How Queens University, Belfast implemented Windows Virtual Desktop to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic

How Queens University, Belfast Implemented Windows Virtual Desktop

Case Study

Queen's University Belfast has a record of academic achievement which stretches back more than 150 years. It is recognised as one of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities and has a global reputation for excellence. They provide a world class education and student experience and are are the forefront of leading innovation and impact through their global network of partnerships.

Company: Queens University Belfast
Industry: Education
Country: Ireland
Employees: 10,000

Solution Featured

The Challenge

The COVID-19 situation created challenges for universities in ensuring that lecturers were in a position to deliver online learning to their students and at the same time that students were able to access the required apps and environment in order to continue their learning remotely. Codec proposed a solution using Microsoft Azure Windows Virtual Desktop to Queens to address these challenges.


As well as the usual commercial and market pressures that all institutions have had to contend with, Queens University also faced a significant new ‘people problem’ brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Universities are places where people come together to exchange ideas and learn, but the challenge for the college was how this could be done safely? How could lecturers deliver their classes online to students and how would those students access those lectures and learning materials remotely?

Speed was of the essence in finding a suitable solution that could accommodate the university and its students. To go from an “in-person” university experience to remote leaning pretty much overnight presented a number of challenges for the IT department.

The Solution

Queens engaged the services of Codec to find a solution. Codec advocated Windows Virtual Desktop and it has become the go-to platform supporting over 1,500 users initially, providing secure access to over 130 specialised apps remotely. Windows Virtual Desktop for Education combines the scale, security, and cost benefits of Azure and Microsoft 365 to deliver a virtualised modern desktop for the student population.

Windows Virtual Desktop was proposed as the ideal solution for several key reasons:

• It’s available FREE OF CHARGE under current A3 or A5 agreements for Educational bodies (only compute and storage are paid for)
• It could be deployed and scaled in minutes and Queens would only use licenses during the academic year
• It ensured that a full desktop experience could be delivered securely from the cloud to any students’ internet-based device
• It would enable the university to accelerate performance and lower costs at the same time
• It simplified user management experience with a single interface on Azure
• It delivered the only multi-session Windows 10 virtual desktop experience
• Allowed access to a more secure, productive, virtual desktop experience on Azure with Microsoft 365

The Results

Using Azure Windows Virtual Desktop, Queen’s University facilitated remote access to learning for over 1,500 users initially. Students could use any device they have access to use the full processing power of the university’s systems remotely. Using a native client app or even just a web browser, students and faculty members can use a PC, Mac, laptop, tablet or even a smartphone to run applications on remote servers, deliver lectures or complete course work. The net result for the university’s IT department was that instead of having to provide technical support to a potentially enormous range of platforms and devices, it could work with a vastly simplified system.

Other key success measures for the university include:
• Reduced support costs as all apps are managed in the cloud.
• Using this system also has significant advantages from a security point of view. Because the applications are served remotely from the cloud and data is stored in the cloud, that makes the system extremely secure.
• Additional security mechanisms built into the system such as multi-factor authentication makes sure that any person using the system is who they say they are.
• Automatic scaling of workloads, minimised costs during periods of lower utilisation

“"The incredible united effort by the Queen’s community in response to COVID 19 demonstrates our commitment to delivering positive impact on society. We are enormously proud of the collective strength and determination to make a difference to those who need it most."”
Professor Stuart Elborn, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences.