Microsoft unleashed Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview today. The early look at the enterprise version of Windows 8.1 follows the release of Windows 8.1 Preview at Microsoft’s BUILD conference last month, and includes a variety of tools that show Microsoft’s commitment to both BYOD and virtualization.
Aside from the slew of changes and enhancements in the regular Windows 8.1 Preview edition, Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview also includes features uniquely designed for business customers. Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview adds business-friendly elements like Direct Acess, and BranchCache. It also provides IT admins with the power to configure and lock down the Start screen on Windows 8 clients.
Microsoft also has tools in Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview to help out with BYOD and virtualization: Windows To Go, and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Windows To Go lets the company put an entire managed Windows 8 desktop environment on a bootable USB thumb drive, and VDI gives the business the tools to enable users to use critical business software from virtually any Internet-connected device.
One of the hottest trends in business technology today is mobility and working remotely. The driving forces behind working remotely are the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend and virtualization.
More and more companies are embracing BYOD and allowing (or requiring) employees to provide their own PCs and mobile devices. BYOD can be a cost-cutting measure for the company, because the employee is taking on some (or all) of the burden of purchasing the PC. BYOD enables users to be more productive and have higher job satisfaction because they get to use the hardware they prefer, and are more comfortable with.
BYOD also introduces some unique concerns, though, when it comes to enforcing policies and protecting company data. Regardless of its benefits, companies can’t just let employees connect rogue computers to the network, or store sensitive company data on a personal PC without any protection. The nice thing about Windows To Go is that it turns any Windows 7 or Windows 8 device into a managed Windows 8 PC without installing any additional software, or putting the personal applications or data of the employee at risk.
Another factor in working remotely is virtualization. Whether hosted locally or in the cloud,virtual servers allow the company to maximize the value from its investment in hardware, and adapt quickly to changing demand or business needs. From an endpoint perspective, virtual applications, or virtual desktop are more valuable. A virtual desktop infrastructure like in Windows 8.1 Enterprise simplifies deployment and management of software because the company only has to install and maintain it in one place. At the same time, it helps the users get more done even on older or weaker hardware because much of the processing overhead is handled on the server end.
Small and medium businesses have a lot to gain from both BYOD and virtualization. The features and capabilities of Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview demonstrate Microsoft’s commitment to keeping SMB customers on the cutting edge.