On April 8 2014, Microsoft will be ending support for Windows XP and Office 2003. IT departments throughout the world won’t receive new security updates or support options.
It’s time to seriously think about migrating to a new Windows system, if you haven’t already. Whether you’re an IT administrator looking to keep your IT systems safe, secure and simplified, or a forward-thinking manager already thinking about how to incorporate touch and tablets into your infrastructure, Windows 8.1 can work for you.
Here are five reasons why system administrators will love Windows 8.1.
1. Control devices employees bring in from the outside
It’s a fact of workplace life that employees will want to bring in their own devices, and it’s traditionally been a difficult problem to control their access to the corporate network. Windows 8.1 feature Workplace Join which solves this problem, as it allows end users to register devices they bring in from the outside. IT can then control how much of the network is available to the device.
2. Sync data on all devices
Employees ideally like to work from anywhere. A feature called Work Folders gives them the power to access work documents, while reducing the risk of losing information and losing track of the data. It allows an employee to save company data in a Work Folders directory on their device, which is synced to an IT-controlled file server. This means any work they do remotely will be synced, with all the changes they made automatically saved for when they get back to work on the doc in the office.
3. Create a mobile Windows workspace using a USB key
Windows To Go is a nifty feature which allows you to create a version of Windows on any compatible computer, booted from a USB-connected external drive. It’s a fully manageable Windows 8 environment and suits workers on the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) lifestyle – they can work with the same associated applications and data without having to lug a laptop home from the office. Businesses will appreciate the lowered hardware costs without sacrificing data protection or compliance policies.
4. Encrypt devices and create a more secure application environment
Hardware can disappear – either through loss or theft. Windows 8.1 has BitLocker tools which allow devices such as laptops and portable storage to be locked down with encryption. Another feature called AppLocker allows you to specify which users or groups can run particular applications in your organisation. This means you can set rules to allow or deny apps from running.
5. Control the Start Screen
Windows 8.1 has a new start-up screen. Using a new feature called Start Up Control, you can control the layout of the Start screen on company-issued devices to make sure key applications are accessible to certain individuals. If system administrators want to keep the corporate identity on devices being used outside of the office, they can stop users from customising the Start Screen.
And five reasons Windows 8.1 is ready for the future
1. It’s touchscreen-friendly
The tools of the consumer are penetrating the enterprise world. Workers are becoming more tech-savvy – bringing in the technology they use at home, such as tablets and smart phones, in the workplace. Windows 8.1 is designed for touch screens as well as the desktop. Technology moves fast, and the managers of tomorrow may be demanding touch-friendly equipment. We’re already there.
2. It’s cloud-ready
Windows 8.1 is designed with the cloud in mind. IT administrators can choose whether they want to embrace and integrate services like SkyDrive Pro, which allows you to share information with co-workers and mobile devices. You have a place to store documents in a secure location, whether you choose to go with the cloud or a SharePoint server.
3. Access useful apps from the Windows Store
Employees are free to download useful apps from the Windows Store if you let them. You can also control the availability and functionality of Windows Store apps on client computers in accordance with your business policies. And if there is an enterprise app available from the Windows Store that might be useful for the workforce, it is simple to add these to a Windows image. It’s also possible to develop Windows Store apps for use only in your enterprise and add them to Windows devices you manage through a process called sideloading.
4. Hyper-V technology is built in
Many companies have looked at server virtualisation as a great way of reducing costs, and Client Hyper-V is built into Windows 8.1. Client Hyper-V enables you to run more than one 32-bit or 64-bit x86 operating system at the same time on the same host computer, running inside a virtual machine. IT professionals can easily maintain multiple test environments and quickly switch between these environments.
5. Print using NFC and Wi-Fi
Windows 8.1 offers tap-to-pair printing – simply by tapping a Windows 8.1 device against an enterprise NFC-enabled printer. There’s no need to buy special printers. Simply attach an NFC tags. You can also connect Windows 8.1 to Wi-Fi printers without the need for additional drivers or software, allowing printing with a peer-to-peer network between the device and the printer.
Time to get ready for tomorrow, today? Windows 8.1 is officially available on October 18, but you can already download the Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview here.
Asavin is a specialist technology writer with more than five years experience writing for different web publications. He’s particularly interested in Microsoft technology and how it fits for business needs throughout the world.