Windows 8, Microsoft's first universal client operating system, is designed to power devices ranging from smartphones and tablets to engineering workstations. An abundance of new and improved features, including its touchscreen support and signature "live tiles" user interface, offer a broad range of benefits for companies who understand how to put them to work. Progent's Microsoft-certified consultants can help bring your organization up to speed with Windows 8 and its successor Windows 8.1 and show you how to derive significant business value from the operating system's many technical enhancements. In addition, Progent's Windows 10 migration consultants can help you evaluate Windows 10 or migrate to Windows 10 from your Windows 8.1 environment.
Three basic desktop editions are available for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 . All of these versions work with popular Windows desktop software such as Microsoft Office as well as with the next generation of applications available from the Windows Store, and all three versions include built-in security via mechanisms such as secured boot and Windows Defender. Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise add support for BitLocker and BitLocker To Go for encrypting storage, advanced Group Policy management to increase control of Group Policies, Remote Desktop for anywhere access to your work PC, Offline File Access for the ability to stay productive when disconnected from the Internet, and Client Hyper-V virtualization for running multiple operating systems on a single computer.
Windows 8 Enterprise includes Windows to Go for porting corporate images of Windows 8 that boot from a USB-connected drive, DirectAccess for easily establishing secure remote connections to corporate networks without requiring VPN, and BranchCache for improving productivity and conserving bandwidth in remote offices.
Top New Features of Windows 8
The Pro and Enterprise versions of Windows 8 offer a powerful set of new or enhanced features for improving security, manageability, productivity, connectivity, virtualization, and performance. Important features include:
Windows 8 introduces several enhancements to BitLocker drive encryption including BitLocker Provisioning for deploying Windows 8 in an encrypted state, Used Disk Space Only Encryption for faster encryption, Standard User PIN and Password Change to reduce IT administration hassle, Network Unlock to unlock the system volume automatically during boot for easier administration, and support for Full Disk Encryption (FDE) for fast, hardware-based encryption. BitLocker to Go makes it possible to encrypt a Windows To Go drive
Windows To Go
Windows To Go allows enterprises to create a managed corporate image of Windows 8 on an encrypted USB drive that can be booted and run online or offline on any compatible PC powered by Windows 8 or Windows 7. This allows corporations to provide controlled, free-seating computing environments for contractors and visitors, ensures security in BYOD scenarios, and allows mobile workers to travel light by using the PCs available at their destinations.
Group Policy Management
Windows 8 simplifies Group Policy management by allowing administrators or help desk technicians to refresh Group Policy settings remotely and by making it easy to determine the status of replication of Group Policy Objects across a domain. Advanced change management capability for Group Policy supported by Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) includes the ability to checkpoint policy rollouts and minimize downtime with Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM).
Support for a new Always Offline mode in Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 makes it possible to allow users never to transition to Online mode and allows Windows to synchronize changes in the background automatically at specified intervals. This permits faster access to files in redirected folders and can dramatically reduce costs on metered connections. To reduce overage costs on 4G mobile networks, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 can detect when a user is roaming or is near or beyond a bandwidth limit and can be configured to switch automatically to Offline mode to postpone all synchronization. Users retain the option to initiate synchronization manually.
Remote Desktop allows you to use the Internet to connect a local PC to your physical or virtual work PC and use the applications, files, and network resources as though you were physically in front of your work PC. Enhancements in Microsoft RemoteFX and Windows Server 2012 provide a realistic desktop experience that allows users to play 3D graphics, use USB devices, and use touch screens. Remote Desktop features that require the Enterprise edition of Windows 8 include the ability to access work resources published via RemoteApp, support for RemoteFX USB Redirection and PnP device redirection, User profile disk, and RemoteFX virtual graphics processing unit (vGPU).
Client Hyper-V is a basic version of Microsoft's familiar Hyper-V server virtualization technology adapted for Windows 8 desktops with SLAT-capable CPUs. (SLAT stands for Second Level Address Translation and is called EPT by Intel and RVI by AMD). A comparable functionality, called XP Mode with Virtual PC, is available as a free download on Windows 7 desktops. Client Hyper-V allows you to run multiple virtual machines (VMs) with various operating systems on a single desktop and have full isolation. Client Hyper-V does not support some advanced Hyper-V features such as Live Migration, Hyper-V Replica, SR-IOV Networking, and Synthetic fibre channel.
Storage Spaces, a new core feature of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, provides disk virtualization through Microsoft's storage pool technology. Pools make it possible to combine a collection of various types of hard disks as well as solid state drives (SSDs) to create a single logical pool or multiple pools that can be expanded on the fly as needs require. For improved resiliency, Storage Spaces support mirroring and parity.
DirectAccess provides remote users with easy and secure access to data behind the corporate firewall and features a one-time password plus automatic health checking, patch management and security updates. DirectAccess eliminates the delays and hassles associated with establishing a VPN connection or the need to re-establish the VPN connection after every Internet dropout. Introduced with Windows 7, DirectAccess has been made simpler to implement by allowing IT managers to use Windows Server 2012 to perform address translation rather than requiring the deployment of IPV6.
BranchCache uses client-based or server-based caching to minimize Internet traffic between a remote site and a corporate data center, thereby improving branch office performance and lowering connectivity costs. BranchCache originally required the combination of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. With Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, BranchCache has been enhanced with data encryption without requiring PKI, automatic service discovery via Active Directory, unlimited expandability through clustering, and streamlined printing.
Improved Features in Windows 8.1
Windows 8.1 is a free upgrade to Windows 8 and includes hundreds of new or enhanced features and fixes. The most prominent enhancement is the return of the familiar Start button that was absent from Windows 8. Windows 8.1 also incorporates a number of major enhancements in the areas of usability, mobility, security, and mobile device management. Some of the most significant new features introduced with Windows 8.1 include:
Network managers can now offer more detailed control to company resources. Once a user's device has been registered, IT administration can allow various levels of access but still enforce specified governance rules on the registered device.
Work Folders make it possible for files that users create locally on devices that are not domain joined to synchronize back automatically to the file server in the corporate data center. Work Folder syncing is integrated into the Windows 8.1 file system and does not require third-party folder replication software. Administrators still have the option to enforce Dynamic Access Control policies on the Work Folder Sync Share and can utilize Workplace Join.
Mobile Device Management (MDM)
Once a user registers a mobile device, the device joins the Windows Intune management service. This permits the use of a Company Portal that provides a consistent user interface for remotely accessing corporate applications, data, and resources from almost any device. Network managers have more advanced policy management capability for Windows RT devices and have the convenience of managing Windows 8.1 computers as mobile devices without the need for installing a full-blown management client.
When a user selects an application or network resource that requires access via the inbox VPN, Windows 8.1 automatically displays a one-click sign-on prompt, eliminating the hassle of launching the inbox VPN client.
Device Encryption for All Clients
Before now, device encryption was restricted to Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 operating systems. All versions of Windows 8.1 make device encryption available, and the Pro and Enterprise editions allow you to configure it with additional BitLocker protection and management features. Consumer devices using a Microsoft account are automatically protected with device encryption.
Boot to Desktop
Windows 8.1 allows you configure to Windows to boot directly to the familiar desktop environment after you have logged on.
OneDrive Cloud-based Storage
OneDrive is an online storage option incorporated into Windows 8.1 that allows you to access, share, and sync files from any device you happen to be using. Once you have signed into your Microsoft account you can browse your OneDrive using either the OneDrive application or the familiar Windows File Explorer utility in the desktop. OneDrive includes 15 GB of free online storage (1 TB for Office 365 subscribers) and users can purchase additional storage capacity from Microsoft.
Miracast Wireless Display Sharing
Developed according to the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) wireless display specification, Miracast allows you to use Wi-Fi to project a full Windows 8.1 screen from a laptop, tablet, or all-in-one to a large wireless display-enabled screen of up to 1080p.
You can use a Windows 8.1 mobile broadband-enabled PC or tablet into a Wi-Fi hotspot to allow other devices to connect and access the Internet.
How Progent Can Help You Integrate Windows 8.1
The innovations incorporated in Windows 8.1 and the variety of devices supported by the operating system represent a serious challenge to IT managers responsible for making sure that increasingly heterogeneous networks can function as cohesive information systems. Progent's consultants have experience integrating and maintaining environments that include Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Mac OS, and Linux-based desktops as well as tablets and smartphones powered by Android, Apple iOS, and Windows operating systems. Progent can help you evaluate Windows 8.1 in a proof-of-concept test lab or provide project management services for planning and executing an efficient migration to Windows 8.1 following leading practices. Progent can help you identify and resolve software compatibility issues, revamp your security strategy, update your remote access connections, configure virtual machines, manage mobile devices, and perform other tasks to make sure you benefit fully from the enhanced features of Windows 8.1.
For more details about the enhanced capabilities of Windows 8.1 and for a description of Progent's support services for migrating to Windows 8.1, see Progent's Windows 8.1 migration support.
To control costs, save time, and minimize engineering risk for large-scale migrations, Progent can use Microsoft's deployment automation tools provided with the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK). These tools include Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM) to create custom baseline images, Deployment Imaging Servicing and Management Tool (DISM) for editing existing images, Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) for uncovering compatibility issues, User State Migration Tool (USMT) for migrating the personal data of individual users, and Volume Activation Management Toolkit (VAMT) for centralized management of Windows 8.1 activations.
Many of the advanced features offered by Windows 8.1 are accessible only in conjunction with Windows Server 2012 R2. Progent is a Microsoft Certified Partner with a Server Platform competency and can provide expert consulting support for all aspects of Windows Server 2012 R2 integration. Progent can help you evaluate the business case for adopting Windows Server 2012 R2, design a migration plan, set up proof-of-concept pilot systems, provide comprehensive project management services, configure Windows Server 2012 R2 servers and Windows 8.1 computers to work together so as to maximize their business value, develop a sound strategy for security and compliance, and deliver ongoing technical assistance. For details about Progent's support for Windows Server 2012 R2, see Windows Server 2012 R2 consulting services.
Additional Consulting and Support Services for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1
Progent offers a broad range of online and onsite outsourcing and co-sourcing support services to assist organizations of all sizes to deploy, manage, and maintain information systems that include Windows 8.1 desktops, notebooks, tablets, and smartphones. Progent's Technical Response Center can provide cost-effective online access to a Microsoft-certified consultant to resolve issues associated with Windows 8.1 in areas that include compatibility, remote or mobile connectivity, or security and compliance. Progent's desktop management consultants can assist you to cut costs by automating desktop administration tasks like change management, license tracking, performance and security monitoring, and group policy control. Progent's smartphone and wireless tablet consultants can help you deploy and manage a secure BYOD ecosystem that includes Windows 8.1 client computers as well as various smartphones and tablets by offering services like iPhone and Windows 8.1 integration, Android phone setup and management consulting, and BlackBerry and Windows 8.1 integration expertise.
Progent's certified IT security engineers can assist you to refine your security strategy and meet compliance requirements by implementing new security features incorporated into Windows 8.1. Progent also offers a selection of affordable security vulnerability scanning packages that can assess the security profile of Windows PCs, notebooks, smartphones, and tablets. For round-the-clock protection, Progent offers the ProSight suite of network management outsourcing services, a collection of remote network monitoring and reporting services that include Progent's ProSight LAN Watch Windows server and desktop management services and ProSight WAN Watch infrastructure monitoring and management service based on advanced RMM technology. Progent's Cisco-certified CCIE network engineers can show you how to optimize your network infrastructure to support the enhanced remote connectivity technology built into Windows 8, including DirectAccess, BrancheCache, Remote Desktop, and Work Folders.
To improve security and compliance, uptime, throughput, manageability, and disaster recovery for Windows 8.1 computers, Progent's virtualization experts can show you how to deploy the Client Hyper-V technology included with Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 8.1 Enterprise.
Contact Progent to Find Out More Consulting and Support Services for Windows 8.1
To find out more about ways Progent can help your organization evaluate, test, install, and manage Windows 8.1, phone