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How to Setup Azure Virtual Desktop: A Step By Step Guide

Formerly known as Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), Microsoft rebranded to Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD). AVD is a cloud-based desktop virtualization service that allows end-users to access their desktop applications and data from anywhere.

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According to Microsoft, AVD "delivers a comprehensive desktop experience, complete with all the apps and data users need to be productive."

AVD can be used to virtualize both Windows and Linux-based desktops and apps. It is also a great way to provide remote access to employees, contractors, or students who need to work from outside the office without the need of expensive hardware (laptops or desktops) as the solution can be used with low-cost tablets, smartphones or thin clients. It captures everything with all the safety, security and compliance that a properly configured and monitored Azure tenant can offer. AVD also offers a good solution for organizations that want to provide access to legacy applications incompatible with newer operating systems.

This article will show you how to set up AVD in your Microsoft Azure account. We'll also provide a few tips on how to get the most out of the service.

Why is AVD better than RDS or Windows 365?

AVD is an excellent option for organizations that need to provide remote access to desktops, workspaces, and apps. It offers several advantages over traditional Remote Desktop Services (RDS) or Windows 365: 

  • AVD is cheaper than RDS. You only pay for the virtual machines (VMs) and storage you use. There is no need to purchase additional licenses for RDS or Windows Server. Also, from an infrastructure standpoint, you don't need RDS Gateways, RDS Licensing Server, or RDS Session Brokers.
  • AVD is more flexible than RDS. You can use your own VMs or create new ones. You're not limited to using only pre-configured images.
  • AVD integrates with Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), making managing user accounts and permissions easy.
  • AVD supports enterprise multi-session Windows 10 and Windows 11 VMs. This means users can have their virtual desktop with their apps and data in the latest and greatest user experience.
  • AVD offers high-definition graphics and sound. This is ideal for users who need to access resource-intensive applications, such as AutoCAD, Photoshop, or Microsoft Teams.
  • AVD is fully optimized for Microsoft 365, One Drive for Business, and Microsoft Teams with support and optimization for audio and video calls.

What are the prerequisites for Azure Virtual Desktop?

Before starting the setup process, you'll need to make sure you have the following as outlined by Microsoft:

  • An Azure account with an active Azure subscription. You'll need this to create and manage your virtual desktop environment.
  • Appropriate licenses (A Microsoft 365 Business Premium, Enterprise E3 or better, and OS licensing depending on the OS version).
  • An identity provider
  • A supported operating system
  • Network connectivity
  • A Remote Desktop client

Creating an Azure Virtual Desktop is a simple process that you can complete if you follow this step-by-step guide we've outlined:

1. Setup and Registration

Before creating and virtual desktop deployment, you must do some initial setup and registration. This includes creating an Azure AD tenant, registering the AVD application with Azure AD connect, and creating a new azure resource group. Here's Azure Virtual Desktop setup step by step guide.

Creating an Azure AD Tenant

The first step is to create an Azure AD tenant. An Azure AD tenant is required to use many of Azure's services, including AVD. If you don't have an Azure AD tenant, you can create one using the Azure portal.

  1. Sign in to the Azure portal and select 'Azure Active Directory' from the left-hand menu.
  2. Select '+ New tenant' from the top menu in the Azure AD blade.
  3. In the 'Create tenant' blade, enter a name for your tenant and select the 'Country or region' and 'Initial domain name' fields. Then, select 'Create'.

Registering the AVD Application with Azure AD

After you've created your Azure AD tenant, you need to register the AVD application with Azure AD. This will allow AVD to interact with your Azure AD tenant.

  1. In the Azure portal, select 'Azure Active Directory' from the left-hand menu.
  2. In the Azure AD blade, select 'App registrations' from the left-side menu, then select '+ New registration'.
  3. In the 'Register an application' blade, enter a name for your application and select 'Register'.
  4. In the 'Overview' blade for your new application, select '+ New client secret', enter a description for your client secret, and select an expiration date. Then, select 'Add'.
  5. Copy your new client secret and save it in a safe place. You'll need this later.
  6. In the 'Overview' blade for your application, select 'Authentication' from the left-side menu, scroll down to the 'Implicit grant' section and select 'ID tokens'. Then, select 'Save'.

Creating a New Azure Resource Group

After registering the AVD application with Azure AD, you must create a new Azure resource group. A resource group is a collection of azure resources that you can manage as a single unit from an administrator account.

  1. In the Azure portal, select 'Resource groups' from the left-hand menu, then select '+ Add resource group'.
  2. In the 'Create resource group' blade, enter a name for your resource group and select the 'Subscription', 'Resource group location', and 'Pricing tier' fields. Then, select 'Create'.

2. Creating the AVD Host Pool

Now that you've done the initial setup, you're ready to create your AVD host pool. An AVD host pool is a collection of virtual machines that users can connect to.

  1. In the Azure portal, select 'Create a resource' from the left-hand menu.
  2. In the 'Marketplace' blade, search for 'azure virtual desktop'. Then, select the 'Azure Virtual Desktop' listing.
  3. Select' Create' in the Azure Virtual Desktop blade.
  4. In the 'Basics' tab of the 'Create virtual desktop' blade, enter a name for your virtual desktop and select the 'Subscription', 'Location', and 'Resource group' fields. Then, select the 'Pin to dashboard' checkbox and select 'Create'.
  5. In the 'Azure Virtual Desktop' blade, select the 'Pools' tab then '+ Add pool'.
  6. In the 'Add desktop pool' blade, enter a name for your pool and select the 'Session host type', 'Operating system', and 'Pool type' fields. Then, select 'OK'.

3. Configuring the AVD Host Pool

After you've created your AVD host pool, you need to configure it.

  1. In the Azure portal, select 'Azure Virtual Desktop' from the left-hand menu, then select the 'Pools' tab.
  2. Select the host pool name you want to configure in the 'Pools' tab.
  3. In the 'Overview' tab for your pool, select 'Applications' then select '+ Add application'.
  4. In the 'Add application to pool' blade, select the application you want to add from the 'Application group' dropdown. Then, select 'OK'.
  5. In the 'Overview' tab for your pool, select 'Users' then '+ Add user'.
  6. In the 'Add user to pool' blade, select the user you want to add from the 'User' dropdown. Then, select 'OK'.

4. Testing Your AVD Host Pool

After configuring your AVD host pool, you can test it to ensure everything is working as expected.

  1. In the Azure portal, select 'Azure Virtual Desktop' from the left-hand menu, then select the 'Pools' tab.
  2. Select the host pool name you want to test in the 'Pools' tab.
  3. In the 'Overview' tab for your pool, select 'Test pool connection'.
  4. In the 'Test pool connection' blade, select the user you want to test from the 'User' dropdown. Then, select 'OK'.
  5. A new window will open, and you should see the login screen for your virtual desktop.

Congratulations! You've successfully set up Azure Virtual Desktop. If everything is working as expected, you should be able to log in with the host pool name you selected.

5. Log in to the Azure Virtual Desktop

After registering the AVD application with Azure AD, creating a new resource group, and configuring your AVD host pool, you're ready to login to the Azure Virtual Desktop. You can use the following link: https://rdweb.wvd.microsoft.com/arm/webclient/index.html

  1. In the 'Sign in' blade, enter your Azure AD credentials.
  2. After validation, you should see the 'Remote Apps and Desktops' blade.
  3. In the 'Remote Apps and Desktops' blade, select the name of the desktop pool you want to connect to.
  4. A new window will open, and you should see the login screen for your virtual desktop.
  5. Login with the credentials you configured in the AVD host pool.

You should now be logged in to your Azure Virtual Desktop. But this only the tip of the iceberg, as you know can optimize your storage costs and transform your desktop environment into a fully elastic one.

What is FSLogix for AVD?

According to Microsoft, the Azure Virtual Desktop service recommends FSLogix profile containers to optimize user profile storage and loading times. FSLogix is a software that improves the user experience in AVD. It can be used to redirect user profiles and data to a central location, making it easy to manage and backup. If you choose not to use FSLogix, you can follow the tutorials in the Azure documentation to configure folder redirection for user profiles.

How to get the most out of Azure Virtual Desktop

Now that you've set up Azure Virtual Desktop, you can do a few things to get the most out of it. Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure to add all of the applications that users will need. This will minimize the number of support requests you receive
  • Add users to the pool in Azure AD rather than adding them individually. This will make it easier to manage users
  • Test the pool regularly to make sure everything is working as expected
  • Monitor usage statistics for desktop sessions using a global administrator to ensure that users use the pool as intended. This will help you optimize your pool and make sure that users are getting the most out of it
  • Implement Azure Files for centralized user profile storage and backup.
  • Implement FSLogix to make the most of your user's Microsoft 365 OneDrive storage.
  • With FSLogix MS Outlook and MS One Drive files will load directly from the cloud storage.
  • Implement Application pools to stream user applications without a full-desktop experience
  • Implement Golder images to create elastic pools that start and stop hosts on demand or are aligned to your organization's work schedule.

Identity management for AVD with Azure AD DS

According to Microsoft, Azure Virtual Desktop supports different types of identities, but it all depends on the deployment type.

Hybrid identity

For hybrid identity, AVD uses the same on-premises Active Directory Domain Services domain as Azure AD Connect is configured to synchronize with. Users sign in with their on-premises domain credentials, which are used to authenticate them to both on-premises and cloud resources.

Cloud-only identity

Azure Virtual Desktop supports cloud-only identities when using Azure AD-joined VMs. These users are created and managed directly in Azure AD. This allows you to manage your users and their permissions without worrying about managing user accounts on-premises.

Third-party identity providers

If you're using a different provider to manage your user accounts, such as Google G Suite or Office 365, you'll need to ensure that your identity provider (IdP) is federated with Azure AD. Additionally, your session hosts must be Azure AD-joined or Hybrid Azure AD-joined to log in users. Lastly, you'll need to enable Azure AD authentication on the session host.

Autoscaling options for AVD

Autoscaling is a feature of Azure Virtual Desktop that allows you to scale your session host pool based on user demand. This can be useful if you have a lot of users who need access to your pool during peak times but don't need it during off-peak times.

Before you enable autoscaling, you'll need to create an autoscale setting in the Azure portal. This will allow you to configure how your pool scales. Once you've created an autoscale setting, you can apply it to your session host pool in the AVD blade.

There are two types of autoscaling that you can configure:

  • Scale based on a schedule: This will allow you to scale your pool based on a schedule that you configure. For example, you can scale up your pool during the day and scale it down at night.
  • Scale based on load: This will allow you to scale your pool based on the load users are putting on it. For example, you can scale up your pool when users actively use it and scale it down when they're not.

Talk to our experts in Microsoft Azure Managed Services

How ne Digital Can get you started

If you need help getting started with Azure Virtual Desktop, ne Digital can assist you. We have a team of experts who can help you deploy and manage your virtual desktop environment with a complete Managed Services for Azure Portfolio that includes our basic Managed Cybersecurity package. We can also help you optimize your pool to ensure users get the most out of it and ensure you are consuming only the mandatory Azure resources to limit your monthly expenditure. Talk to our experts in Azure Managed Services today to learn more.

Topics: Azure