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How to boost SMB productivity with Windows 7 and 8

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[ This sponsored article was written by IDG Creative Lab, a partner of PCWorld, and not by PCWorld's editorial staff. ]

Windows 7 Professional and 8 Pro don't just look cleaner and run faster than Windows XP, they also make you and your users more productive. Here are four ways to use the upgrade from XP as an opportunity to bring your business into a new era of growth, profit, and productivity.

Easier Navigation for All

Windows XP can be daunting for some users, particularly novices, but Windows 7 Professional and 8 Pro are considerably easier to navigate. Take advantage of the less cluttered taskbar, which uses bold icons instead of text to show you what's running. You'll also find key settings more easily, though more advanced options are still available when you need them, thoughtfully tucked away where they don't obscure the most common settings. Now is a great time to get started with touch, too. If you're considering integrating some tablets or touchscreen PCs, these capabilities are baked right into Windows 8 Pro. The power and sophistication of a touch-based interface just isn't available on Windows XP, and when used properly, it can be a huge boon to productivity.

Simpler Sharing Improves Collaboration

Configuring a collection of Windows XP computers to share files over a network can stymie even a seasoned expert. To get started with file sharing, check out HomeGroup, a core feature of Windows 7 Professional and 8 Pro. HomeGroup offers an easy way to share collections of files (called Libraries) with other nearby computers. With these newer versions of Windows, it only takes a few clicks to get a HomeGroup set up and to select which files you want to share, and which ones you want to keep private. This more streamlined networking setup means your workers have less trouble sharing files and ideas, encouraging collaboration on projects.

Leverage the Cloud, Everywhere

Backing up data at the office is even tougher than it is at home, because you have so many more computers and users to worry about. Moving to Windows 7 Professional or 8 Pro is a great opportunity to transition your data backup process to the cloud. Take advantage of the built-in cloud features of Windows 8 Pro and Microsoft OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), which were built with SMBs in mind. Together, these allow you to save files to the cloud-based service by default. This not only saves you time and the hassle of physically storing backups offsite (as is recommended), it's also a big bonus for remote workers who need to access your company's files.

Security Matters Most

Windows 7 Professional and 8 Pro also represent major advances in security over Windows XP. Windows XP has proven vulnerable to a variety of attacks over the years, and resulting in damaging exploits and near-weekly patching by Microsoft. With those patches going away in April, the barrier between your vital company data and the criminals who would take advantage of it will quickly erode. After upgrading, take advantage of the key SMB-focused security features in Windows 7 Professional and 8 Pro by enabling the upgraded BitLocker encryption system and the new AppLocker, which lets you prevent unauthorized software from being installed on your business's computers.

This story, "How to boost SMB productivity with Windows 7 and 8" was originally published by BrandPost.

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