Amazon now lets you rent its virtual desktops, Amazon WorkSpaces, by the hour

Amazon is rolling out a new way for businesses to use its cloud-based virtual desktop service, Amazon WorkSpaces. Instead of paying monthly for access to an always-on WorkSpace you can connect to at any time, companies can now choose to pay and use WorkSpaces on an hourly basis. The new billing system is designed to appeal to those businesses with part-time employees, traveling employees who only log in sporadically, those working on short-term projects, and more.

Launched publicly in 2014 following its debut at the AWS re:Invent conference, Amazon WorkSpaces is Amazon’s secure desktop computing service that runs on the AWS cloud. The WorkSpaces provide end users with access to documents, applications and other resources, and can be used from any supported device, including Windows and Mac computers, Chromebooks, iPads, Fire tablets and Android tablets.

Businesses can deploy the WorkSpaces to employees, already preconfigured with the apps, files, and access they need for their job, and they’re able to integrate with Active Directory for user authentication and WorkSpace management.


Previously, however, access to WorkSpaces was sold through a competitive, but traditional pricing structure. The pricing varies depending on your region, the hardware resources you require, and whether you want some basic applications pre-loaded, like Microsoft Office and other utilities. That means the monthly pricing ranges from $21 to $60 (U.S.) before add-ons.

With the new hourly plans – dubbed “AutoStop,” versus the monthly plan’s “AlwaysOn” service – WorkSpaces start running and billing when the user logs in. They will then stop automatically when the user is disconnected for a specific period of time. You can select a time from 1 to 48 hours before the system is disconnected, says Amazon.

WorkSpaces admins can also force a WorkSpace to stop running, if need be. When the user returns, their WorkSpace will remain intact with all their documents still open and running programs available as before. Resuming the WorkSpace takes under 90 seconds.

In addition to news of the hourly billing, Amazon also responded to customer feedback and expanded the size of the root volume for new WorkSpaces to 80 GB, which allows for more applications, and more data to be stored at no extra cost. (Existing WorkSpaces will have to be rebuilt to upgrade them to the larger root volumes.)

Hourly pricing still has a small monthly fee, in addition to the cents per hour you rent your WorkSpace. The “Value” bundle starts at $0.22/hour, or $0.17/hour with the “BYOL” (Bring Your Own License) option, and costs $7.25/per month. This gives you 1 vCPU, 2 GiB memory, and 10 GB for user storage. This pricing option makes sense for those employees who work less than half-time, as it’s only $25/month for the always-on service.