A Desktop In the Cloud

How awesome would it be to have your desktop available anywhere you go? In your pocket, at the coffee shop, on an airplane, on the beach? Pretty freaking awesome, right? The ability to have all your work with you, no matter what device you’re on or were you go. This is something that can easily be achieved through Amazon Workspaces. Amazon Workspaces is an affordable way to do VDI – no servers in your data center, no storage to have to deal with, no complicated licensing. Import your users, publish a desktop, and they’re off to work.

I’ve been playing around with Amazon Workspaces (there’s plans available in the free tier), which is a modern approach to VDI. To get started, login to your AWS console, under Services select Workspaces, and then setup a new directory if you don’t already have one. Once you add a user or users, select your bundle.

As you can see, there are a few options available. You can get an Amazon Linux 2 desktop, Standard with Windows 7 (which is really Windows Server 2008 R2), or Standard Windows 10 (which is Windows Server 2016). These free tier eligible desktops mean you get to enjoy a full 12 months of a cloud desktop without charge. Once you provision your desktop, find an email from Amazon which will have you activate your account and it will also give you your registration key.

Download the Amazon Workspaces client and install it. Enter your registration key, and then your username and password. If a device isn’t supported, or you can’t install or shouldn’t install the client (like if you’re using a library computer or borrowing a friend’s computer), there’s also a HTML5 client available that supports all modern web browsers.

The client is available for all major operating systems and can also work on some thin client and zero client machines. Once you’re signed in, you have your own desktop which can run most software!

The awesome thing about the Workspaces client is that if you have multiple monitors, entering full screen mode will automatically make your multi-monitor device a multi-monitor cloud desktop!

If you have to pay for Workspaces, don’t fret! You can assign a policy to have the instance shut down after no activity after an hour to keep your billing under control. You can see that in my instance, I installed LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office.

Since you’re using Workspaces, you’re also entitled to Amazon WorkDocs which acts like Dropbox or OneDrive. It synchronizes files around and allows you to easily transfer items from your desktop to your Workspace.

In this example, you can see the WorkDocs folder in my Workspace desktop and locally, it’s mapped as a network drive.

So far, I’ve been really enjoying Amazon Workspaces! It’s a valuable service which I think I might keep around.

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