!

Final thoughts

The most important part is to get started somewhere if you want to utilize the awesome benefits that Cloud PC brings, and you can always adjust along the way!

I hope this gave some kind of pointers in where to start!

Categories
Windows 365

Alerts in Windows 365

Monitoring is an important part of all IT operations, and knowing when something fails is crucial. Also knowing before end-users starts calling is even better!

Microsoft has released a new feature in Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center (MEM) which could help with this called Alerts, which is currently in public preview for Windows 365 features.

With Alerts you can setup notifications, both in the MEM admin center but also through email. This would allow you to get the information and take action as soon as something happens.

There are today three types of alerts you can configure:

  • Azure network connection failure
  • Upload failure for custom images
  • Provisioning failure impacting Cloud PCs

Set up your alerts

Setting up your alerts are really simple. Start by browsing to the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center (https://endpoint.microsoft.com).

Then navigate to Tenant Administration > Alerts (Preview) > Alert rules. This is where you will see available alerts, configure and enable them.

Click the alert rule you want to configure, in this case we will configure the “Provisioning failure impacting Cloud PCs” alert.

You have three sections to configure: Conditions, Settings and, Notifications.

Under Conditions you can specify how many events need to happen before an alert is triggered. For this alert we can either choose a number of Cloud PCs or a percentage of Cloud PC needs to fail before we get an alert. I would consider the suggested setting in this case to be good, since I want to know if one or more Cloud PCs fail.

Next part is Settings where we need to select the severity of the alert and the status of the alert. Microsofts recomendation is to clasify this as critical, which sounds like a good setting and we will set the status to On since we want to enable this alert.

Last and final part is the notifications, if you want to get a notification in the portal and by email. By enabling “Portal pop-up” a notification will show up in the portal if a provisioning fails.

The email part is for where an email notification should be sent. You can add multiple recipients, and I’ve added my Service Desk email adress in this instance, since I want them to get the information. This could also be set to an administrator or the operations team for Cloud PCs, that totally up to you!

After doing all our settings, click “Apply” at the bottom of the screen and your rule will be enabled.

You can at any time easily turn on or off an alert rule by checking the check-box next to it and use the “On” and “Off” buttons.

And now you just need to sit and wait for the alerts to hopefully never show up!

Since making the Cloud PC provisioning isn’t something I’ve figured out how to do on command, I’m not able to do on command I don’t have any screenshots of the alerts.

If you want to see some screen shots of this, I suggest you head over to my fellow MVP Morten Pedholts blog, who actually got a machine to fail in provisioning.

Final thoughts

Alerts in MEM has great potential, and I can really see this expanding going forward to other things than just Windows 365 and the three alerts we are limited to today. Really looking forward to see how this feature will evolve!

Categories
Windows 365

Cloud PCs and the Impossible travel

Once upon a time, in a data center far far away….

Here is something I learned the hard way in my own tenant. Windows 365 kind of messes with your account security if you are consuming Microsoft 365 services from another device than your cloud PC. Especially if you live in a country like Sweden where the Windows 365 service is yet not available in Sweden Central. Further more, it seams to only affect you the first few times you sign in, before the algorithms learn your behavior.

What happened to me was that Identity Protection and user risk blocked me out from my Cloud PC, since I had defined it to block if user risk was too high and not password change.

It took me a while to just realize what had happened, and how to get around it (since Identity Protection is not an area I’m to familiar with).

Why is that?

Well, there is something called “Impossible travel” or atypical travel which is used to assess the risk of your account being compromised, which means that it’s very unlikely that you would travel from let’s say Stockholm to Amsterdam within a few seconds. This is a very good thing to have in place since it will increase the security of your accounts a lot!

This feature is a part of the Identity Protection part of the Azure AD (which requires a Azure AD P2 license), and can help you identify and take action on risky sign-ins performed by users, or detect if their credentials has been stolen.

There are two key parts of this, Sign-in risk and User risk, and you can control what happens if a user does not live up to the expected level. And of course, Multifactor Authentication (MFA), plays a key role.

Conclusion

I’m not going to dig deep into this at all, just sharing an observation basically. If you want to read more about Identity Protection, I really recommend you having a look at the Microsoft Learn documentation, it provides a good overview.

Like I stated in the beginning of my post, this was something I noticed in my lab, but I’ve not seen it in the wild so far in any production environment. For my environment, I solved it by dismissing the risk for my user which eventually allowed me to sign in.

I’ve spent a good amount of time trying to reproduce this sign-in block, but I haven’t been able to yet.

Have you seen something like this with Cloud PCs?