Is your business still using Windows XP? If so, you’re not alone. But, you should also seriously consider moving to a newer operating system. You could just step up to Windows 7, but there’s also a pretty strong case to be made for moving to Windows 8—particularly Windows 8 Enterprise.
It’s a bit cliché at this point to talk about what a dramatic change Windows 8 is compared with previous versions of Windows. Microsoft gave the UI a complete overhaul and reengineered the Windows operating system with tablets and touchscreens in mind. Beneath the veneer, though, it’s still Windows, and once you get accustomed to navigating the new OS, Windows 8 is pretty slick.
Assuming you want to move to Windows 8, you then have to decide which version. There are a handful of features that are only available in Windows 8 Enterprise—like Windows To Go—that make it an ideal operating system for organizations that have already embraced, or plan to adopt a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy.
There are pros and cons to BYOD in general for both the business and the employees. The business is exposing its data and network resources to rogue computers that may contain malware, or could end up lost or stolen and potentially expose sensitive information. The employee is cluttering up their personal PC with software and data they don’t own, and have no desire to use outside of a work environment. And, that’s just scratching the surface.
Windows To Go is an awesome tool for BYOD because it enables a complete, managed Windows 8 desktop to be booted from a USB thumb drive or external hard drive. The employee can bring in pretty much any laptop hardware they choose, and simply boot using the company-issued Windows To Go.
While the employee is at work, they can use the safe, secure Windows 8 environment supplied by the organization. When they shut down and leave, their laptop is exactly as it was before they went to work. Windows To Go takes away most of the downsides associated with BYOD.
An additional benefit is that if any issues are encountered—like a malware infection of some sort—it is simple to just clone a new Windows To Go image and pretend it never happened.
There are some caveats. First, as mentioned above, Windows To Go is only available with Windows 8 Enterprise. Second, Windows To Go requires at least a 32GB USB flash drive, and is only compatible with specific makes and models supported by Microsoft.
There are some features and functions that are not available in Windows To Go—mostly as a means of keeping the virtual Windows 8 environment segregated from the underlying hardware and software on the PC. For example, the internal drives of the PC are disabled from within Windows To Go. The hibernation feature, Windows Recovery Environment, and Windows 8 App Store are also not available by default.
If you’re already allowing users to bring their own PCs to work, or you’re considering adopting a BYOD policy, you should look closely at what Windows To Go has to offer.
Small and Medium Business
Tony is principal analyst with the Bradley Strategy Group, providing analysis and insight on tech trends. He is a prolific writer on a range of technology topics, has authored a number of books, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.