There’s been a lot of noise recently about the immersive, exciting and more engaging experience the new Windows 8 Modern UI (user interface) brings to desktop and notebook usability.
But Windows 8 isn’t just about enhancements to the end-user experience and a more natural ‘touch-aware’ way of interacting with applications. It brings a number of new features that could transform the experience of using Windows for business.
Traci Maynard, general manager of the software division at Tarsus Technologies says the benefits that will be most important for CIOs and IT directors who are considering the move to Windows 8 come from the security realm.
“Most IT departments will be familiar with – and might even have made use of – BitLocker and AppLocker, two security features that Microsoft debuted with Windows 7,” Maynard says.
“BitLocker has been improved with several usability enhancements that make it faster to deploy, such as the ability to pre-provision user PINs, passwords and the option to specify either ‘Full Volume’ or ‘Used Space Only’ encryption.
“This enhancement is key,” she adds, “since it allows IT departments to set BitLocker up to only encrypt used disk space, and in doing so, dramatically reduce the time it takes for BitLocker to be enabled.”
Some key enhancements have also been made to AppLocker.
“AppLocker now unlocks the ability for administrators to set rules for packaged apps and packaged app installers, substantially cutting down on the amount of time it takes to configure the solution.
“Where previously AppLocker would have to be configured for each distinct application or executable in a suite of products, such as Microsoft Office or Adobe’s Creative Suite, now administrators can configure it to work across all applications in a suite,” she says.
Still on the security front, Maynard says that many IT departments became accustomed to using Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure because of its ability to deliver a rich and full-fidelity Windows environment using hardware that existed almost entirely in the datacenter.
With Windows 8, the major enhancements come in the form of RemoteFX, a new technology that allows remote desktops to take advantage of graphics-intensive applications through a virtualised graphics card that’s hosted server-side.
“Numerous performance improvements have been made to the version that ships with Windows 8, allowing remote clients to stream media smoothly and even play full-screen, full-performance DirectX11 games on a thin client as if it were a full-blown desktop system.
“The solution even caters for up to 16 touchscreen monitors per virtual machine, giving users the full Windows 8 desktop experience on lightweight and low-cost thin client devices,” she adds.
“Rounding out the security enhancements of Windows 8 is ‘Windows To Go’ a completely new feature that enables users to boot into a fully-functional Windows 8 environment stored on a certified USB drive,” Maynard continues.
“It’s important to note that in the efforts of improved security, the host PC’s local storage devices aren’t available when a Windows To Go environment is active and similarly, that any Windows To Go USB devices will not appear in Windows Explorer if plugged into a running Windows system.
“Other than that, it’s a full-blown Windows 8 installation, but one that ‘lives’ on a USB Flash drive,” she says.
Outside of the security benefits outlined here, there’s a ton of new Windows 8 features worth exploring, such as BranchCache, DirectAccess, numerous performance enhancements and a host of Windows 8-specific hardware.
“So, while naysayers expound on the reasons Windows 8 won’t make it in the enterprise, I believe the exact opposite is true.
“We’ve seen many long awaited features delivered with Windows 8 that bring immediate value to so many clients we’re working with today.
“Here at Tarsus we haven’t been more confident about an operating system overhaul in years,” she concludes.