Cloud Vendors Offering Assistance During COVID-19

Joe Grinstead - VP of Technology & Cloud Managed Services
Apr 06, 2020

A couple weeks ago, I published Ramping Up Telecommute Capacity. In that article, I mentioned that several cloud vendors were offering some incentives to organizations to help them take advantage of their services to support telecommuting and other changes to IT operations.

In this article, I’ll dive a bit deeper into what the “big three” cloud vendors are offering and discuss how they may fit into your response to current events and may fit well into your overall infrastructure strategy going forward.

COVID-19 is reinforcing that successful IT organizations must be highly agile and scalable with little to no notice. Cloud solutions are key to enabling this agility and scalability in a secure and budget friendly way. These offers give you a chance to bridge needs your organization has now to respond to current events and will also give you a chance to try out the technologies and see how they may fit in your organization going forward.

If you need assistance in exploring any of these services, Cornerstone Advisors is ready. Reach out to me!

Virtual Desktops and Application Virtualization

Organizations have been deploying virtual desktops and virtualizing applications with tools like Citrix, VMWare and Microsoft Terminal Services for quite a long time. These solutions let organizations deploy desktops that can be accessed virtually from almost anywhere from most any computer, tablet or mobile device. These virtual desktops let organizations give their users access to a full corporate desktop environment while also allowing security controls to be applied and keeping critical corporate data in the control of the corporation.

Classic, on-premises installations of virtual desktops and application virtualization require significant investment in servers, storage, software and human expertise to deploy an operate the environment. These are usually both capital and operating expense intensive and organizations must invest for “maximum” capacity to assure capacity for the busiest time periods, leaving significant capacity (and investment) sitting unused much of the time.

Cloud solutions offer a more on-demand, variable and scalable approach that minimizes capital outlay and allows operating expense to flex more dynamically with organizational need in the moment.

During COVID-19, Virtual Desktops and Application Virtualization can let more workers work from home without needing to procure and issue corporate devices. Workers can use personal home computers, tablets or mobile devices to access the virtual desktops.

AWS Workspaces is a managed, secure “Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS)” that lets organizations deploy virtual Windows desktops in the AWS cloud. Users can access and use these Windows desktops from almost any device they may have. Virtual desktops can be deployed using standard images that incorporate corporate security and control policies and tools. The desktops can be monitored and managed just like any computer desktop running in a department. Each desktop includes Microsoft Windows licensing, further reducing management overhead. Workspaces can be paid for at a fixed rate per user per month or by the hour depending on the expected utilization of the desktop.

Starting April 1st, AWS is offering WorkDocs to up to 50 users at no charge through June 30, 2020 for new customers. As part of this, they are bundling Amazon WorkDocs (see below) file storage with each Workspace.

Microsoft Azure Windows Virtual Desktop is a desktop and app virtualization service running on the Azure public cloud. For organizations already using Windows virtual desktops on-premises, this can be a simple way to extend virtual desktop capacity in a secure and scalable manner. Virtual desktops are fully functional Windows desktops and can be accessed by users from another Windows desktop (e.g. a home computer) as well as clients for Android, iOS and MacOS.

At present, I couldn’t find any sign of special offers from Microsoft on Azure Windows Virtual Desktop but I did not that this service is included under many other services customers may already own from Microsoft such as Office 365 and Windows 10.

Virtual Collaboration

Virtual collaboration tools enable workers to still collaborate with team members regardless of geography. The solutions here include virtual document collaboration (shared editing) as well as audio and video conferencing.

Amazon Chime is a pay-as-you-go communication service that includes audio and video conferencing as well as content sharing. It also includes chat capabilities.

Amazon is offering free use of Amazon Chime Pro from March 4 to June 30, 2020 for new customers.

Amazon WorkDocs provides secure collaboration on files that allows users to work together to create and share content.

Starting April 1st, AWS is offering WorkDocs to up to 50 users at no charge through June 30, 2020 for new customers.

Google Meet is a full featured meeting platform including voice and video conferencing as well as content sharing. One nice feature of Google Meet is that it works right within the Google Chrome browser without needing separate programs or downloads.

Google is extending advanced features to GSuite customers to allow for larger meetings and the ability to record meetings through July 1st.

Microsoft Teams combines content sharing and collaboration with audio and video conferencing. Teams is included for Office 365 users. All activities in Teams can be done within any modern browser.

Microsoft is offering several options or to enable free access to Teams for both organizations and individuals.

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