As news continues to mount regarding the COVID-19 virus, better known as the Coronavirus, organizations are determining ways to protect their employees by minimizing physical contact. One of the easiest ways to reduce contact is to allow employees to work from home. While at home, your employees will need the right collaborative tools and solutions to continue to be productive during these trying times.
Over the last few weeks, there has been tremendous interest around two solutions specifically: Azure Virtual Desktop and Microsoft Teams. In this blog post, I will detail the reasons for the increased focus on these solutions.
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Azure Virtual Desktop
The driver here is an obvious one: as organizations decide to reduce physical interaction and allow employees to work from home, the first thing they will need is a reliable, secure desktop environment that is up to date and can capable of providing the applications users need to be productive.
Last June, I provided a blog post that outlined the basics of AVD that you can view here. AVD was made generally available in December 2019 and is a game-changer in terms of cost savings compared to traditional VDI solutions, as well as the ease of setting up an environment that supports multi-session Windows 10, optimized for Office 365 ProPlus with persistent storage.
While RDS can help you deploy an application, Windows Virtual Desktop provides the OS and all the applications you need all in a service provided by Microsoft that drastically reduces the level of effort to maintain.
By leveraging Azure Virtual Desktop, your IT Department can provide host pools of desktops, each with the specific compute and application groups that users will need. This also provides a smaller footprint of operating systems, settings, and applications that need to be managed and kept up to date. By leveraging Office 365 ProPlus, you ensure your productivity suite is always up to date as well.
As a bonus, with extended support for Windows 7 ending soon, you can access free extended security updates for your Windows 7 virtual desktop. This includes more support options for previous app versions while you transition to Windows 10.
In response to the current crisis, Planet Technologies has re-worked our standard engagement for WVD to a rapid deployment scenario that gets our customers supporting remote workers within days. This will provide remote users with the only multi-session Windows 10 desktop virtualized in the cloud that’s highly scalable, always up to date, and available on any device.
Microsoft Teams is the place to be for total Team Collaboration. It is a one-stop-shop for messaging, Chat, Presence, Video Chat, Remote Presentations, Remote Meetings, Document/File Sharing, and even a shared whiteboard. The current crisis has made the need for these tools greater than ever. Microsoft has been very supportive of the impact that COVID-19 is having on its customers and the drive towards remote workers. While there is a free version of Teams, many features are locked and only available in the paid version. Microsoft is offering a free six-month trial of the full version of Teams. This was announced by JP Courtois, Microsoft’s president of Microsoft global sales, in a blog post you can read here.
The free Teams trial is part of a new six-month Office 365 trial for enterprises (an “Office 365 E1 trial,” specifically), according to a Microsoft representative. It includes “full meetings, collaboration, and workflow capabilities,” Microsoft says.
Just like the WVD solution I mentioned above, Planet has re-worked our standard offerings to allow for Rapid Deployment of Teams in order to get this tool out to your remote workers for meetings and base functionality within days.
Of course, none of this matters if your users do not know how to use these tools. If anything, it will lead to remote user isolation and frustration. To that end, Planet Technologies is offering a streamlined version of the Evolve 365 platform called “Rapid Teams Deployment for Remote Learning.” This is a full suite of technology and human services focused on Teams-Only content. This learning track will enable your end-users to get up and running with their use of the Microsoft Teams!
I would be remiss if I left out some of the top talking points to ensure that you keep your environments secure. If you are not leveraging SSO and MFA, essential tools to ensure the right people are accessing your endpoints and services, this would be an excellent time to consider implementing these features.
Azure AD Identity Protection is another essential tool in your toolbox to prevent, among other things:
- Sign-ins from infected devices
- Impossible travel
- Sign-ins from unfamiliar locations
- Sign-in from risky IP addresses
Many of these solutions are packaged within the Microsoft EMS or Security suites. If you are unsure if you own these solutions or if you do but have not deployed them reach out.
Evolve 365 Customers
If you are a current Evolve 365 customer, I would highly recommend reaching out to your Trusted Advisor to start creating custom “Work from home” skill tracks and training programs to ensure that your users are familiar with the necessary tools and policies that enable them to stay productive while performing their work remotely. This has been a game-changer for many of our current customers looking to ready their newly found remote workforce.
If you are not a current Evolve customer, please reach out to your Planet representative to learn more. From the beginning of your Evolve 365 subscription, your Trusted Learning Advisor will work with you to customize and configure your learning portal and ensure that only relevant and meaningful content is displayed for your users. Once the site has been configured, they will work with you to help onboard and educate your users about Evolve 365.
If you have any questions about any of this please contact our Cloud Strategy team at firstname.lastname@example.org