Using Windows 8 to help mobile workers be more productive

As we’ve shared with you before, Windows 8 Enterprise has a variety of features unique to this edition of the operating system designed to address the needs of business customers. Today, I want to talk to you about these features that we hope will give you new possibilities in mobile productivity – whether you’re a road warrior, “work-from-home-er,” or remote office worker.

Windows To Go: Windows 8 Enterprise in Your Back Pocket

One of the most talked about new features of Windows 8 Enterprise is Windows To Go. As a reminder, Windows To Go is a fully manageable, secure corporate Windows 8 OS image installed on a bootable, certified USB stick. The feature allows employees to work from any location on practically any PC that meets hardware certification requirements for Windows 7 (or higher). For a list of the detailed hardware requirements, please visit this TechNet article, which provides an excellent feature overview of Windows To Go.

While Windows To Go is not intended to be a replacement option for your device, it can offer your business a new way to stay fully productive and connected to your apps and data while you’re on the go – whether working from home on your own PC, or using any available PC while you are traveling. We expect businesses might use Windows To Go to reduce the need for employees to transport their computers to different locations, especially in supporting workers in more mobile environments, such as military, police officers or people working on remote construction sites. Windows To Go USB sticks can be encrypted with BitLocker technology, so all data and apps are protected, even if the USB stick is lost or stolen. There are a few other important enterprise scenarios where Windows To Go can be a game changer:

  • Employees work from home. IT can provision Windows To Go to include the apps that an employee would have on their work PC or device, so that a person can use the USB stick on their home PC. Employees that have enterprise network access can even use a virtual private network (VPN) connection or DirectAccess to access corporate resources. Further, every time the enterprise network is available, the Windows To Go workspace can be updated to reflect the latest settings and versions from their normal PC or device. One important benefit of using Windows To Go in this scenario, is that the IT organization can manage the security of the Windows image that is used remotely.
  • Employees bring their own device to work. The “bring-your-own” device trend is another opportunity for people who want to use their computers for both work and personal scenarios. Windows To Go is helpful here, as it allows IT to provision the Windows To Go stick to permit access to the enterprise network on a personal device, so employees are able to stay productive whatever their choice of PC.
  • Employees that are temporary or contract workers. IT can provide a temporary or contract worker with Windows To Go to use on the PC they bring with them. In this scenario, the organization doesn’t need to provision a new PC for the contractor, but can leverage the device the contractor brings. By having this device boot from the Windows To Go drive, the contractor runs the corporate supported image and has access to the files or apps he or she requires for their work.
  • Employees need to quickly get up and running on Windows 8. Windows To Go can also help people take advantage of Windows 8 on their existing hardware before it’s deployed on their PC, which makes it significantly easier to drive broad corporate adoption of other technologies – including internal apps or any custom internal configuration as a part of the standard corporate image on the Windows To Go stick.
  • Employees may remain productive during disaster recovery scenarios: In the face of an unexpected power outage, fire, or even a natural disaster that may comprise a user’s primary PC or work location, a booted Windows To Go drive on a secondary device will provide an employee everything they need to maintain business productivity as recovery efforts commence.

IT can provision an employee’s Windows To Go drive using System Center Configuration Manager, which helps keep the image on the Windows To Go stick up-to-date and compliant with the corporate IT environment. Then, the employee may use the device on the go, at home or on their personal PC at work, with or without enterprise network connectivity.

Want to learn more about Windows To Go? I recommend that you check out this FAQ and a step-by-step breakdown for IT professionals on how to provision a Windows To Go USB drive.

Other Important Mobility Features of Windows 8

While Windows To Go is one of the most talked about new features of Windows 8, there are several others that customers are taking advantage of as they look at deployment options:

  • Native Support 3G/4G Mobile Broadband with Metering: Like in Windows 7, Windows 8 allows people to turn on and off both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but Windows 8 also allows you to track your data usage, and automatically switch from Broadband to Wi-Fi to help you manage your broadband spend. Windows 8 can also detect what type of SIM card has been inserted (3G or 4G) and what carrier is being used to automatically apply the right driver.
  • DirectAccess: With Windows Server 2012, Windows 8 Enterprise allows remote users to more securely and seamlessly access resources inside of a corporate network without needing to establish a VPN connection – making access to corporate data easy and secure, and one less step for the busy road warrior. In addition, with Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, DirectAccess is much easier to deploy, as customers no longer need to migrate the network to IPv6 to take advantage of this feature.
  • BranchCache: In Windows 8, multiple cache servers can now be used in a single office, making it easier to deploy the operating system, no matter how large or small the business. BranchCache also takes advantage of Windows file server’s technology to divide files into small pieces and eliminate duplicates, giving customers more bandwidth savings and better network performance – helping improving the experience for people who are mobile and on the go.

Over the next few months, I’ll continue to share with you more background with customer examples on these and other important features in the new operating system. As always, we look forward to your thoughts and feedback here.