The True Cost of Azure Virtual Desktop in 2023

May 5, 2023
08 mins 48 seconds

Author: Haziqa Sajid

Are you considering Azure Virtual Desktop for your organization’s virtualization needs? If yes, you will realize that choosing the right plan that aligns with your operational requirements and IT budget is daunting. Many businesses need help finding a suitable Azure pricing and licensing option that suits their functional and operational needs.

It includes many factors, such as the number of licenses, the assigned storage and computing resources, and the technical support. Making the wrong choice can result in uncontrolled costs and wasted resources leading to an increased IT budget. 

Let’s break down Azure Virtual Desktop cost, its different licensing & subscription options, and a viable & cost-effective Azure alternative.

Azure Virtual Desktop – Licensing Options for User Type

Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) offers the flexibility to choose two main licensing methods based on internal and external users.

Option 1 – Eligible Windows or Microsoft 365 License

If you have access to the following per-user licenses: Windows, Microsoft 365, or Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Client Access License (CAL); you can access Azure Virtual Desktop at no additional cost.

Option 2 – Per-User Access 

Users who don’t have access to any Windows or Microsoft 365 license can pay for Azure Virtual Desktop on a per-user monthly cost depending on the user’s workloads and requirements.

Breakdown of Azure VM Pricing Models

AVD is a cloud-native virtual desktop platform offering remote access to Windows 10/Windows 7 desktops and applications from anywhere. You can choose from the following Azure VM pricing models that best match your operational needs and IT budget:

1. Pay as You Go

With Azure’s pay-as-you-go pricing model, you pay for computing capacity by the second without any long-term commitments or upfront payments. It allows businesses to increase or decrease consumption on demand.

Ideal Customer: Pay-as-you-go is perfect for customers with highly dynamic workloads who don’t want long-term commitments and need the ability to scale computing resources up or down frequently.

2. Azure Savings Plan for Compute

The Azure Savings Plan for Compute lets you save money on select compute services globally by opting for a fixed hourly amount for 1 or 3 years. Doing so will unlock lower prices until you reach your hourly commitment. Additional usage is billed separately at the pay-as-you-go model.

Ideal Customer: Azure Savings Plan for Compute is explicitly suited for long-term planned workloads. However, unplanned changes can be accommodated with pay as you go model.

3. Reserved Instances

By opting for Azure’s Reserved Instances, you can optimize your infrastructure costs by purchasing Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances for 1 or 3 years. The Reserved Instance model can save up to 72% compared to the pay-as-you-go model.

Ideal Customer: Reserved Instances are suitable for stable and planned workloads at an enterprise scale.

4. Azure Spot

The Spot option allows businesses to buy unused compute capacity at a highly discounted rate to run interruptible workloads, i.e., workloads that can tolerate downtime and interruptions. 

Ideal Customer: Spot suits workloads with flexible start and end times.

Azure Virtual Desktop Pricing Components

Azure Virtual Desktop pricing can be divided into user access rights and infrastructure costs.

User access rights

As discussed above, if you have an eligible Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office 365, or Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Client Access License (CAL), there is no additional cost for AVD user access rights. However, you can opt for monthly per-user access pricing if you need external access to AVD.

Azure infrastructure costs

Azure Virtual Desktop Cost also includes infrastructure costs. You need an Azure account to deploy and manage your VM resources. You’ll need to pay the computing and storage costs for running VMs in Azure.

Azure Bandwidth Pricing

Azure Bandwidth refers to the amount of data transferred between Azure data centers and between Azure data centers and the Internet. It plays a significant role in determining the pricing and cost burden for Azure users based on their location and the location of the Azure servers. 

Remember the following key aspects that may relax or expand your IT budget.

  • Outbound data transfer costs apply when data is sent from Azure data centers to users or other destinations outside Azure. This can include downloading files from Azure storage or accessing data from Azure virtual machines. The cost is typically based on the amount of data transferred, measured in gigabytes (GB).
  • In most cases, Azure does not charge for inbound data transfer, but there may be exceptions for particular services or scenarios. Review Azure Bandwidth pricing for region-specific details.
  • Additional costs can be incurred when data needs to move between Azure regions, for example, replicating data for redundancy or disaster recovery. These costs are based on the volume of data transferred and the distance between the source and destination regions.

The pricing gets more complicated due to the involvement of variable plans for different countries, regions, and continents and the nature (inbound or outbound) of data transfer. Azure users must choose the suitable Azure Region carefully or explore more cost-effective and transparent cloud services like V2 Cloud to dodge the impact of overburdened Azure Bandwidth costs.

Azure AD (Azure Active Directory)

The premium versions are priced and offered separately from regular subscriptions. They come with a significant price tag that can burden your IT budget when combined for multiple users and extended over a period of time.

Azure Virtual Desktop Cost Simulation

Say a call center business wants to leverage virtual desktop infrastructure to facilitate its team of 100 employees. They decide to use Azure Virtual Desktop service to simplify IT maintenance. Their cloud configuration and cost breakdown is shared below.


Type of PricingResources UsedUnit CostTotal Monthly Cost of ResourcesPer User Per Month Cost
Microsoft 365 license100 licenses (1 license for each user)USD 22 per user per monthUSD $2200.00

(for 100 users)

USD $22.00
Azure Virtual Desktop VM Cost25 VM Instances (1 Instance to cater to 4 users) of D4as v5: 4vCPUs, 16 GB RAM, 100 GB temporary storage, allocated for 160 hours monthly)USD 0.3560 per hourUSD $1424.00

(Cost of 25 VMs for 160 hours monthly usage)

USD $14.24
Azure Bandwidth Cost4000 GB outbound data transfer bandwidthUSD $0.087 per GBUSD $348.00

(cost of 4000 GB. i.e, 40GB for each user per month)

USD $3.48
Azure Storage CostManaged Disk: Standard SSD E15 256 GiBUSD $38.02 per 64 GB SSD per monthUSD $950.50

(Cost of total 25 SSDs. i.e, 1 SSD for each VM)

USD $9.50
Microsoft RDS license1 license per userUSD $7.00 per userUSD $700.00USD $7.00
Aure implementation engineer1 part-time consultantUSD $5,000.00 per monthUSD $5,000.00USD $50.00
Total Infrastructure CostUSD 10,622.50 per month USD $ 106.22 per user per month

Azure Virtual Desktop – Downsides & Limitations

While Azure Virtual Desktop offers different advantages, it has some significant limitations and downsides you must acknowledge before finalizing your purchase. Below are four potential downsides of the Azure Virtual Desktop pricing and licensing models.

1. The Complexity of Pricing 

With different licensing options, infrastructure costs, and separate Azure AD and Bandwidth costs, you will likely face cost overruns due to a lack of clear information and transparency. Hence, your business needs careful cloud cost monitoring and management.

2. Azure portal complexity and lack of customer service

The Azure portal is extremely complex to operate and requires specialized engineers to setup and maintain an Azure Virtual Desktop environment. The lack of customer support is also a huge disappointment for most businesses. V2 Cloud has the easiest management portal with no technical skills required and a team of technical experts available 7 days a week at no extra cost

3. Lack of Automated Image Provisioning

AVD lacks a built-in image provisioning feature. Contrary to V2 Cloud, Azure does not offer a straightforward way to update and redeploy an image. Users have to perform these operations manually. It can be time-consuming and vulnerable to errors, especially in large-scale deployments where multiple VMs must be updated simultaneously. This limitation can lead to deployment issues and inefficiencies when managing VM images in Azure. 

4. Real-time Monitoring

Azure Monitor can experience a delay of up to 15-20 minutes before appearing on dashboards, making real-time tracking difficult. It lacks real-time customer analytics and appropriate helpdesk tools compared to alternate solutions like V2 Cloud. For instance, V2 Cloud offers an interactive dashboard with complete administrator control over all your virtual machines and lets you install any application you need without specialized training.

Azure Virtual Desktop vs. V2 Cloud Virtual Desktop – Choosing the Best Solution Available

V2 Cloud Virtual Desktop Infrastructure helps businesses swiftly move to a cloud-native framework. By choosing V2 cloud, you can make your cloud migration more seamless and hassle-free without procuring costly hardware or recruiting new resources. 

With V2 Cloud, you can leverage a simple, transparent, and cost-effective pricing structure that includes all costs in one bundle – with no hidden subscription, support, or usage charges. Unlike confusing Azure Virtual Desktop costs, V2 Cloud ensures that your budget will remain controlled, with no surprises or hidden fees.

V2 Cloud’s monthly and yearly pricing options reduce the up-front cost making it an affordable and go-to option. We also offer free, dedicated technical support for smooth cloud migration and onboarding experience. 

Calculate the estimated pricing for V2 Cloud as per your number of users for the Basic and Business plans here. Explore what else we offer to make your cloud virtualization experience more seamless and efficient.

Written By: Haziqa Sajid
Freelance tech writer and content marketer for tech, SaaS, and AI companies | Helped 50+ tech businesses with engagement-driven content.