Microsoft’s Windows 8 consumer features are well documented, but how does the latest operating system cater for business customers?
Microsoft unveiled Windows 8 during its BUILD developers conference last week in Anaheim, California. The company revealed the new Metro interface for a range of new style applications. Desktop and classic Windows discussions were at a minimum but there’s a lot there for those who will need to use the classic desktop and deploy Windows 8 in business and enterprise workplaces.
Connectivity, Wi-Fi and mobile broadband improvements
Some of the most basic but important changes in Windows 8 from a business perspective are the improvements in connectivity. Windows 8 now treats a mobile broadband network as a metered connection, allowing Windows to automatically block further network connections and avoid costly data charges. Microsoft’s improved Wi-Fi support makes it easier for users to switch to hotspots as an alternative to mobile broadband connections. Microsoft has also improved its radio support in Windows 8. The operating system includes controls to allow users to quickly turn individual connections on and off or manage them all with a “flight mode” switch.
Metro style apps secure environment
Metro style apps run in a secure environment on Windows 8. The apps’s user data is isolated to the individual application and user. Microsoft revealed last week that Metro style apps will only be available via the new Windows Store environement but the company revealed sideloading will be available and supported. Microsoft is expected to allow businesses to load on their own Metro apps.
Microsoft’s SmartScreen filter technology is now integreated for files downloaded from the web. The technology, typically found in Internet Explorer, will prevent end users from launching known malware programs. The technology provides warnings before high-risk apps are allowed to run.
Microsoft is building its own antimalware protection straight into Windows 8. Windows Defender monitors and protects against viruses and known malware in real time. Windows Defender will also load approved antimalware drivers during the boot process to ensure that even 3rd party antimalware software can start correctly and monitor the system at all stages.
Microsoft has improved the security of booting Windows desktops a great deal with Windows 8. Secured boot aims to make Windows more responsive to virus threats during bootup. If Windows detects any attempt to start malware before the operating system is up and running it will start the Windows Recover Environment which will attempt to automatically fix the operating system.
Windows To Go
Windows 8 includes the ability to run itself from a USB. Windows To Go will allow businesses to supply end users with a USB copy of their operating system, business apps, data and settings. End users can simply plug the USB into any regular desktop or laptop and Windows 8 will boot from the USB with all the users settings intact.
Windows 8 includes some improvements to DirectAccess. Windows 8 better supports existing infrastructure by supporting non-IPv6 server resources and simplified deployment for smaller organizations by not requiring Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).
Microsoft has built in new capabilities to AppLocker in Windows 8. AppLocker can be used to manage both desktop and Metro style apps. Business IT environments can create security policies to allow or deny specific applications from being run on a Windows 8 desktop.
BitLocker includes improved performance benefits for Windows 8 users. BitLocker now only encrypts sectors on a HDD that have data stored on them. Windows 8 BitLocker will encrypt the drive as free space is used up. The user experienced is also improved via hard drive pre-encryption with clear key and user pin reset options.
File management Windows Explorer improvements
Microsoft has built in the ribbon interface to the Windows Explorer. The interface provides easy and quick access to the ISO and VHD support in Windows 8. Microsoft has also made copying/moving files a lot better, combining all file operations in one place. The Windows up button has also returned to the Windows Explorer interface.
Systems with a TPM chip can be used to prevent rootkit or malware infections with Windows 8. TPM enabled systems will initiate a Measured Boot process in Windows 8 that is used to validate the boot process and prevent rootkits and other malware from loading.
Improved Active Directory-based activation
Windows 8 enables Windows activation based on user identities in Active Directory. The new feature does not require any additional infrastructure and lets Windows 8 systems be activated in an enterprise environment using Active Directory.
Microsoft has overhauled the Task Manager to make it the number one place to monitor and control your PC. The new interface remains simplified to begin with, which then opens up to an advanced Task Manager with an array of new tabs and options. Microsoft has color-coded system resources to show users what tasks are taking up the bulk of the system. There’s also an App History tab that shows how applications have performed on a system.
Windows 8 includes a client Hyper-V version, making it easy for businesses to take advantage of virtualization from the desktop client. Multiple operating system instances can run simultaneously on a Windows 8 computer as a result.
Microsoft has made several improvements to Windows 8 deployment methods. IT pros can enable pre-encryption of computers at the time of deployment and enable users to create a PIN during their first use of the system. Microsoft’s Active Directy-based activation improvements mean that a users identity can be used to activate a Windows 8 computer. IT pros can also deploy multiple languages in a single image of Windows 8.
Microsoft has made some much needed improvements to its multi-monitor support in Windows 8. The Start Screen Metro interface can be displayed on one monitor or another. Windows 8 now supports different desktop backgrounds on each monitor or the ability to stretch an image across both. Microsoft also natively supports taskbar spanning across multiple screens or the ability to have unique task bars on each monitor.
Windows 8 includes a number of options to restore a PC to its original state. There’s a basic reset option which will allow users to restart fresh while keeping all of their documents, accounts, personal settings and Windows Store Apps. Windows 8 also includes a complete reset option which will restore the PC to an original state with a fresh operating system image.