Windows 8 Revisted – Part 2

Posted on August 29, 2013

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Like any American male out there, I have been accused of having a “selective memory” at times. Although selective memory may not be a good thing for a personal relationship, a new feature that comes with Windows 8.1 called “Selective Wipe” is. It’s one of the features I want to talk about in Part Two of our revisiting Windows 8 blog.

Yes, Windows 8.1 is bringing back the Start Button (mind you it’s a button and not a full menu). The Start Button is really just a legacy looking iconic button to get you to the Start menu—the screen that has all the tiles. Right clicking on the Start button gives you a shortcut menu to key administrative tools like Power Options, Event View, Disk Management and Windows Shells. Yes, after all the hoopla surrounding the absence of the traditional Start Menu, Microsoft gave us all a button that simply sends us to the Start Menu that they relentlessly want to push. In an analogy, all roads lead to Rome—or the new Tile based Start Menu.

Well, there are actually reasons why Microsoft is pushing this new Start Menu and one of them is a great one. It’s called Security! An app that runs from the new Start Menu, also referred to as the Sandbox, runs more securely than its equivalent desktop application version. This is due to a new feature called Appcontainers, which essentially contains the apps and prevents them from reading and writing to other files throughout the system. This even includes picture and document files. Basically, from a security perspective, you should always utilize the app version over the traditional desktop version. There is a cost from an enterprise perspective in that apps cannot be centrally managed like you may be used to doing for desktop applications using central management tools such as Group Policy.

Another great thing about running your software from the new Start Menu is a measurable reduction in power consumption. We’re all used to our desktop applications running in the background of Windows 7, eating up limited resources. Apps don’t run in the background. If you aren’t using them they disengage, essentially hibernating in a way. In a nutshell, apps run more efficiently and Windows 8 runs as a greener operating system regardless of how you choose to run your applications. A great comparative analysis is conducted here using Netflix which proves the point.

The greatest selective highlight of Windows 8.1 may be the Selective Wipe I referred to earlier. Its part of a broader feature called Workforce Join which was specifically designed around the BYOD movement we discussed in a blog some months ago. The problem to date has been how to manage BYOD devices without forcing users to join the domain. Workplace Join is a compromise that enables IT to be able to manage the “corporate” footprint on a BYOD device without hampering the personal area of the machine. Windows 8.1 inaugurates two factor authentication when joining a personal device to Active Directory (AD) which secures the connection process. Once joined, it allows the personal device to synchronize files with an enterprise folder on the domain. Then, should the user ever want to disengage the device permanently from the network, they can easily do so by simply clicking a “Leave” button and Selective Wipe will vanquish the enterprise footprint.

Finally, there’s a great feature of Windows 8 that comes right out of the box, no update required. It’s the Direct Access feature. You may already be aware of the Direct Access feature because it was unveiled with Windows 2008 R2 and coordinated with Windows 7. It was a great idea. The idea was a perpetual VPN-like connection that was configured on your users’ portable devices. Unlike a traditional VPN connection which required the user to initiate the connection manually, Direct Access is constantly polling for an Internet connection, and when it finds one, automatically creates a VPN tunnel with the corporate office. This means that your users are always connected with corporate in effortless fashion.

There was only one problem with Direct Access. It required IPv6 and was far too complicated and burdensome to configure. Server 2012 now allows Direct Access to be integrated with IPv4 and the configuration process is only a matter of a few simple clicks of the mouse. It’s a feature that both network administrators and users will love.

If you’re like most organizations, you’ve probably been very hesitant about bringing Windows 8 into the enterprise, but when you get past the initial shock of the new layout there are some great features under the hood that are worth integrating into the network.

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Posted in: The PC User