Regardless of your role in IT, Windows 7 is likely to have an impact on the work you do. TechRepublic contributors weigh in on how the new OS will affect a variety of tech positions.
As a windup to the release of Windows 7 last month, several TechRepublic writers tackled the question of what Windows 7 means for specific areas of IT. Here are a few of the highlights. A complete collection of their articles is available as a PDF download.
Support techs need to take a lot of Windows 7 issues into consideration, and now is the time to rethink the overall support strategies that are in place.
1: Time to dump the old tools
When Windows 7 makes its way into your support footprint, it might be the right time to remove obsolete support tools. This includes remote console mechanisms, such as VNC, DameWare, and RAdmin. Sure, these tools made sense in the Windows 2000 era and were a passable carryover to Windows XP. But should these tools be rolled onto Windows 7?
The upgrade to Windows 7 may be the prime time to roll in a newer console-based support strategy. This can include Remote Desktop or newer-concept products as a service, such as LogMeIn Pro. Today, connectivity is a mixed bag of wired, wireless, and remote (VPN) connections. Products such as LogMeIn can support on all of those bands, including situations where the PC is not connected to the network.
2: Reinstallation process refined
This may also be a good opportunity to refine desktop protection and troubleshooting practices if they just waste time. Would it be better to spend 20 minutes fixing a problem and then if it is not resolved, to launch an automated reinstallation process? You may want to consider whether an automated tool like Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010 would be a good solution for client systems. This can save a lot of time with a fully automated solution to deploy new systems as well as to redeploy existing systems in case a rebuild requirement exists.
Windows 7 will have a big impact on network administrators whose organizations migrate to the new version, both in terms of new tools and enhancements and potential gotchas.
Libraries will help administrators with those users who need to access data from more than one system at a time - work computer, home computer, desktop, or laptop. Libraries are an aggregated view of specific document types (music, photos, documents), but you can add folder locations from completely different systems.
4: PC Image Backup
Backups are a snap with the complete PC Image Backup. Using the integrated Backup utility, you can create a complete image PC Backup of your system while it is running. This technology leverages VSS or the Volume Snapshot service.Full article: What Windows 7 means for network administrators
WINDOWS SERVER ADMINISTRATORS
Windows 7/Windows Server 2008 R2 release is the first joint Windows desktop/Windows Server release since Windows 2000, so there are considerable synergies between the products.
With Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft has introduced a new feature called DirectAccess. Available on domain-joined Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate clients, DirectAccess allows direct, immediate access to network resources from any Internet connection, as if that computer were connected to the corporate network. Moreover, with DirectAccess, mobile clients can stay in touch with corporate policy and software updates servers just like their non-mobile counterparts.
Because of DirectAccess' reliance on the existence of a Windows Server 2008 R2-based DirectAccess server, you'll be deeply involved in the support of this new Windows 7 feature. DirectAccess relies on IPv4 and IPv6, so make sure you break out the IPv6 books when you deploy this feature.
DirectAccess could make the traditional VPN obsolete in many companies, and the technology deserves a thorough analysis. New remote access capabilities often raise red flags with the security group, so make sure that all of the stakeholders have a clear view of how the technology works so the organization can perform a proper risk analysis.
6: New Group Policy capabilities
With each new release of Windows and Windows Server, Microsoft enhances the capability for the IT group to enforce policies and settings through additions to Group Policy. With Group Policy being a service often managed in the networking or server administration group, you should begin familiarizing yourself with some of the new management capabilities offered in the latest version of Group Policy.
With Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, Group Policy administrators can now centrally configure BranchCache behavior, display brightness (among other power settings), new Windows 7 Taskbar behavior, and a lot more. Microsoft published a complete list of Group Policy objects titled Group Policy Settings References for Windows and Windows Server.
Serious Group Policy enthusiasts should also check out the Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM) tool. In addition to many other features, AGPM allows Group Policy administrators to more easily test new Group Policy objects (GPOs) before deploying them to a production environment; AGPM also makes it possible to maintain historical versions of GPOs.Full article: What Windows 7 means to Windows server administrators
Vista may have been a flop in the performance and compatibility areas, but it was never criticized for its lack of security. In fact, one of Vista's main detractions was its overemphasis on the security of locking down the system via the heavy hand of User Account Control (UAC).
With Windows 7, Microsoft has toned down UAC a bit (while not letting up on security) and added a whole slew of security features that will benefit both the end user and the security administrator.
A new security feature being introduced with Windows 7 is AppLocker, which lets you control the installation and use of applications in the enterprise. AppLocker is available only in the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows 7 and is designed to work closely with Windows Server 2008 R2.
AppLocker works by allowing you to create rules that are based on file attributes derived from a file's digital signature. These rules can be used to control how users access and use any type of executable file. You can also create exceptions to AppLocker rules. You can then assign rules to an entire security group or be more precise and assign a rule to an individual user. To learn more about and see AppLocker in action, check out this demo on the Microsoft TechNet site.
8: BitLocker & BitLocker To Go
Introduced in Vista and now available in Windows 7, BitLocker is designed to prevent data theft via unauthorized access of a desktop or from a lost/stolen laptop. BitLocker takes the Encrypting File System (EFS) feature to the next level by using a hardware-level encryption on the hard disk, thus protecting the actual data files, the system files, and the bits and pieces of data lingering in such places as the temporary files, swap files, and even hibernation files.
With Windows 7, BitLocker has been extended so that it can be used to protect removable storage (USB flash drives) with the new BitLocker To Go feature. This means that if you lose a USB flash drive, which is all too easy, your data is safe.
BitLocker and BitLocker To Go are available only in the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows 7. To learn more about BitLocker and BitLocker To Go, check out this Microsoft TechNet site demo.Full article: What Windows 7 means to security administrators
Industry analysts expect a fairly swift uptake of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. But whether Windows 7 rolls out quickly or slowly in your organization, it is important to know how it will affect your applications.
The big concern for every developer is this: What will Windows 7 break in my application? Fortunately, it looks like very few apps will break with the move to Windows 7. From what I can tell, with Windows Vista, Microsoft made a real break from the past in terms of security, and it was that step that broke apps. I spoke briefly with Microsoft's Brian Hitney at the recent Carolina Code Camp, and he agreed with that assessment. In addition, the documentation on MSDN that lists resources to learn about compatibility points to the Windows Vista documentation as well as to the Windows 7/Windows Server 2008 R2 documentation, which is further evidence of this scenario.
10: New stuff that won't break old stuff
One of the big dangers with leveraging a new OS's features is that you don't want to find yourself in a situation where your application works only on that platform. There are some neat new features in Windows 7 that you can use and not break your application on platforms that lack the features. Those features include the following:
- Progress bars in title windows
- Interactive taskbar "thumbnails." For example, when you hover the mouse over the taskbar entry for Windows Media Player, the window preview is overlaid with basic play controls.
- Jumplists, which allow application functionality to be called directly from the Start menu
- A new animation framework
- Improved handwriting/ink API including "math recognition"
- Improved touch support
- Federated Search, which allows developers to create feeds the Windows search (and SharePoint) can consume
Windows 7 offers important refinements, including better memory usage, full 64-bit support, simplified wireless networking, touch-screen support, and Windows XP Mode for application compatibility — but the release complicates IT consulting efforts. This is good and bad.
It's good because the new release (and the countless and inevitable issues that arise with a new OS) will result in new service calls and new clients. It's bad because already harried IT consultants will bear the challenge of making Windows 7 live up to Microsoft's marketing hype and productivity promises.
11: Application incompatibilities
Many organizations are dependent upon legacy or proprietary applications, and a number of these critical programs will be incompatible with Windows 7. Microsoft's answer is Windows XP Mode, which isn't necessarily an elegant fix. While virtual machines (VMs) are a clever approach to solving the need for multiple OS environments, VMs typically place considerable demand upon workstations.
To run Windows XP Mode, you must have systems equipped with Intel Virtualization Technology or AMD-V-enabled CPUs. With VMs, CPU cycles and memory are at a premium, so organizations' unending penchant for purchasing low-cost systems with bare essential hardware capabilities doesn't match well with Microsoft's Windows 7 solution for supporting legacy applications. As a result, consultants will be tasked to upgrade or replace many workstations that are incapable of efficiently powering Windows XP Mode.
12: Backoffice tool incompatibilities
Most consultancies maintain a library of specialized troubleshooting applications and hardware. My IT shop regularly deploys hard disk adapters, motherboard diagnostic cards, and numerous preboot environment CDs and other utilities. We use these hardware and software components to troubleshoot and repair failed systems and servers. With Windows 7, we'll inevitably find that we need to obtain new versions that are compatible with the new OS. This means consultants will face new expenses as a result of the need for new Windows 7-compatible backoffice tools and utilities.Full article: What Windows 7 means to IT consultants
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