Windows 7 For Business — Features for Increased Manageability
If you have read a lot about Windows 7 lately, you aren’t alone. While Microsoft can hardly be happy about the beating they took over Windows Vista, it appears that in the long run, it may end up working out in the company’s favor.
Everyone from mainstream journalists to trade publications to bloggers and other self-anointed experts have spend two-plus years bashing Windows Vista. Microsoft took the easy (easier?) road when it essentially abandoned Vista to the graveyard of public opinion and began banging the Windows 7 drum everywhere it went.
Of course, the joke is on the critics, because Windows 7 is nothing more than what Windows Vista might have been had Microsoft not bowed to critics the first time around who began wondering when, IF EVER, Microsoft would release another operating system, because Windows XP was SO OLD!
Ironically, today, the same critics can’t tell enough people how good Windows XP is (was) and how Windows Vista wasn’t necessary and everyone should just stick with XP. But, that story has become tired.
No one wants to read about Vista anymore, and having been prepped the last time around, people now WANT something new, something more, well … new. All they need is a tiny little push.
Business Rules – No Shirt, No Shoes, No Reason to Upgrade, No Service
Nowhere does the echo chamber of “web 2.0″ ring more hollow than along the hallways of business, where systems administrators still have not recovered the salaries or respect they had the last time the Internet led the world around by the nose.
Here, Windows Vista was never an operating system without a killer feature, or one that had poor driver support, or even one whose UAC caused tons of problems. Here, admins know how to get drivers and deploy them across hundreds of computers before anyone even knows there is a problem, and the opportunity to lock down a system so that the myriad of users who think they know best, until there is a problem, can’t mess anything up by launching a virus, or installing some funny screensaver they downloaded off of a website their brother told them about, is a blessing.
In the world of business Vista had one, and only one, fatal flaw. It wasn’t what was already rolled out to thousands or tens of thousands of desktops across the company, and no one wanted to spend the thousands of hours and uncounted dollars that it would take to change that.
However, over the last few years, Microsoft slowly, and without much fanfare, released and updated tools and products that would aid business and their professional administrators in rolling out Windows 7. The reality is, and always has been, that how business goes, so goes the rest of the computing world.
When companies start putting a new OS on their employee’s desktops, those employees want it on their home computers. This time, Microsoft is going to be sure that happens first by including much desired enterprise features, and by providing more tools than ever to deploy the new OS.
Windows 7 Enterprise Edition Features
When we broke down the seemingly large number of forthcoming Windows 7 Editions, we noted that the average consumer would only need choose between the Home Premium and Professional Editions. In the world of businesses who don’t qualify the term with the word “small” there is only one edition, Enterprise.
In keeping with Microsoft’s new scheme in which each version contains only more features than the version below it, Windows 7 Enterprise is second only to Windows 7 Ultimate, which will no doubt include many features (mostly multimedia and gaming features) that businesses don’t want and won’t allow anyway. That means that anything Windows 7 can do, it can do for business.
So, what does Enterprise Edition bring to the party?
Microsoft is focusing its message on touting 7 features:
- BitLocker & BitLocker To Go
- Enterprise Search Scopes
- Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Optimizations
- Multilingual User Interface
BitLocker & AppLocker
Of these, BitLocker and AppLocker are the ones that have sys admins ready to fight the good fight with management over budgeting the time and resources necessary to upgrade an enterprise worth of PCs.
Just about everyone in America has received a letter in the last year or two telling them about how a laptop had been stolen or lost and how everyone was pretty sure that it was no big deal and their data was safe, but just in case, they could have a free year of credit monitoring if they wanted. (You can thank California law for these letters.)
Companies hate sending out these letters, but they are not motivated to provide the time or dollars, nor to withstand the user aggravation, to implement the kind of lock down security that would make any laptop theft, USB key loss, or even office break-in a non-event when it comes to potentially compromised data. With BitLocker and BitLocker To Go, this ends.
Built into the operating system that is already installed on every hard drive on every computer of every branch of the company will be a feature that encrypts all of the data at the OS level which means not only is the computer useless to thieves, so is the data.
More importantly, when some forgets the password or locks themselves out, as they always end up doing eventually, BitLocker provides for a way for systems administrators to recover the keys and make sure that the Executive Vice President of Whatever doesn’t spend three hours screaming on the phone at someone in IT over something that is actually his own fault.
Likewise, AppLocker allows an even tighter lockdown on user desktops while at the same time allowing for more flexibility in how they are locked, and most importantly of all, more flexibility in how exceptions get handled.
For, no matter how hard IT tries, there is always a user who MUST have access to something that is forbidden and opening it up (and also for his backup, oh and his manager, oh and his assistant) and then managing those exceptions becomes a full-time problem. AppLocker makes this problem virtually go away.
Perhaps no feature, however, is drawing as much intrigue in the world of MIS than virtualization. The idea of being able to install and run multiple copies of a system separate from each other has spawned a tidal wave of creativity among administrators.
The most obvious use is one system that is the regular admin system, with a second that is the regular user system, allowing the admin to see what the user sees when it comes to troubleshooting a problem, virtually eliminating the continuous difficulty of knowing when something has been solved and when someone’s admin privileges are just allowing it to work for now. No more, “log in as you so I can see,” conversations with users.
However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. With Windows 7 Enterprise, every PC comes licensed fully for up to FOUR copies of the OS for virtualized systems.
IT admins get giddy thinking about a world where the guy who manages payroll logs into a system with no Internet access, no shared drives, and no access to network printers while working inside the payroll system, and then switching to another system with full email, printer, Internet access, but no access to the payroll system in order to do the rest of his job, all without having to put two computers on his desk.
These features are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the increased manageability of Windows 7 that will drive its adoption in the business world. And, the new tools to get it out there are better than ever.