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Windows 8 Enterprise: 6 Key Features For IT

Microsoft has added new enterprise features to Windows 8, while enhancing some holdovers from Windows 7.

X Windows Annoyances That Windows 8 Will (Hopefully) Solve
X Windows Annoyances That Windows 8 Will (Hopefully) Solve
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Microsoft this week released new details about the upcoming versions of Windows 8. Unlike Windows 7, which had six variants, Windows 8 has only four: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 RT (for ARM tablets), and Windows 8 Enterprise. On Wednesday, the company published more information about the latter.

Windows 8 Enterprise, according to Microsoft, will contain a number of exclusive features for use in corporate IT environments. "Windows 8 Enterprise features all the capabilities that customers get with Windows 8 Pro … plus premium features designed to provide the mobile productivity, security, manageability, and virtualization needs of today's businesses," said Erwin Visser, senior director of Microsoft's Windows group, in a blog post.

Here's a look at six of the more significant features exclusive to Windows 8 Enterprise.

1. Windows To Go: For companies that hire consultants, contractors, and other temporary workers and need to give those personnel access to a corporate desktop image and apps without granting full server permissions, Windows To Go provides a solution. Users can boot a preconfigured, IT-certified Windows 8 image onto any laptop from a USB drive. It also allows users to boot up a Windows 8 image on a Windows 7 PC.

2. Direct Access: A holdover from Windows 7, DirectAccess connects PCs to a corporate network and puts them under control of corporate IT policies without requiring users to log into a Virtual Private Network. The feature becomes active each time the user connects to the Internet. DirectAccess is designed to make it easier for admins to maintain control over remote PCs, and it improves security by ensuring that mobile users or home office workers are always in compliance with corporate IT policies.

[ Want to see what Windows 8 is all about? Take our visual tour: Windows 8 Visual Tour: Microsoft's New Desktop. ]

3. BranchCache: Another feature designed with mobile or remote workers in mind, BranchCache facilitates local caching of data and files from central servers so that frequently used documents and data can be accessed locally, reducing loads on network links to main offices. "Content is not repeatedly downloaded," Visser said.

4. AppLocker: Also inherited from Windows 7, AppLocker allows admins to specify which applications are allowed to run on corporate PCs. It can also be used to restrict user sub-groups to certain apps while granting full permissions to other groups. One of the main benefits of AppLocker is that it makes it easier for admins to prevent insecure or unlicensed software from running on enterprise systems.

5. Upgrade tools: Microsoft is offering a full range of migration tools that enterprises can use to automate many of the processes involved with porting desktops and laptops to Windows 8. ACT (Application Compatibility Toolkit) has been updated to support Windows 8, as has the User State Migration Tool. Windows Recovery Environment has also been updated.

6. Enhanced RemoteFX: Microsoft says RemoteFX, which is designed to deliver the full Windows GUI experience on virtual desktops, has been upgraded for Windows 8 and Windows 8 Server. Users will get "a rich desktop experience with the ability to play 3D graphics, use USB peripherals, and use touch-enabled devices across any type of network (LAN or WAN) for VDI scenarios," said Visser.

Microsoft has not announced an official ship date or pricing details for Windows 8 Enterprise, though many observers expect it to be released later this year.

InformationWeek is conducting a survey on the state of enterprise applications and business processes and organizations' priorities in evolving technology over the next 12 to 24 months. Upon completion of our survey, you will be eligible to enter a drawing to receive an 32-GB Apple iPod Touch. Take our Enterprise Applications Survey now. Survey ends April 20.

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