From security enhancements to business-friendly software, there are a slew of Windows 10 features built specifically for enterprise IT.
Microsoft's new OS launched on July 27 and has garnered rave reviews. The company said in early September that Windows 10 has reached 75 million downloads, and is running on 1.5 million business PCs.
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Windows 10 gives Windows 7 users a familiar interface, while making it more of a mobile-friendly OS and mixing in some of the better features of Windows 8. The new OS also includes a number of management tools and changes to make IT administrators' jobs easier.
No More Windows Upgrades
One big change has to do with operating system upgrades. Windows 10 is the final version of Windows, meaning the company has decided to take the same approach to its OS that Apple takes to OS X, adopting the idea of an operating system as a service.
"I like the direction they are going with this," said Stephen Monteros, vice president of business development and strategic initiatives at SIGMAnet, Inc., an Ontario, Calif.-based Microsoft systems integrator and IT consultant. "This is the last OS and they are just going to release updates to the same OS."
That means IT departments will no longer have to do all the checking that comes with upgrading to a new OS. If your legacy apps run Windows 10, it will still be compatible on the next update of Windows. The forklift migration process you had with prior Windows releases is in the past.
"It's the operating system becoming iterative," said Ric Opal, vice president at Peters & Associates, an Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based Microsoft partner and IT consultant. "No more forklift upgrades. That's awesome as it relates to cost control and no more capital expense. … Now that I have this huge chore taken off my back, I can focus on what the feature sets are and how they apply to my business goals."
Built in MDM
Part of Microsoft's shift toward mobile includes built-in mobile security features in Windows 10. The company has included a mobile device management (MDM) layer to its new OS, which includes Microsoft's device management service, and Active Directory identity management.
"That's very helpful," Monteros said. "When we sell our Apple stuff, it is usually sold with Good Technology or AirWatch. This eliminates the need to use these third party EMM platforms because it's integrated into the OS. The management features are very important, so I can see a use for that right away."
Some of the protection features Microsoft includes are data leakage protection, user authentication and secure access to email and applications.
Microsoft's Enterprise Mobility Suite can also be used by IT to protect other mobile devices including Android and iOS. Admins can use the MDM suite to manage Office apps and include them in containers, manage copy and paste abilities, and grant or deny access.
Work Folders debuted in Windows 7 but didn't exactly takeoff. The feature is back in Windows 10 and allows users to store work documents in Work Folders and access them from anywhere. This is IT friendly as the company has control over corporate content and can manage who has access and who doesn't.
"Let's say you are sitting at Starbucks and want to access a folder on a server at work," said Wes Miller, research analyst at Directions on Microsoft, an independent analyst firm in Kirkland, Wash. "That content will be synced to your Work Folder the same way Dropbox works. It is synced to your PC automatically and securely."
From a business perspective, it's important to know where corporate content is located, who has access to it, and what they're doing with it, said Opal of Peters & Associates. Security and protection of data is a priority, especially when you talk about compliance.
"The fact we can have that kind of sharing is awesome; to know where the data exists," Opal said.
Microsoft has engulfed a slew of security tools within Windows 10. Device Guard is its front-line of defense against malware. The tool allows IT to lock down devices for advanced protection against unknown malware variants as well as Advanced Persistent Threats by only allowing downloads of trusted applications that have been approved by the Windows Store or specific, trusted vendors. IT can sign off on any apps as well.
"Only signed apps will ever run on your system, which ensures this app came from a trusted source," Miller said. "If you download a file off the Internet and it was compromised, it wouldn't be signed, so you can't run it."
Microsoft's answer to Apple's Touch ID is Windows Hello.
The authentication feature allows users to sign into their device by scanning their fingerprint, but that's not all. Microsoft says Windows Hello has facial recognition software in addition to iris scanning, so future devices will be able to recognize your face or scan your eye for you to sign in.
The company says Windows Hello delivers enterprise-grade security without having to type in a password.
"The security features that exist in Windows 10, especially the commercial versions of the software, are far more robust than anything we have seen from any other operating system from Microsoft or otherwise," said Opal of Peters & Associates.
Once logged into a Windows 10 device through biometric scan, users will not have to enter any passwords in apps, Websites, networks, etc.
Windows 10 confirms that the user is in possession of their own device and allows them to access any apps or services they desire, such as email, financial pages and more. The system works through Microsoft's Azure Active Directory Service and stores a user's login credentials locally.
Windows App Store
Stephen MonterosA VP at SIGMAnet, Inc.
A new feature in the Windows App Store gives businesses access to a store portal, where their IT admins will be able to browse the business apps and download in bulk. When doing so, IT can assign apps to specific employees.
Businesses will also be able to create sections of the store designated for their employees, so they can browse apps to download that have been approved by the company's IT department.
"It's useful; it mimics exactly what Apple does," Monteros said. "It brings a consistent look and feel with the Windows app store, and that of iOS. Most corporations are used to managing their iOS apps through the Apple App Store."
Universal Windows Apps
With Windows 10 on both PCs and mobile devices, developers can build one application and it works on any size screen. There is less of a burden for developers to create custom code for different form factors. This feature was also available on Windows 8 and has been carried over to the new OS.
The idea is, developers that make applications for Windows on PCs will be able to easily customize the app for Windows mobile devices as well. This holds true for businesses and organizations with custom applications.
By using stronger security protocols, the new browser ensures you are visiting the website you intend to visit, and not a lookalike, such as a Webpage that looks like your bank's but really isn't. Microsoft SmartScreen protects users from phishing by checking the background of the page and the site's reputation. This feature also defends against unintentional downloads of malicious software, the company says.
"Security is hard to quantify because it's hard to tell if it will actually replace something," Monteros said. "This is a plus, but we have to understand what of our existing security solutions it replaces."
Edge is written to be more resistant to hacks, according to Microsoft. Browser extensions can leave the software vulnerable as binary extensions bring code and data in its process, so anything that goes wrong with it will impact the browser. Edge has an extension model that shares less data and code between the browser and the extensions. The need for certain extensions is significantly reduced because of the rich capabilities of HTML5, Microsoft said.
After Microsoft did away with the Start Menu on Windows 8, users were not happy, and felt they had to learn a new user interface on Windows. Microsoft brought it back on Windows 10, giving the new OS a familiar look from Windows 7.
"It's what users recognize," Monteros said. "Obviously they are listening to their customers because they are delivering what the users were asking for."
The familiar look means IT does not have to retrain users on how to use a new interface.
The Start Menu has received a facelift from the Windows 7 version, however, with new improvements and better search options. The most frequently used applications are added to the Start Menu for easy access, in addition to Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant.
About the author:
Ramin Edmond is a news writer with TechTarget's End-User Computing media group. Contact him at Redmond@techtarget.com.