Demystifying Azure Virtual Desktop Pricing: A Comprehensive Guide

Determining the true cost of Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) can be a complex task for businesses due to the intricacies of Microsoft’s licensing policies, which often seem like they were designed for obfuscation. In this blog post, we aim to shed light on this topic while providing guidance for IT and business-level decision-makers who are trying to decipher the true cost of running Windows virtual desktops. In addition to breaking down how to determine the cost of Azure Virtual Desktops effectively, we’ll also delve into the emergence of Virtual App Delivery (VAD) and how it is offering an alternative approach to virtual desktops that helps organizations reduce cost and eliminate vendor lock-in while providing more secure access to all of your apps on any device, regardless of operating system. Lastly, we’ll review the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) benefits of Cameyo (as a leading Virtual App Delivery provider) compared to traditional virtual desktops, based on recent analyst research conducted by the analysts at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG).

Understanding the Basic Components of Azure Virtual Desktop Pricing

Azure Virtual Desktop pricing consists of several components that contribute to the overall cost. It’s crucial to understand these elements to accurately estimate the expenses involved in the Azure cloud service. The primary components include:

  1. Virtual Machine (VM) Costs: AVD leverages Azure Virtual Machines (Azure VMs) to host virtual desktops. VM and desktop costs and the Azure resources needed are determined by factors such as the VM type, the region in which it’s deployed, the scalability needed, and the VM’s size and performance capabilities.
  2. User Access Licenses (CALs): CALs are required to access AVD (or any remote service hosted on Windows servers). They come in two types: per-user and per-device CALs. Per-user CALs allow users to access their virtual desktops from any device, while per-device CALs enable multiple users to share a single device. So the number of users in your organization is one factor in overall cost, as is determining upfront how many of your end-users operate on shared machines (for example, call center workers that may share the same desktop device with other workers on different shifts).

Microsoft Licenses for Azure Virtual Desktops and Associated Costs

To leverage Azure Virtual Desktop, certain Microsoft licenses are required. These licenses play a pivotal role in determining the pricing structure. Here are the primary license types:

  1. Windows 10 Enterprise Multi-Session: This license enables multiple users to run Windows 10 on a single VM, optimizing resource workloads and reducing costs.
  2. Microsoft 365 E3/E5: These licenses offer certain productivity and security features, including access to Office apps, advanced security capabilities, and collaboration tools. The choice between E3 and E5 depends on the organization’s specific needs.
  3. Remote Desktop Services (RDS) CALs: RDS CALs are required for each user or device accessing the AVD environment. They provide access to remote sessions and virtual apps.
  4. Microsoft Azure Hybrid Benefit: Organizations with existing on-premises licenses may be eligible for cost savings by utilizing the Azure Hybrid Benefit. This benefit allows customers to apply their existing licenses towards AVD deployments.
  5. Azure Active Directory – Azure Active Directory P1 is available as a standalone or included with Microsoft 365 E3 for enterprise customers and Microsoft 365 Business Premium for small to medium businesses.

Azure Infrastructure Costs Associated with AVD

In addition to the VM and license costs, Azure infrastructure costs should also be considered. These costs include:

  1. Storage Costs: AVD requires storage to store user profiles, OS images, and application data. Azure Storage pricing depends on factors such as capacity, redundancy options, and data transfer.
  2. Network Costs: Network egress charges may apply when users access data or applications from the AVD environment. Organizations should consider potential network bandwidth requirements and associated costs.

Persistent vs. Non-Persistent Virtual Desktops and Impact on Pricing

Azure Virtual Desktop provides two deployment options: persistent and non-persistent virtual desktops. Understanding these options is crucial as they have implications on pricing.

  1. Persistent Virtual Desktops: These desktops retain user-specific settings, applications, and data across sessions. Persistent desktops are ideal for users who require a personalized experience but may have higher storage costs due to individual disk requirements.
  2. Non-Persistent Virtual Desktops: Non-persistent desktops do not retain user-specific changes between sessions. They offer a fresh desktop experience with each login. Non-persistent desktops are more cost-effective in terms of storage, as they utilize shared images and require less disk space per user.

As you can see, it is anything but simple to determine what the true cost of Azure Virtual Desktop will be for your organization – and the same holds true for much of the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and Desktop as a Service (DaaS) market. But by understanding the components of AVD pricing, the necessary Microsoft licenses, Azure infrastructure costs, the functionality required, and the distinction between persistent and non-persistent desktops, it can be a bit easier to make informed choices and effectively manage expenses.

Remember, if you’re serious about looking into Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), then it’s essential to consult with Microsoft documentation and licensing experts to get the most accurate and up-to-date information on Azure Virtual Desktop pricing and licensing policies. But if you’re looking to unlock major productivity gains in your organization while optimizing costs, Virtual App Delivery (VAD) may be your best bet.

The Rise of Virtual App Delivery

While Azure Virtual Desktop is a popular choice for delivering virtual desktop experiences, recent advancements in Virtual App Delivery (VAD) have opened up new possibilities for organizations that are looking to provide their people with access to all their apps – Windows, Linux, SaaS, and internal web apps – on any device while enabling better security, a better user experience, and a dramatic reduction in cost. VAD allows users to access all of their applications remotely from any device, regardless of the operating system, eliminating the need for an entire virtual desktop infrastructure. This approach offers increased flexibility, reduced complexity, and significant cost savings.

Cameyo: A Pioneer in Virtual App Delivery

Over the past five years of serving hundreds of organizations (from Fortune 500s to hospitals to financial institutions to SMBs and everything in between), here at Cameyo we helped establish the Virtual App Delivery (VAD) category as an alternative to legacy virtual desktop solutions. With Cameyo, businesses can leverage their existing infrastructure and securely deliver all of their applications to users on any device – all without the need for complex virtual desktop deployments or VPNs. Cameyo’s user-friendly interface and streamlined management tools empower IT teams to efficiently deliver applications while reducing costs and complexity and significantly increasing security.

The TCO Benefits of Cameyo

Back in May, the analysts at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) completed a three-month-long economic impact analysis where they interviewed organizations that have made the switch from traditional virtual desktops (VDI and/or DaaS) to Cameyo’s Virtual App Delivery (VAD) solution. In this study, the four categories examined were: licensing, hardware, operational, and subscription fees.

ESG’s model calculated the expected savings when deploying and maintaining Cameyo’s VAD solution compared to the cost of deploying traditional VDI. The model found that the annual costs for implementing Cameyo are far less when compared to those of traditional VDI. According to ESG’s economic analysis, an organization could recognize a 54% reduction in TCO by utilizing Cameyo instead of VDI. As part of this reduction in TCO, organizations can realize the following:

• 75% reduced license/application costs – Traditional application deployment methods require the purchase of a separate license for each device the application is installed on. Cameyo’s process of providing access to applications on a per-named-user basis helps companies reduce their licensing and application costs by enabling each user to access their applications on any device, without needing a license for each device. Cameyo’s practice of delivering applications also reduces IT overhead and indirect support and maintenance costs.

• 82% reduced hardware costs – VDI typically has increased infrastructure requirements, whereas Cameyo’s Virtual App Delivery (VAD) platform is cloud-native, reducing hardware costs.

• 53% reduced operational costs – Conventional VDI solutions require additional technical support and resources to manage the infrastructure. Cameyo’s cloud-native solution eliminates many of the tasks typically required to operate a virtual desktop, such as configuring applications for each personal desktop, provisioning, patching, and updating those devices, which reduces the number of resources needed to manage the IT environment over time.

• 35% lower subscription fees – Cameyo’s public cloud-based delivery, simplified management, and flexible pricing allow for lower subscription fees. Cameyo representatives are able to assist organizations in choosing the correct subscription based on their needs.


Determining the cost of Azure Virtual Desktops can be challenging, given the complexity of Microsoft’s licensing policies. However, by carefully considering your organization’s requirements and leveraging Microsoft’s on-demand pricing calculators, you can gain a clearer understanding of the associated costs. Additionally, exploring alternatives like Virtual App Delivery, with Cameyo as a leading example, can provide more flexibility, reduced complexity, and significant TCO benefits.

To get a simple and straightforward quote for the cost of Cameyo (which is a simple per-user, per-month pricing model), simply answer a couple of questions here and we will send you the details right away. Or if you’d rather see Cameyo in action before looking at pricing, schedule a demo with us here and within 30 minutes we’ll give you a full demo and help you evaluate if Virtual App Delivery is the right approach for your organization. In our experience, it often is (no matter how large the organization or which vertical you’re in) – but if Cameyo is not a fit, we’ll let you know right away and will even help point you in the right direction for another solution.