Speaking to Computerworld from Microsoft's Tech Ed event on the Gold Coast, Windows 7 commercial group lead and the woman who has overall responsibility for the launch of Windows 7 in Australia, Sarah Vaughan, outlines the top five features of Windows 7 to make the lives of IT managers a little easier.
#1: Problem Step Recorder
Touted as the helpdesk saviour, the Windows 7 Problem Step Recorder is a remote assistance tool that documents an end user’s interaction with the operating system (OS), by taking screenshots of the problem.
"The Problem Step Recorder is huge — we get people clapping when they see that," Vaughan said. "Microsoft's early adopter customers are already talking about a 20 per cent improvement in productivity in their end user."
#2 Troubleshooting packs
Windows 7 comes with support for scripted PowerShell commands for easier centralised management, help desk-friendly tricks and desktop virtualization options. IT pros can use Powershell to build the things inside the organisation around the apps that they run. The result: automated scripts and self-service for the end user.
"For instance with Windows Aero, there are 100 trouobleshoot compatibility packs available and what that does is automate the features for the end user so they don't have to call help desk," Vaughan said.
#3 Deployment toolkits
Used to help automate parts of the upgrade and schedule the Windows 7 upgrade to coincide with the purchase of new computers, Tech Ed is providing the ultimate case study (and trial by fire) for deployment toolkits. Microsoft has deployed more than 2500 notebooks with Windows 7 as part of the event.
"We started off taking up to 15 minutes per machine and eventually we were getting down to times of 11 minutes, uploading 60 gigs of data per machine," Vaughan said.
BitLocker Drive Encryption ensures IT pros have that extra layer of defense and peace of mind, knowing that corporate information isn't going to fall into the wrong hands. Windows Vista users have to repartition their hard drive to create the required hidden boot partition, but Windows 7 creates that partition automatically when BitLocker is enabled. In Windows Vista, IT professionals must use a unique recovery key for each protected volume. But Windows 7 extends the Data Recovery Agent to include all encrypted volumes. The result: only one encryption key is needed on any BitLocker-encrypted Windows machine.
The AppLocker is a tool which allows IT admins to block a certain list of applications based upon firewall profiles. It could prove handy for portable systems that are used both in a business environment and a home environment. AppLocker also features in-depth application controls; applications that are deemed less secure can be disabled when a user is connected to a corporate network and re-enabled when on a home or public network.
"This leads to the reduction of malware, and having to support applications that have been installed that aren't part of the standard operating environment," Vaughan said.
#5 Direct access
This feature helps remote workers whose security policies expire by using the certificate infrastructure on IPv6. Direct Access allows somebody who is working independently of a corporate network to turn on a Windows 7 PC and have it automatically connect to a corporate network without deploying any application or signing in to the connection.
"With the direct access, when someone's on the internet — and they're compliant — using a smart card or another piece of corporate infrastucture, they can access the network," Vaughan said.
"It’s great from an end user point of view, but an IT pro can can then apply the policies and security updates to that machine as if it was operating within the corporate firewall."