Windows

10+ ways Windows 7 will affect IT pros

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.

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 PROFESSIONALS

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.

Full article: What Windows 7 means for support professionals

NETWORK ADMINISTRATORS

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.

3: Libraries

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.

5: DirectAccess

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

SECURITY 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.

7: AppLocker

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

DEVELOPERS

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.

9: Compatibility

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
Full article: What Windows 7 means to developers

IT CONSULTANTS

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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20 comments
Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

It's still a great tool for seeing the user's desktop and looking at exactly the same issue they are dealing with. My techs still love it. I see no reason to use logmein when we already have vpn solutions in place. I currently block logmein services and only make exceptions when a vendor requires it to support their product. People often request to use logmein here just so they can avoid our security questionnaire required for remote access and support. When someone requests remote access. We have a separate policy they have to sign in regard to remotely accessing corporate data and security practices. The typical response is "Oh, I don't need all that. Maybe I could just use logmein so I don't have to go through this security stuff?" Do I think logmein is safe? Yes, I do. But we have to have some form of accountability and teaching people safe security practices. If not, someone ends up using this secure app on an insecure laptop and we get compromised. In the end, my staff will be held accountable, not the errant user who breached security or let someone at a coffee shop accidentally get their hands on sensitive company data. Having used both, I really don't see where logmein is any more useful than anyconnect or any other vpn solution when setup properly and tailored for the user. A properly tailored solution is much more professional than just using logmein. I'd use logmein for a small setup, but for enterprise I prefer an honest to goodness vpn solution.

tonycopp
tonycopp

When I was thinking how to key word file this article, the best handle was "Windows 7 boondoggle_". I w4alked the walk and thought how much dealers were being paid to replace Windows XP ny M$FT in their cost-effective, price-point movable equipment vintage 2004 on equipment for sale , post AMD beat-down of Intel that they are paying the price for now, with Windows 7 starter edition which leaves you up the creek with a serious need to pay M$FT for a real ride. It's a useful number to meditate on and the game is being played way above the heads of the newbies and IT make-work made-men.

support
support

Windows Vista and 7 are both proving to be new nightmares on very high end user frustration, severe maintenance costs, and very poor software and hardware support. This [new] patched Windows 7 (revamped VISTA) release is going to [soon] move the world market over to very well supported FREE software via Linux. At least [eventually] the world will come to understand the warmer joy of a supportive free user community. You can get all the help you ever need for free Linux, but cold facts - not much for this 'Windows' but cold $$$ and a lot of trials! Regards, Peter Bowey Software and Hardware Engineer for Windows, MAC OS X and Linux Peter Bowey Computer Solutions Victor Harbor, Australia

dgapinski
dgapinski

Does anyone know if Bitlocker can remove keys remotely from a machine (i.e., nuke a computer and render it unbootable) from Windows Server?

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

and 2000 was and NTx was And any other client / server deployment is.

rmwfaw
rmwfaw

Windows 7 migrations will not be perfect. As with any OS change there will be compatibility issues, driver issues, and end users will have to adjust. I personally volunteered to switch over my equipment to 7 in order to get a feel for it pending the immanent roll out. While some of our standard apps don't play nice with 7 out of the box, upgrades, patches or compromises to similar programs are able to fix these issues. It is a newborn operating system but I am liking what I see. I refused to switch from 98SE to XP till SP1. I flat out refused Vista. Seven is good, and it is going to take hold of the IT playing field. Whether or not you *like* Microsoft, you better get used to supporting their latest child.

Craig_B
Craig_B

Having run Win 7 for a few months now and having deployed several machines to various users, I believe in about a year Win 7 will be the new standard. I find Windows 7 to be very solid, all our applications run fine, it's quicker, easier, users are more productive and it's more secure. We have been able to run Win 7 on machines that would not run Vista. Users have quickly caught on to the new features and just like it. Everything I've done concerning Windows 7 has been a positive.

lcave
lcave

Get a grip on reality folks. Neither XP nor NT locked down windows or system 32. How does any legacy program work if the program can't write dlls? XP mode is a joke because you will need dual core machines and the most expensive version of the OS. So where does that leave small shops like under 500 pcs? Micorosft will need to do better and techs will need to do their homework, and how!

nick
nick

Whenever MS brings out anything new, the marketing hype kicks off and the media reporters jump on the bandwagon. Vista went through the same hype and look at what happened to it. Having said that, most organisations need to move off Windows XP and at the moment 7 looks like a credible alternative.

support
support

Correct, Microsoft needs more educated end-user support and a growing group of positive thinking 'devoted' IT support people to allow them (MS) the freedom to get to the business of writing the next OS stage (is that a dilemma?). I can predict the time is approaching when such a vapour-ware software monopoly is soon to cease as the strengthening OSF release's (Linux, etc) become acceptable for most 'public' end user's. In the mean time we are all in for a long, hard, and stressful IT support role. Meanwhile, MS rules - and we allowed it to happen *smile* Peter Bowey Support Engineer ? Linux, Windows, MAC OS X

tonycopp
tonycopp

The main point that you grown-ups seem to be expressing here is that one had better get with the program, resistance is futile, and other rear-view mirror stuff. Face it large; you just signed up to work for M$FT support, the EULA marketing machine that would forbid you from taping the the Lost Planet Airmen on your cassette off the radio never went away. They were allowed a monopoly by some strange twist of fate, as some well-connected (Mary Gates on IBM board of directors just like your mom) special geek cobbled together all kinds of things from true digital pioneers, divided, conquered, co-opted, adopted and became the greatest holder of dollars and current Stock Market valuation units and too, lots or funds are disposed to support this weltbilt. So now going forward the world is expected to skip over his rope a billion large and keep the monopoly juggernaut going. I suspect that the early adopters, sycophants, and myrmidons, and of course IT staff, will push and prod their adaptive skill set and be the latest winners but they are just workers for M$FT and have nothing important to drag everyone off their game or the highway that works just fine for them. ..but then M$FT was never about new ideas, they ate them all, now it's all about keeping the troops in line.

JCitizen
JCitizen

we can't let naked reality get in the way of our fantasy world can we? ;) Thanks rmwfaw for the latest reality check!

lcave
lcave

Are you running any legacy software or is everything the latest and greatest. I have been told the even Office 2003 will not run under this platform. Have I been misinformed?

pdavis7
pdavis7

We can't afford to go to Win7. Also can't afford new tools to support it. I have over 200 desktops and being a not-for-profit, we can't afford to change every time MS comes out with something new. XP Pro is stable and runs fine on our desktops. Sorry MS, you won't be getting any money from us for a long time.

JCitizen
JCitizen

that is the one members are supposed to use. Sorry I can't answer your question directly, although it seems the specs call for capability near that, I couldn't comment on it. My missions always end up requiring a version of Windows that doesn't include bitlocker as a feature.

support
support

Correct, Microsoft needs more educated end-user support and a growing group of positive thinking 'devoted' IT support people to allow them (MS) the freedom to get to the business of writing the next OS sage (dilemma). I can predict the time is approaching when such a vapour-ware software monopoly is soon to cease as the strengthening OSF release's (Linux, etc) become acceptable for most 'public' end user's. In the mean time we are all in for a long, hard, and stressful IT support role. Meanwhile, MS rules - and we allowed it to happen *smile* Peter Bowey Support Engineer ? Linux, Windows, MAC OS X But coming good news (for some) - Linux is getting more acceptable for the public. Not quite ready for dear Gran or Grandpa - yet! However, another 2-3 years, and I think we can retire the entire huge MS group - but gently. No more $$$ margin for software, just think OSF. I currently program and support both worlds, and OSF (Linux world) is showing better support and support strength than the huge ?MS monster?, and yet it is free. There is a life lesson for the future there somewhere. Peter

support
support

Hi Tony, Yes, I see the time soon comes! Some of the very best software I have ever seen is listed as FREE! eg: Linux Ubuntu (almost user ready for even our dear Grandad to get going with ), ClearOS Linux (Centos derived) - which I currently use to run a 24/7 public and private dual-wan / internal lan proxy SERVER - with full web services, email and protected access for internal private LAN?s. Without this software option, I would need a greater number of expensive software and hardware to run with any current 'Windows Release'. I have noticed that many traditional Windows XP support / recovery tools that once worked so well with Windows XP now fail under both Windows VISTA and Windows 7. So IT Pros are finding they are left in a hole, Microsoft changed many features in the new releases, including even the CORRECT ADMIN access privileges to repair a damaged Windows Registry Hive. I can typically setup a fully working SECURE Linux or Mac OS X system in about 2-4 hours (new or old),but with Windows VISTA and now Windows 7 I find that you strike constant permission access problems, poor hardware support - out-of-the-box, and horrible hidden partitioned drives where the 'only real legal' factory restore state of Windows VISTA and 7 hide. Lose the hard drive with Windows Vista or above, and you are on your own for legal re-installation. This cost us a very large amount of ?free? time during most Windows recovery processes. I know, I have been there many times to attempt to do it the ?new? Windows way, and then 24 hours later you notice you have not had much sleep ? or respite. It is new vicious and relentless cycle; I would nearly state that in 60% of problem cases Windows VISTA and 7 are not economical to repair with traditional software based methods. Gee thanks Microsoft, you make our IT support roles very hard. I have worn out my phone key-pad three times in just 4 years typing out all those darn MS product-keys. *smile* - it needs change ? and soon! Peter

tonycopp
tonycopp

Yes, Peter, not a matter of "IF but "WHEN". I went to bestbuy 11-17 and all the net/notebooks were Win 7 tricked out, just a few XP stragglers and Vista had vanished. FedEx had also booted the bottom-up Kinko's sign and got the top-down Office in place. The game is pretty clear now; the system needs to control, take census, monitor all aspects and the tools reflect their need. Where's the beef to guarantee our legacy investment as paramount, and providing a crash-FREE environment? Open Systems is the good fight and that is to where the new heroes will gravitate. The workarounds to logmein are the starting gate, then the deluge. Les jeux sont fait.