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Azure RemoteApp pricing revealed, with limits

Microsoft's Azure RemoteApp two-tier plan offers IT choices based on worker usage models, but beware of overage charges that could increase the monthly price.

Microsoft took the wraps off its competitive Azure RemoteApp pricing this week, but IT pros must be aware of the extra costs for workers who go over their assigned limits.

When Azure RemoteApp becomes generally available next week, businesses can sign up with the Basic or Standard plan, which starts at $10 or $15 per month per user, respectively. The Basic plan is designed for task workers who have light data creation and editing needs, and the Standard version is for those who need to use more productivity applications, such as Office or other line of business software.

Workers receive a fresh credit of 40 hours of usage per week. For users who go beyond the 40 hours per week paid usage however, a per hour usage cost will be tacked on. Basic plan users will be charged $0.175 per hour and Standard plan subscribers will incur an additional cost of $0.20 per hour.

Workers who reach the 80 hours per week will be charged the cap of $17 per user per month for the Basic plan and $23 per user per month for the Standard plan. There is no penalty for using the service beyond 80 hours per week.

Regardless of the overage costs, industry experts said Azure RemoteApp's pricing was competitive.

Desktop as a service is typically around $30 to $35. [Azure RemoteApp] is not an identical solution, but it will make a lot of people think.
Gabe blogger

"I was concerned about the stratified pricing, as most business workers will probably go over the 40 hours, but since it’s capped, it's not a bad deal," said Wes Miller, vice president of research at Directions on Microsoft, an IT consulting organization based in Kirkland, Wash.

In addition, the technology stack is approachable for most users, he added.

"I think that it provides a really good counterpoint to building your own Remote Desktop infrastructure, and matches well with Office 365," Miller said.

Microsoft also intends to offer Azure RemoteApp through the Volume Licensing/Azure Plan SKU for enterprise customers on Feb. 1, 2015.

Industry experts applaud Microsoft's pricing, noting how it is competitive compared with other industry offerings.

"This pricing is really low compared to the competition," said Gabe Knuth, a virtualization expert and blogger based in Omaha, Neb. "You can put as many apps into your image as you want and pay $15 per month per user. Desktop as a Service is typically around $30 to $35. It’s not an identical solution, but it will make a lot of people think."

IT pros said pricing for Azure RemoteApp needed to be competitive to motivate companies to deploy or switch to the new service.

"For most enterprises, the pricing and package would have to be a dramatic departure from the norm for [companies] to switch providers, as the cost of doing a switch could be expensive," said Mike Drips, a long-time IT professional based in Houston. "There are also [challenges such as] risk management. What works well in one company's cloud may have issues in another provider's cloud."

Azure RemoteApp reflects Microsoft's continued push to be a leader in the mobile and cloud first world. The service could play into the DaaS market, since the offering is a slice of this technology.

"This opens the door wide for a Microsoft DaaS offering with Windows 10," Knuth said. "They have the Azure RemoteApp version priced low, and if you want full desktops, they can easily provide them at around the same price as anyone else."

Azure RemoteApp enables devices to access Windows applications in the cloud or in a hybrid deployment regardless of whether the end user device is based on Windows, Apple's iOS or Google’s Android. The service had been in preview mode for months with a variety of users in educational institutions and businesses testing it for their environment. A Microsoft spokesman said the company received 70,000 unique downloads of the preview alone.

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Do you think Azure RemoteApp pricing makes it competitive with DaaS?
The question of whether or not the pricing of Azure RemoteApp makes is competitive with DaaS is not as cut and dry as it may seem. Much of the answer to this question relies on the individual needs, situation, and goals of the business.  For us, it's more about getting the services we need and finding something that adapts well to our current business plan and staff setup. So for me, the choice was DaaS.