Tip

Windows 8 Enterprise has notable features not in Windows 8 Pro

Chances are, if you're planning to implement Windows 8 on enterprise desktops, you've narrowed your choices down to two editions: Professional and Enterprise. Only these two provide the network capabilities needed to join desktops to a Windows domain and be managed through Group Policy. Both editions also include most other Windows 8 features, such as Encrypting File System, BitLocker full disk encryption, Exchange ActiveSync, virtual private network connectivity and Windows Defender. However, Enterprise supports a number of additional features not available to Professional. Knowing what these features are and what they do can be instrumental in choosing the right operating system for your desktops.

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Windows To Go

With Windows To Go, users can now boot Windows 8 Enterprise from a mass-storage device, such as a USB flash drive or an external hard disk. Windows 8 will then run on their PCs and laptops as if running directly from their own hard drives.

For example, IT can provide mobile workers with bootable flash drives that contains fully manageable desktops to run on their laptops. As long as the host machine is configured with Windows 7 or Windows 8, users can boot from the flash drive and work within the organization's secure environment. It would be as if they were working directly on laptops configured with Windows 8 Enterprise. And when workers shut down their laptops, their systems are left exactly as they were originally.

Windows To Go addresses potential downsides of bring your own device (BYOD) policies by keeping personal applications and data separate from an organization's secure environment. The worker's hardware provides the physical components necessary to host Windows 8 Enterprise but little more.

If the user removes the flash drive during a Windows To Go session, the system pauses until the device is reattached. If this doesn't happen within 60 seconds, the computer shuts down, thus preventing sensitive data from being displayed, stored in RAM or persisting in any way, other than on the flash drive itself.

Windows To Go keeps the virtual Windows 8 environment separate from the user's personal environment at all times, making Windows To Go perhaps one of the most valuable features available in Windows 8 Enterprise Edition.

DirectAccess

DirectAccess is another Windows 8 Enterprise feature that makes it easier to for organizations to incorporate mobile devices into their IT environments. DirectAccess provides connectivity to the corporate network in a way similar to how a virtual private network (VPN) provides access, but without requiring users to manage a VPN client.

When DirectAccess is enabled, remote PCs and Windows To Go desktops connect automatically to the organization's private network early in the boot process. Users do nothing. As long as they have Internet access, they can seamlessly and securely access corporate file shares, intranet websites and line-of-business applications within a remote domain. At the same time, DirectAccess blocks the local networking environment to prevent attacks against the PC and remote server.

DirectAccess also helps IT manage remote PCs by ensuring that they have the latest policies and software updates. Administrators can service the remote machines on a regular basis, without waiting for the user to establish a VPN connection. In fact, users do not even need to be logged into their systems.

DirectAccess is essentially invisible to users and can be configured through Group Policy and activated when the PC first connects to the domain. Although DirectAccess was also available in Windows 7, Windows 8 adds support for the IPv4 infrastructure.

This is only the beginning of our look at features that exist in Windows 8 Enterprise but not Windows 8 Pro. Next, we'll examine enhancements to RemoteFX, BranchCache and more.

This was first published in March 2013

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