Editor’s Note: Optimizing Windows 7 across the Enterprise
Familiarize yourself with the resources, tools and features that can really make Windows 7 sing across your organization.
By Mitch Irsfeld
Since the Windows 7 launch two years ago, we’ve naturally focused on getting our IT customers the best possible resources to assist with their Windows 7 pilot and deployment projects. For this TechNet Feature, we want to take a little different approach.
Deployment continues to be a very important task but we also want to highlight the resources and features that help you make Windows 7 the best it can be once it’s implemented across your organization. According to a Gartner projection published this summer, Windows 7 is expected to be on 42 percent of all PCs at the start of 2012. And even if you are still working out your migration strategy, there’s plenty here to sink your teeth into.
Let’s begin by dispensing with the topic that seems to be on everyone’s mind: Windows 8. With all the recent buzz around the upcoming OS (released as a developer preview in September), headlines began appearing about IT organizations still on Windows XP opting to wait for Windows 8. Josh Hoffman, in his TechNet Magazine article, The Time Is Now for Windows 7, explains why this may not be a prudent strategy. He writes, “There’s still considerable value—in bottom-line cost savings, user productivity, data integrity and safety, and organizational readiness—in moving to Windows 7. There are a number of ways to help you quickly get into Windows 7, and take advantage of its value, performance and feature set.”
That’s especially true if you’re looking at virtualizing your data center or migrating server workloads to a private cloud. There are a number of new features in Windows 7 that will help you take advantage of major improvements in the datacenter infrastructure technology available in Windows Server 2008 R2.
Speaking of the cloud, another clear advantage of Windows 7 is the set of tools for managing desktops in various scenarios, including the ability to support on-premises PCs and remote users at the same time. Windows Intune provides the cloud-based PC management without having to invest in a large management infrastructure. Check out the video Cloud Services for PC Management for best practices and demos to provide the latest services for your business and manage them through a single portal.
Configuring and managing your desktops in traditional datacenter and private cloud environments is also much easier with Windows 7 and new tools like Microsoft Security Compliance Manager. The recently released Security Compliance Manager 2 is free tool from the Solution Accelerators team that enables you to quickly configure and manage your desktops using Group Policy (see below) and System Center Configuration Manager.
And don’t forget the Swiss Army Knife of desktop management, the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), which can really make your life easier. Read the Top 7 IT Pro Pain Points Simplified with MDOP, and then see the enhancements added in MDOP 2011 R2.
Here’s another useful article for management scenarios where users are sharing computers: Creating a Steady State by Using Microsoft Technologies describes the free tools available and features within Windows 7 that you can use to create a steady state to make your computers more reliable and provide a more consistent experience for users.
And, of course, there are your users. Moving to Windows 7 gives them a whole range of new features and allows them to take advantage of the performance of newer 64-bit systems. William R. Stanek walks through the process of upgrading or migrating to 64-bit in Windows 7: Migrating to 64-Bit in this month’s TechNet Magazine.
Also top-of-mind for your users is the ability to use the mobile consumer devices of their choice in their workaday lives and Windows 7 plays a central role in enabling this consumerization trend. Research firm IDC found in a recent survey that 71 percent of CEOs polled say allowing employees to use their own devices in the enterprise is a key to better morale (not to mention, it slashes capital costs for hardware). As explained in the article Microsoft Technologies for Consumerization, the challenge is to embrace consumerization as appropriate while minimizing risks to the enterprise and its data. And the article details the technologies available and provides guidance on their use to integrate them into a managed IT infrastructure.
Leveraging your users’ devices in the enterprise means supporting Windows and non-Windows devices, and managed and unmanaged devices. The Springboard team has published the video Saying Yes to Consumerization detailing Microsoft’s strategy around Slate devices and the technologies available to support Windows and non-Windows devices.
So, specifically, what are these new capabilities to which I refer? They are legion, but I’ll tick off a few for which all IT professionals should become facile. The first is Group Policy.
Group Policy is the way to control computer configurations and enforce settings on networks based on Active Directory Domain Services. Group Policy for Beginners is a great place to start if you are not familiar with this “touch once, configure many” capability.
Windows 7 was also designed to help your organization reduce its power consumption and extend the productivity of your mobile users. Watch the video Power Management in Windows 7 Overview for more on these capabilities.
Other new features that help make Windows 7 sing include:
- Windows Resource Monitor, which displays per-process and aggregate CPU, memory, disk, and network usage information, in addition to providing details about which processes are using individual file handles and modules
- Print Management, which included print migration enhancements, location-aware printing, and more
- New Device Experience, which introduces a collection of new features to improve how users discover and use devices that are connected to their PC
- Desktop Virtualization, which includes a suite of solutions to give users the flexibility to work everywhere on a range of devices, while simplifying compliance and management through a centralized and unified infrastructure
- Client Security with AppLocker and BitLocker
- Better Networking with BranchCache and DirectAccess
Finally, a word about “tweaking” Windows to improve performance: You’ve no doubt had instances where users attempt it on their own or request that your team look into tweaking the Windows settings and behaviors to make their systems faster. In Windows Tweaking and Optimization: Myths and RealityWindows System and Performance MVP Igor Leyko looks at the claims made by those sites that offer 50x performance boosts. Since these sites are no doubt the source of many of users’ requests, it’s good to know the truth about tweaks.
Thanks for reading,
Mitch Irsfeld*, Editor of TechNet, is a veteran computer industry journalist and content developer who managed editorial staffs at several leading publications, includingInformationWeek, InternetWeek andCommunicationsWeek. He is also an editor for* TechNet Magazine and managing editor of the TechNet Flash newsletter.