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Amazon WorkSpaces, What’s in it for you?

Amazon WorkSpaces is an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) tool that allows a business to provide users a remote, virtual desktop. The user experience is equivalent to having logged into their own (work) computer to access applications, services, and documents. With Amazon Workspaces, a user’s work environment is isolated within the virtual environment, but can still be accessed through a BYOD model. Using Amazon WorkSpaces removes the complexity, high cost, and security vulnerabilities of managing an on-premises system, such as a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution as AWS manages the DaaS infrastructure and service.

How do you use an  Amazon Workspace? 

Amazon WorkSpaces is managed by your company IT team via the AWS Management Console. A WorkSpaces bundle is assigned to each user by an IT administrator.  The WorkSpaces bundle defines the resources – application, compute, and storage – that are available to an end-user. Once the user’s WorkSpaces bundle is defined and assign, the user uses the client application to connect with any supported devices, which could be a laptop, desktop, or tablet. 

What are the Major Benefits of Amazon Workspaces

1)Simplify Desktop Delivery

I have personally, and repeatedly, experienced the 1-month wait when “working” with a new company while a dedicated laptop was delivered and then configured to work with a company’s system.  While a company could still require a dedicated piece of hardware for work activities, Amazon WorkSpaces simplifies and accelerates provisioning, deploying, maintaining, and recycling desktops and that translates to less work for IT and faster onboarding. The SaaS model removes the need for managing a complex virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployment. As Amazon WorkSpaces support the BYOD model of deployment, it can also reduce hardware management concerns.

2) Reduce Hardware Costs

As long as your company is willing to employ a BYOD model to run Amazon WorkSpaces, you can remove the need to invest in desktops and laptops for employees and contractors. Because the Amazon WorkSpace solution is cloud-based, desktops can provide a customizable set of compute, memory, and storage resources to specifically meet your users’ performance needs.  Changing the performance of allocated resources is no longer a matter of upgrading hardware, but rather simply a matter of updating the WorkSpaces bundle configuration.

3) Keep Data Secure

We’ve all heard stories of hardware with proprietary data being confiscated at border control or simply stolen. Because no user data persists on the user’s device, the risk surface area is greatly reduced. Amazon also applies its standard and robust security practices to Amazon WorkSpaces.  A WorkSpace is deployed within an Amazon Virtual Private Network (VPC) to start.  User data is stored on persistent, encrypted AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes. The service also integrates with AWS Key Management Service (KMS) to allow admins to manage encryption keys. The service further supports an Active Directory integration and the use of AWS Identity and Access Management and multi-factor authentication.

4)Consolidate your worldwide desktop management 

If your company has a global presence, the ability to access Amazon WorkSpaces in any of AWS Regions may provide great value. WorkSpaces supports the management of thousands of high-performance cloud desktops on a global scale. The benefits here include not just the toil of setting up and deleting worker desktops in an international setting, but also the very real issues of hardware management.  The speed at which Amazon WorkSpaces desktops can be provisioned, reconfigured, and deprovisioned adds agility and speed to a company’s ability to respond to changing business needs.

What are the major downsides of Amazon Workspaces?

As with all tools, it is important that the functionality of Amazon Workspaces maps appropriately to your use case. 

5)Internet connectivity required

As a cloud (SaaS) service, the ability to connect to the Amazon Workspaces desktop will require access to a reliable internet connection.  Many of the benefits of being able to connect to performant remote resources are negated if the end-user starts downloading data locally to manage poor network performance.  Storing and using proprietary data on a physical device also affects the security benefits of keeping all business information on the remote WorkSpace.

6)What about VDI?

The Virtual Desktop Infrastructure model has long been the traditional way to run virtual desktops.  Because these systems are built on a central server and managed in-house, there is, potentially, an added level of security and control. However, an internal system lays the responsibility for hardware and software issues on the IT team running the system – and requires an internal IT team to run the system! Although Gartner predicted a substantial shift from VDI to DaaS back in 2016, this has not happened as predicted.  The reason likely being the typically monthly per-user cost of DaaS solutions.  Deciding on the financial viability of a DaaS vs VDI will depend on your specific use case.

Conclusion

Even with the slower than expected shift from VDI to DaaS solutions like Amazon WorkSpaces, the changes wrought on businesses and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic have radically changed many business landscapes.  The accelerating and likely increasingly permanent, trend toward distributed workforces gives a DaaS solution an edge over an in-house VDI solution.  The ability to rapidly onboard and adjust access to resources that Amazon WorkSpaces provides increasingly maps to the use cases that company’s currently find themselves facing. The combination of BYOD convenience, rapid onboarding, resource allocation controls, and high security all point to Amazon WorkSpaces having a bright and increasingly important future in the modern business environment.