AWS WorkSpaces Pricing Overview

Last Updated:
April 11, 2024

AWS WorkSpaces Pricing Overview

Amazon Web Services® (AWS®) WorkSpaces is a Desktop as a Service (DaaS) product that provides virtual Windows® or Linux cloud-based desktops delivered from and managed by AWS. Unlike Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud® (EC2), which is designed for IT teams running servers and workloads in a virtual environment, WorkSpaces provides virtual desktops for end users to enable them to utilize their desktop, applications, and storage from a variety of devices.

AWS WorkSpaces Billing Options

AWS WorkSpaces offers hourly and monthly billing options. With hourly billing, you pay a monthly fee to cover infrastructure and storage costs plus an hourly rate for every hour a Workspace is used. Hourly billing is best suited for users that don’t need full time access to their desktop (generally four hours or less per day). With monthly billing, you pay an all-inclusive flat fee per month per virtual desktop. Monthly billing is best for users that utilize their virtual desktop on a full time basis (i.e., over four hours per day).

Since AWS WorkSpaces pricing changes periodically, we won’t list pricing in this post. To see the most recent pricing, go to the Amazon WorkSpaces Pricing page.

You can mix WorkSpaces billing options if your users run the gamut of part time to full time desktop use—but, to take full advantage of mixing billing options, you must pay close and ongoing attention to how your users are utilizing their virtual desktops, or risk unexpected additional costs. You can also switch between options any time during a billing period.

Hourly billing includes an Autostop feature, where idle WorkSpaces automatically stop after a specified period of inactivity, which helps to keep costs down. However, since Windows® runs so many background processes, a virtual Windows desktop that may seem idle to a user may be running enough background processes to appear active to an AWS WorkSpaces server and thus avoid shutdown by Autostop. To prevent this, users should be trained to properly shut down at the end of a session.

Additionally, it may take up to two minutes to restart a disconnected session, so if a user utilizes their Workspace periodically throughout the day, or needs to restart quickly, you should consider the impact the restart wait time will have on that user’s productivity. Long restarts may also prompt a user to avoid shutting down between sessions, leading to unexpected additional costs—another reason to train users prior to implementing WorkSpaces.

Finally, there are some caveats for using AWS WorkSpaces if you have specific requirements. WorkSpace virtual desktops run Windows 10 powered by Windows Server® 2016 or 2019. If you want Windows 11 and/or Windows Server 2022 functionality, as of this writing it’s not available in AWS WorkSpaces. Additionally, for Windows 10 WorkSpaces, you need to run a minimum of 200 WorkSpaces per region. And, If you want to run your WorkSpaces on dedicated hardware, you are required to run a minimum of 100 WorkSpaces per region, whatever the OS.

Primary AWS WorkSpaces Pricing Drivers

AWS WorkSpaces pricing is determined primarily by the Workspace bundle choice. An AWS Workspace bundle is a combination of hardware and software requirements that meet the needs of a specific user type. Each bundle provides different CPU, GPU, memory, and storage resources (SSD volumes) options, expressed primarily as root and user volumes. Root volume refers to the part of the virtual desktop where the operating system (OS) and applications are located; user volume is where users store their data. Both volume types are measured in GB.

Users utilizing more CPU-intensive applications (any app that requires complex calculations to work, like 3D modeling and rendering, photo and video editing, and complex Excel spreadsheets) need more CPUs to run their applications and also need more file and data storage for the large files generated by those applications. These users will need a WorkSpaces bundle that meets those requirements, i.e. a bundle with more CPUs included in the root and user volumes. In contrast, a user responsible for general clerical tasks can be effective using a bundle with lower CPUs for the root and user volumes.

From a pricing perspective, the higher the root and user volume CPU, the higher the monthly bundle cost.


Secondary AWS WorkSpaces Pricing Drivers

Secondary WorkSpaces pricing drivers include the virtual desktop OS, AWS region, public internet access, and data transfer fees.

  • Operating System: Windows WorkSpaces are more expensive than Linux WorkSpaces due to the cost of the Windows license, which is factored into the monthly cost.
  • AWS region: An AWS region is a physical location where Amazon clusters data centers for application and service delivery. Selecting an AWS region in close physical proximity to users reduces network latency and improved communication quality. However, some regions have higher prices due to higher demand and infrastructure costs versus other regions.
  • Public internet access: When a user accesses the public internet from his WorkSpaces desktop, Amazon will charge for the bandwidth consumed. To avoid these charges, users need to be trained to access the public internet from the browser on their physical device, not their virtual desktop.
  • Data Transfer Fees: When an organization utilizes multiple Amazon regions for a WorkSpaces implementation, Amazon will charge a fee for each GB of data that’s transferred between regions—for example, files attached to an Outlook® email sent from a user located in one AWS region to a coworker user located in another AWS region.

Additional AWS WorkSpaces Costs

Additional elements that can impact overall WorkSpaces costs are:

  • Software Licensing: Organizations using WorkSpaces can bring existing Windows 10 desktop licenses and Microsoft® 365 apps with them and get a discount on their WorkSpaces bundle cost. This applies to organizations committing to at least 100 WorkSpaces in a given AWS region per month. And most software companies will allow an organization to move existing licenses to WorkSpace and/or buy their software directly or through a reseller and implement it in WorkSpace as they would for any virtual desktop provider.
  • Training: To fully leverage an AWS WorkSpaces implementation—and avoid unnecessary charges—IT should be trained to implement and manage WorkSpaces, and users should be trained on using WorkSpaces, but many companies don’t consider this cost and may be hit with surprise costs resulting from unfamiliarity with WorkSpaces pricing and policies as noted above.
  • Downsizing: while one of WorkSpaces’ advantages is that an organization can reduce their total number of WorkSpaces at any time without penalty, downsizing can add to overall cost due to upfront charges like one-time installation.
  • Additional storage: for organizations with storage needs over and above the storage provided in WorkSpaces bundles, Amazon offers Amazon WorkDocs at a cost over and above WorkSpaces.
  • No automatic shutdown: While Amazon provides bill alarms to notify an organization when a certain dollar threshold is crossed, those bill alarms can take up to 12 hours to update after they are set, exposing organizations to additional cost.

While the AWS Workspaces Pricing webpage is transparent about pricing, as noted above, the total cost for Workspaces can be difficult to determine, and the minimum WorkSpaces requirements for specific operating systems may bar some organizations from using WorkSpaces. IT teams should “dot every I and cross every T’ when estimating WorkSpaces costs and should seriously consider consulting with a third-party expert to get an assessment of total cost.

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