Your Business Network - The Path Forward

As stay-at-home orders rolled out globally, companies worked furiously to enable their office staff to work from home. For many businesses, their Software-as-a-Service solutions enabled the process. MSJ clients' were no exception and are primarily powered by SaaS tools and were able to transition to work from home quickly. MSJ spent the beginning of the transition assisting clients with random issues with home computers, printers, and WiFi.


The transition was not perfect. Companies worldwide have experienced issues with their VPN hardware capacity. Others have had to sacrifice their standard security policies and have also had to order equipment to support their staff.


At MSJ, we believe that the pandemic will have long term effects on the way we work. We believe that remote work will continue to grow in many fields, companies will focus on agility, and the switch to Cloud hosting will accelerate. For example, the medical field will focus on telemedicine, which will enhance support, costs, and productivity. We see companies hiring more employees remotely to help expand the employee pool, save costs, improve employee happiness, and reduce costs for companies.


We believe that the next logical step for companies is to determine what they require for their long-term remote office support. For companies that are running mainly in the cloud without local hardware, they will maintain their current design to keep costs down.


Clients that run offices with servers, file sharing, installed applications, and locked down computers to protect data have excellent tools available to enhance their infrastructure.


For clients with carefully built infrastructure, we recommend migrating to a hosted environment. In this article, we will present a solution with servers and desktops hosted in Amazon Web Services. This architecture enables a managed, secured, and consistent computing environment for all employees that is available from the office, at home, and around the world. Because the majority of computing power is in the cloud, clients need only light desktops to access their target when they're in the office, at home or sitting on the beach.

Our sample AWS architecture includes four critical components. This solution works whether you have 5, 50, or 500 users.

  • AWS Directory Service to provide Active Directory for computers, users, and policy management.

  • AWS Workspaces to provide remote desktops for each user. AWS Workspaces are Windows 10 desktops, hosted on managed Windows servers from AWS.

  • AWS EC2 instance running Windows Server for file sharing, Active Directory Connections, and applications.

  • AWS Key Management System to provide encryption at rest.



What our architecture provides

The Directory Service

The AWS hosted directory service provides a managed, high availability environment that is automatically patched and maintained. The equivalent in-office solution would require two physical servers to provide the same availability and also requires maintenance time.


AWS Workspaces

AWS Workspaces is a hosted Windows desktop service accessible via a free client and through a web browser. The service provides centralized maintenance, virtual private networking, and high-availability infrastructure. Workspaces are available as always on or pay by the hour, depending on your workload.


EC2 Instance

The EC2 instance is a virtualized Windows server. In the designed environment, this server provides shared files for users, a place to host Active Directory connections if required, and a host for software installs. With everything EC2, we pay only for what we need and can increase or decrease server size at any point.


As an alternative, we would consider using AWS FSx if you do not need the connectors. AWS FSx is a managed file share service, but unfortunately, this product is not available in the Canadian region.


Key Store

Hardware to manage encryption keys is expensive. Using AWS KMS enables us to encrypt drives at a low cost and simple process.


Cost?

Cost is an essential factor in all decisions. For our calculations, we have assumed a company with ten users and calculated pricing on using AWS's Canadian data centers. If you need 20 users, adjust the Workspaces calculation. All monthly costs are in USD.


For our user environment, the estimated monthly cost is under $850.00 before taxes. This price is excellent when you consider the cost of buying equivalent servers, software licenses and supporting hardware

Conclusion

COVID-19 will continue to drive change in businesses that will remain when we have conquered the pandemic. These changes will enable companies to increase efficiencies, flexibility, and costs.


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