Window 7 RTM is now available for download and soon will be appearing on new computers sold at your local Best Buy. The new version of Windows will have a lot of appeal to consumers who will want Windows 7 for their personal use, but what should IT departments know about Windows 7? Are there features and benefits that make the switch to Window 7 from Vista or XP worthwhile? Has Microsoft made a compelling argument for the value of Windows 7 on the enterprise network?
The answer is yes. Windows 7, particularly the Enterprise edition which has several new features that will be valuable, especially if it is paired up with its stalemate, Windows Server 2008 R2. Let’s take a look at some of the things that every IT department should know about Windows 7.
New Search Functionality
One of the benefits of Window 7 Enterprise for end-users is the new search capabilities that allow file searches across remote desktops, including file shares on Windows Server 2003/2008, Vista and XP computers that have Window Desktop Search installed. Windows 7 can also organize files into Libraries, which permit browsing by author, date and tags. Files can be included in a Library with out being moved from their original locations. Windows 7 also supports the OpenSearch standard which allows federated searches across websites and blogs such as YouTube, Twitter and eBay, sites which have search connectors enabled. Search connectors are necessary for Federated Search and can be created for any website or blog. Microsoft has a Windows 7 Federated Search Provider Implementer’s Guide, available at:
Another benefit of Windows 7 for IT Departments is the more than 100 new PowerShell cmdlets that are available to manage both local computers. With the new PowerShell remote management capability administrators can run commands on hundreds of computers at once! The PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE) provides a GUI interface in which to run commands and write and test scripts. The ISE has a built-in script debugger and context-sensitive help. The Get-Help cmdlet has a new online parameter that opens updated help topics from the TechNet website.
Remote Access Features
Some of the best new features of Windows 7 are in the area of Remote Access; VPN Reconnect automatically reestablishes a VPN tunnel that is momentarily lost due to a hiccup in the Internet connection. VPN Reconnect makes use of IPSec tunnel mode and IKEv2 to quickly restore the VPN connection. VPN Reconnect requires that the VPN server be a Windows 2008 R2 server running Routing and Remote access. Another cool Windows 7 Remote Access feature that requires Server 2008 R2 is DirectAccess. DirectAccess gives Windows 7 clients seamless access to enterprise network resources from any location. If the client has a wireless, cellular or wired connection to the Internet it will establish a an IPv6-over-IPv4 tunnel using 6to4 or Teredo to the DirectAccess server and make any network resources Network Admins select available over the Direct Access connection. If a firewall blocks the tunnel ports the Windows 7 client will attempt an IP-HTTPS using SSL port 443 instead. See the details at:
Branch office users of Windows 7 can take advantage of BranchCache functionality, which allows branch office Windows 7 computers to share content from file and web servers at the main office site. When the first client at the branch accesses web or file servers at the main office servers data received will be cached on Windows 7. Other Windows 7 clients that need the same data will obtain it from the first client instead of using the WAN connection to the main office site. BranchCache can also be configured to share the cached data on Window7 computers in the branch office with a Windows 2008 R2 server in the branch office which will act as a central cache for the entire branch.
IT Departments should be interested in the numerous new or improved security features in Windows 7. Bitlocker Drive Encryption now supports USB hard drives. Windows 7 has enhanced auditing capabilities with 53 new advanced settings. Applocker controls which applications are permitted to run on Windows 7, preventing unapproved software, worms and viruses. Built-in biometric device support and enhanced support for smart card readers make for more secure logons. User Account Control is more user-friendly, with a lower annoyance factor.
Deploying the Windows 7 OS to computers has been simplified and streamlined. Windows Deployment Services on Window Server 2008 R2 can inject new drivers during the imaging process. Multicast Multiple Stream Transfers of Windows 7 images across the network are more efficient and many computers can be imaged simultaneously. User State Migration Tool version 4 (USMT 4.0) can more quickly migrate users data and settings from old Windows XP installations to a clean install of Window 7.
In addition to changes to User Account Control, Windows 7 has many advances that just plain make it more fun to use than Vista. Faster boot times, better use of memory, support for more hardware devices make Windows 7 easy to like. Features such as a zippier desktop experience with Jump Lists, touch-enabled displays, Aero Snap and Aero Peek make Window 7 easier to use. This can translate to greater user productivity. I can’t think of a anything better than that to get an IT Departments attention.
Check out Windows 7 for yourself at: