Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) provides a powerful solution for delivering virtualized Windows desktops and applications to end-users. As organizations increasingly adopt AVD, efficient management becomes critical. In this blog post, we’ll explore how to effectively manage AVD session hosts using Microsoft Intune, a unified management platform that leverages the capabilities of Intune. We’ll cover essential aspects such as requirements, configuration management, patch management, Defender for Endpoint, and monitoring. Whether you’re deploying single-session or multi-session hosts, Intune offers a streamlined approach to ensure optimal performance, security, and user experience.

AVD Intune Session Host Requirements and Caveats

Managing Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) session hosts with Microsoft Intune involves nuanced planning and understanding of specific requirements and caveats. The integration of AVD with Intune enables centralized management of virtual desktops, offering similar device management capabilities as for physical devices. However, there are distinct considerations due to the virtual nature of these session hosts and their use cases in pooled and personal scenarios.


  • Operating System Compatibility: Ensure session hosts run on supported operating systems. For pooled environments, Windows 10 or Windows 11 Enterprise multi-session versions are preferred. For personal session hosts, standard Windows 10 or Windows 11 Enterprise versions are suitable. The session hosts must be Azure AD-joined or Hybrid Azure AD-joined to be managed by Intune.
  • Intune Enrollment: Session hosts must be enrolled in Intune. This process can vary depending on whether the session hosts are Azure AD-joined or Hybrid Azure AD-joined. For Azure AD-joined devices, automatic enrollment can be configured in Azure AD. For Hybrid Azure AD-joined devices, a GPO (Group Policy Object) or manual enrollment process might be necessary.
  • Licensing: Appropriate licensing is required for both Intune and Azure Virtual Desktop. This typically includes Microsoft 365 licenses that cover Windows 10/11 Enterprise, Intune, and Azure Virtual Desktop access.
  • Network Configuration: Ensure session hosts can reach Intune service endpoints. This may require configuring network security appliances and firewalls to allow access to Microsoft endpoints.
  • Policy and Configuration Management: Identify and configure Intune policies suitable for virtual desktop environments. This involves configuring device configuration profiles, compliance policies, and conditional access policies, taking into consideration the unique aspects of virtual desktops.
  • Application Management: Deploy and manage applications using Intune, considering the deployment method (e.g., MSI, LOB, or Win32 app) that best suits the virtual desktop environment and the application’s compatibility with multi-session scenarios for pooled hosts.

Caveats and Considerations

  • Feature Limitations: Not all Intune features and policies are applicable or behave the same way on AVD session hosts as on physical devices. For instance, some device restriction settings designed for physical endpoints may not be relevant or work as expected in a virtual desktop environment.
  • Profile Management: In pooled environments, managing user profiles is crucial for providing a consistent user experience. Solutions like FSLogix should be considered alongside Intune management to handle user profiles efficiently.
  • Session-Based Considerations: For pooled session hosts, be mindful of policies that could impact multiple users sharing the same host. Testing and validation of policies in a multi-session environment are critical to avoid negatively impacting user sessions.
  • Performance Monitoring and Optimization: Monitoring tools and strategies should be employed to ensure that the virtual desktops meet performance expectations. This might require additional considerations for telemetry and diagnostics data collection through Intune and other Azure monitoring tools.
  • Security and Compliance: Security configurations and compliance policies need to be carefully planned to ensure they are effectively applied in the virtual desktop environment without compromising the security posture or user productivity.

By addressing these detailed requirements and considering the mentioned caveats, organizations can leverage Intune to manage AVD session hosts effectively. It’s essential to continuously monitor the evolving capabilities of both Intune and Azure Virtual Desktop to adapt management strategies accordingly and ensure a secure, efficient, and compliant virtual desktop experience.

AVD Intune Session Host Configuration Management

Intune Configuration Management for Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) session hosts is a critical component of ensuring that virtual desktop environments are secure, compliant, and optimized for user productivity. Proper configuration management allows administrators to apply and enforce policies, manage applications, and secure data across AVD session hosts, whether they are used in pooled or personal scenarios. Below is a detailed overview of how to leverage Intune for effective configuration management of AVD session hosts.

Enrollment and Device Management

  • Enrollment: The first step in managing AVD session hosts with Intune is to ensure they are enrolled. This process typically involves:
    • For Azure AD-joined session hosts, enabling automatic enrollment in Azure AD.
    • For Hybrid Azure AD-joined session hosts, using a Group Policy or manual steps to enroll devices into Intune.
  • Device Profiles: Create and assign device configuration profiles in Intune to manage settings on AVD session hosts. These profiles can configure security settings, enforce compliance policies, and set up device features.

Policy Configuration and Compliance

  • Compliance Policies: Define compliance policies in Intune to ensure that AVD session hosts meet the organization’s security and compliance standards. Compliance policies can include requirements for minimum OS versions, system security settings, and encryption.
  • Configuration Profiles: Use configuration profiles to manage settings and features on AVD session hosts. This includes:
    • Security baselines to apply best practice security settings.
    • STIG configuration settings can be leveraged here, a majority of the settings are supported by default, and a handful of settings need to be imported as group policy objects.
    • Device restrictions to control user and device settings.
    • Endpoint protection settings to manage security features like Windows Defender.
  • Conditional Access Policies: Implement conditional access policies to protect resources accessed by AVD session hosts. These policies can restrict access based on user, device compliance, location, and risk level.

Application Management

  • Application Deployment: Manage and deploy applications to AVD session hosts using Intune. This can include:
    • Office apps and other productivity software.
    • Line of business (LOB) apps specific to the organization’s needs.
    • Win32 apps that require complex installation steps.

Special Considerations for AVD

  • Multi-Session Awareness: For pooled session hosts, it’s crucial to deploy policies and applications that are aware of and compatible with multi-session environments. Not all configurations or apps may behave as expected in a multi-session scenario.
  • User Profile Management: In pooled AVD environments, consider how user profiles are managed, especially when using FSLogix. Ensure that any Intune policies or configurations do not interfere with the dynamic nature of user profile containers.
  • Performance Optimization: Configuration policies should also consider the performance impact on AVD session hosts. Optimizing settings for a virtualized environment can help ensure a smooth user experience without overburdening system resources.
  • Security Configurations: Given the shared nature of AVD environments, security configurations should be carefully considered to protect against cross-session vulnerabilities and ensure data isolation.

By meticulously planning and implementing Intune configuration management for AVD session hosts, organizations can create a secure, efficient, and compliant virtual desktop environment. Continuous monitoring and regular updates to policies and configurations will ensure that the virtual desktop infrastructure remains aligned with organizational needs and industry best practices.

AVD Session Host Integration with Defender for Endpoint

Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) session host integration with Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is vital for ensuring virtual desktop environments’ security and integrity. Defender for Endpoint provides advanced threat protection, attack surface reduction, and security management capabilities. Integrating this service with AVD session hosts enhances security against sophisticated threats, enabling administrators to detect, investigate, and respond to potential security incidents across the virtual desktop infrastructure.

Key Features and Benefits

Threat Protection: Defender for Endpoint uses behavior-based, machine learning-driven detection and response capabilities to identify and mitigate threats. This includes protection against malware, ransomware, phishing, and other sophisticated attacks.

  • Attack Surface Reduction: The service offers features to minimize the attack surface on AVD session hosts, such as application control policies, network protection against web-based threats, and exploit protection.
  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR): Defender for Endpoint provides EDR capabilities, enabling security teams to detect, investigate, and respond to advanced threats and breaches. It offers rich investigation tools and security analytics to understand the scope of an attack and take appropriate actions.
  • Automated Investigation and Remediation: The solution automates the investigation process of alerts and can remediate threats, reducing the manual workload on security teams and speeding up the response time to incidents.
  • Security Posture Management: Defender for Endpoint assesses the security posture of AVD session hosts, identifying vulnerabilities and misconfigurations and providing recommendations for hardening the devices.
  • Integration with Azure Security Center: The integration enables centralized monitoring and management of security alerts and recommendations across AVD environments within Azure Security Center, providing a unified security management experience.

Integration Steps

Integrating Defender for Endpoint with AVD session hosts involves several key steps:

  • Licensing and Enrollment: Ensure the necessary Microsoft 365 or Windows licenses, including Defender for Endpoint, are available. Enroll AVD session hosts in Defender for Endpoint, typically as part of the Microsoft Endpoint Manager (Intune) or Azure Security Center setup process.
  • Configuration and Deployment: Configure Defender for Endpoint features and deploy them to AVD session hosts. This can involve setting up anti-malware policies, configuring attack surface reduction rules, deploying the agent, and enabling EDR capabilities.

Considerations for AVD Environments

Compatibility with Multi-Session Environments: Ensure that the Defender for Endpoint features and configurations are compatible with the multi-session nature of some AVD deployments. This includes understanding how security policies and threat detection work in environments where multiple users share a single session host.

  • Performance Impact: Assess and monitor the performance impact of running Defender for Endpoint on AVD session hosts, especially in high-density environments. Adjust configurations as necessary to balance security and performance.
  • Security Policy Management: Tailor Defender for Endpoint security policies specifically for the virtual desktop environment, considering the unique aspects and use cases of AVD session hosts.
  • Update Management: Keep the Defender for Endpoint agents up to date on AVD session hosts to ensure the latest threat intelligence and detection capabilities are used.

Integrating Defender for Endpoint with AVD session hosts significantly enhances the security posture of virtual desktop infrastructures, providing comprehensive protection against a wide range of threats. By carefully planning and managing this integration, organizations can ensure their virtual desktops remain secure, resilient, and compliant with industry standards and regulations.

AVD Session Host Monitoring Intune and Defender for Endpoint

The integration of Microsoft Intune and Defender for Endpoint offers comprehensive monitoring capabilities for Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) session hosts. This combination not only enhances the security and compliance of virtual desktops but also provides detailed insights into their operational status, health, and potential security threats. Here’s an overview of how each tool contributes to monitoring AVD session hosts and what capabilities they bring to the table.

Microsoft Intune Monitoring Capabilities

Device Compliance Monitoring: Intune allows administrators to define and enforce compliance policies for AVD session hosts. It monitors these devices against set policies to ensure they meet organizational security standards and regulatory requirements. Compliance reporting is available to track the status of all devices in realtime, highlighting any non-compliant devices that may require attention.

  • Configuration and Health Monitoring: Through configuration profiles, Intune provides detailed monitoring of device settings and health. Administrators can view reports on profile deployment status, including successful installations, failures, and conflicts. This enables quick identification and resolution of issues that could affect user productivity or device security.
  • Application Management and Monitoring: Intune offers application deployment and monitoring capabilities. Administrators can track the deployment status of applications, monitor their health, and ensure they are updated across all AVD session hosts. This includes both Microsoft and third-party applications, providing a comprehensive view of software reliability and usage on virtual desktops.
  • Endpoint Analytics: For environments where Endpoint Analytics is available, Intune can offer insights into device startup performance, application reliability, and user experience. These analytics help identify patterns and issues that could impact the efficiency and satisfaction of users accessing AVD session hosts.

Defender for Endpoint Monitoring Capabilities

  • Threat and Vulnerability Management: Defender for Endpoint continuously scans AVD session hosts for vulnerabilities and security misconfigurations. It prioritizes identified vulnerabilities based on the threat landscape and the potential impact on the organization, enabling administrators to focus on high-risk issues.
  • Real-time Threat Detection: Utilizing a broad set of detection technologies, Defender for Endpoint monitors AVD session hosts for malicious activities and behaviors. It provides real-time alerts and detailed reports on detected threats, facilitating swift investigative and response actions.
  • Advanced Hunting and Querying: Defender for Endpoint allows security teams to hunt for emerging threats proactively using custom queries. This capability leverages vast amounts of data collected from devices, offering insights into unusual activities or indicators of compromise that might not trigger standard alerts.
  • Automated Security Investigations and Remediation: The solution automates the investigation of alerts and can take immediate action to remediate detected threats. This reduces the operational burden on security teams and accelerates the response to potential security incidents, minimizing the impact on the organization.
  • Security Posture and Score: Defender for Endpoint evaluates the security posture of AVD session hosts and provides a secure score. This score helps organizations understand their security standing and offers recommendations for improvement, guiding strategic decisions to enhance overall security.
  • Monitoring and Response: Use the Defender Security Center portal to monitor threats, alerts, and security recommendations. Set up automated or manual processes for investigating and remediating threats identified on AVD session hosts.

Integration Benefits for AVD Session Hosts

The integration of Intune and Defender for Endpoint brings several benefits to monitoring AVD session hosts:

  • Unified Management and Security: Combining device management and advanced threat protection capabilities offers a holistic approach to securing and monitoring virtual desktop environments.
  • Enhanced Visibility: Administrators gain enhanced visibility into both the configuration and security status of AVD session hosts, enabling informed decision-making and proactive management.
  • Streamlined Compliance and Reporting: The tools provide comprehensive reporting features for both compliance and security, simplifying regulatory compliance and internal governance.
  • Improved User Experience: By monitoring device health, application performance, and addressing security threats promptly, organizations can ensure a secure and efficient user experience for those accessing AVD session hosts.

Leveraging Intune and Defender for Endpoint for the monitoring of AVD session hosts ensures that virtual desktops are not only secure from threats but also meet organizational standards for performance and reliability, creating a seamless and productive environment for end-users.

Wrapping It Up

In conclusion, the integration of Microsoft Intune and Defender for Endpoint provides a robust framework for managing and securing Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) session hosts. Through comprehensive monitoring, configuration management, and advanced threat protection capabilities, administrators can ensure their virtual desktop environments are both efficient and secure. This dual approach enables organizations to maintain high standards of compliance, streamline operational processes, and offer a superior user experience.

As the landscape of remote work continues to evolve, leveraging the synergies between Intune and Defender for Endpoint for AVD session host management represents a forward-thinking strategy. It ensures that businesses can navigate the complexities of virtual desktop infrastructure with confidence, safeguarding their assets and data while maximizing productivity and performance. By embracing these advanced tools, organizations set a new standard for virtual desktop management, combining innovation with uncompromising security and reliability. When you need expert assistance with Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) and Intune integration, AIS is your go-to partner for comprehensive support and solutions.