Windows 8: Making Life Easier for IT Admins
Microsoft unveiled its "boldly re-imagined" Windows 8 operating system at the BUILD conference this week. The flashy Metro interface with its Windows Phone 7-like tiles and its touchscreen simplicity are getting all the attention, but what really matters is how Windows 8 meets the needs of business users and IT administrators; they need an OS that improves productivity and security. Here's a closer look at some of the capabilities of Windows 8 that may not make headlines, but that should make Windows 8 a better OS for business.
Better Performance, Same Hardware
Microsoft has tweaked and fine-tuned the Windows operating system to operate more efficiently. Not only will you not need to replace existing Windows 7 hardware to run Windows 8, but Windows 8 will run better and consume fewer system resources than Windows 7 does on existing hardware.
Windows 8 has a unique form of account authentication using a custom pattern of taps and swipes on a picture. Cracking tools might guess users' text passwords, but a password should be more difficult to determine when it is being entered by a finger tapping on the glass, followed by a swipe from bottom to top on the subject's face, and a swipe from right to left along the shoreline.
Windows 8 systems should boot up significantly faster than systems running earlier versions of Windows. On systems with UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) rather than the traditional BIOS, Windows 8 is supposed to go from totally shut down to completely logged in, virtually in the blink of an eye.
Windows 8 authenticates boot components on UEFI systems to prevent low-level attacks like rootkits from subverting the OS during boot-up. If the boot device doesn't have a valid Microsoft signature, the system will reject it and enter into Windows Recovery mode instead to ensure that it's free from malware.
Reset and Refresh
It should be easier than ever to return a system to a known-good state, or to prepare it to be sold or disposed of. You can create a baseline image with the Refresh feature and return to that baseline at the push of a button, or revert to a clean Windows 8 install with the Reset option.
Windows to Go
IT admins can carry or provide users with a bootable USB storage device containing a copy of Windows 8, along with their business apps, data, and settings. When the session is finished and the USB device is removed, no data or information would be left behind.
The new Task Manager gives IT admins an all-in-one dashboard for monitoring and controlling the Windows 8 system. The information is presented in color-coded tiles to help draw attention to items using the bulk of a particular resource. An IT admin can monitor a system in real time with summary graphs, and also see details on processes, applications, history, and associated services, all in one screen.
Windows Assessment Console
IT admins will be able to use the Windows Assessment Console as a diagnostic tool for Windows 8 systems. Analysis is broken down into a variety of categories including hardware performance, startup and shutdown experience, and battery run-down.
Mount VHD and ISO Files
Microsoft is trying to make it much easier to work with archive and backup data in Windows 8, as Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) and ISO files can be natively mounted and opened in Windows Explorer. No more burning a DVD or setting up a virtual machine just to find a file or program.
Mounting a VHD file in Explorer is nice, but IT admins will also appreciate that Windows 8 comes with a Hyper-V client for setting up and running alternate platforms in virtual machines.
Sync PC Settings
Using a Windows Live account, IT admins can sync Windows 8 settings, including background image, lock screen, sounds, themes, language settings, and app settings. This is designed to provide a consistent experience no matter which Windows 8 system they log into.
The familiar Remote Desktop gets a Metro UI overhaul in Windows 8. IT admins will be able to add different systems as favorites, and easily connect to remote systems with a single click or tap.
With Windows 8, Windows Defender is supposed to provide more robust and comprehensive protection than its past iterations. The new Windows Defender incorporates the antimalware functions found in Microsoft Security Essentials, and its protection loads during the boot process to detect and stop malware before Windows is fully loaded.
(Image shown is the current version of Windows Defender.)