James Lockyer is Windows Client Product Manager at Microsoft UK.
Question: “We currently run Windows XP and we have been very happy with it for some years. But we now have so many different types of PC and laptop about that my IT Manager says it’s becoming a full time job to maintain and secure them. Is that a fair comment? Is it time for an upgrade? And if so, how much will it cost?” - Carol
Answer: Hi Carol. Managing your PC estate is certainly an expense worth minimising in these straitened times. Winning business is difficult enough without worrying about the software on your machines being up to date and your business-critical information protected; but your IT Manager is right to be concerned: IT security is a non-negotiable necessity.
Let me say first, you’re not alone. Plummeting hardware prices, coupled with a rapid growth in flexible and mobile working, means that most medium-size businesses are struggling to control their mushrooming PC population. Many have no form of PC management regime - and so have no idea how secure they are. Others have solutions that cover machines in the office, but offer little control over off-site devices.
I have two recommendations for you, both of which will enable you (and your IT Manager) to spend more time managing your company and less time worrying about IT. In a moment, I’ll talk about our new online “cloud” service; but first – you were right about upgrading - let me explain why upgrading to our new Operating System, Windows 7, is a good idea.
Tighter security and control
As with every edition of our OS, Windows 7 brings improvements in security, productivity and manageability. Comparing Windows 7 with your existing Windows XP, the key difference is that Windows XP was launched in a world with minimal mobile computing and associated risk. With new threats constantly appearing as employees work more flexibly with latest technology, Windows 7 offers improved system security, more control and better compliance for today’s businesses with a growing mobile workforce. Windows 7:
protects data on internal hard discs using BitLocker
encrypts sensitive data on external drives using BitLocker To Go
centrally controls which programs can run on which computers using AppLocker
streamlines User Account Control – giving IT staff more configuration options and giving fewer prompts to users.
It’s not difficult to see why the Communications Electronics Security Group (CESG), GCHQ’s Information Assurance arm, recently gave Windows 7 their seal of approval; calling it the safest Microsoft OS yet and actively encouraging government departments to choose it over other versions.
To answer your query about cost, Windows 7 clearly proves its return on investment. In its 2010 white paper: “The Benefit of using Windows 7 in Small and Medium-sized businesses” analysts IDC said:”IT professionals can reduce their support burden with Windows 7. When comparing Windows 7 with the previously used operating system (typically Windows XP, but in some cases, Windows Vista), our research indicates that service desk labour drops by a dramatic 65%... End users spend considerably less time dealing with malware, downtime, and reboots when using Windows 7 compared with previous Windows products... the savings result in 43 additional hours of productivity per year per user when using Windows 7. That amounts to in excess of one full work week per year of productive time.”
Troubleshooting made simple
Most businesses find PC troubleshooting time-consuming and costly to support. To help your IT Manager, Windows 7 contains the Problem Steps Recorder (PSR). Let's say you're having problems with a program that keeps crashing. Instead of trying to describe the issue to the IT helpdesk, you simply turn on the recorder and go through the sequence that's causing a problem. PSR monitors every screen, mouse click and keyboard action you take, and compiles them into a slideshow, complete with a written description of each action. This is emailed to the helpdesk, who now have a complete picture of your problem.
Windows 7 also has a built-in Windows Troubleshooting Platform (WTP) that consolidates a typical user’s support and troubleshooting needs into one consistent user interface (see Control Panel > “troubleshooting”). There you’ll find built-in troubleshooting packs for fixing common issues, such as hardware, network/internet connectivity, and more. In short, by moving to Windows 7, you’ll reduce your PC management overheads and make your data more secure. But I promised more good news...
Removing the admin headache
We’ll shortly be launching a low-cost online service called Windows Intune that makes managing and securing your PCs simpler - and saves you money. It’s a new way to keep your PCs economically licensed, running smoothly, optimised for performance and protected against viruses; whether in the office or out on the road. It’s all delivered from the cloud – i.e. online; and all these tools are wrapped up in a simple monthly subscription.
With Intune, the management and security of your PCs is all handled via Windows Cloud services through a Web-based console. Simply install an agent (a tiny piece of software) on each PC, and Intune will cut your IT Manager’s troubles in half:
Minimise maintenance time by distributing security and software updates to all your PCs from a central console
Protect your PCs from viruses with proven enterprise-grade Microsoft security technologies like Forefront Endpoint Protection and Security Essentials
Monitor all your PCs and receive alerts which identify and resolve PC problems before they impact your business
Give your staff remote assistance so they can resolve PC issues wherever they are
Track hardware and software usage so you’re correctly licensed, always using up-to-date software, and never paying more than you should
Set security policies and centrally manage updates, firewall and protection settings across your entire PC estate - even on machines outside the corporate network
Standardise your PC configuration, making support as cost-effective as possible
An Intune subscription also gives you the option to purchase the Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack (MDOP), a set of advanced desktop management tools that maximise security and control, and help resolve critical issues such as diagnosing and recovering unbootable PCs.
Windows Intune is a low-cost solution which gives you a wealth of information about your technology, solves problems before they become crises, and gives you greater control over remote PCs. It answers your business need for reliable technology with simplified setup, maintenance and billing.
I hope this answers your question. Below are links to more detailed information. In the meantime, good luck!