October 21, 2013 11:55 am

Windows 8.1 Pro for small and medium sized business

Few factors can have as much of an impact on a small or medium-sized business than what technology a company deploys to its employees. For many organizations, this can be one of their most significant expenses, to the tune of $24 Billion in productivity annually, and results in many becoming the involuntary IT manager at their company.

To stay focused on their core business, SMBs need to choose tech that is easy, flexible, and that can grow with them as the company grows. I spend a lot of time talking with small and medium-sized business owners about their demands for a device that can do everything from heavy duty productivity tasks, like creating a slide deck or working on a budget spreadsheet, to on-the-fly mobile presentation with a device that is both powerful and portable.

Today, I wanted to take a look at some of the specific features that are available now with Windows 8.1 Pro, as well as look at how some of our real life SMB customers are taking advantage of the Windows 8 Pro experience.

Securing company data is usually the first thing on the minds of business owners I talk to. With the growth of bring your own device (BYOD) scenarios and a more mobile workforce tackling their jobs across a diverse set of smart connected devices, sensitive data can be accessed and stored on any number of devices. Helping keep that data secure has been a primary focus for us as we built Windows 8 Pro.

We’ve seen customers like Glenigan, a market analysis firm, take advantage of that work, utilizing Windows 8 Pro security settings to maintain common security settings across their team’s mobile devices.

With Windows 8.1 Pro we push this capability even further. All Windows 8.1 editions come with features specifically designed with BYOD security in mind, including remote business data removal (which allows a business to quickly remove their data from an employee’s personal device without impacting that individual’s personal files), biometric support (for advanced fingerprint readers) and Windows Defender malware protection.

Windows 8.1 Pro also adds BitLocker and BitLocker To Go, so you can encrypt every file stored on your device’s drive. Whether you’re working on your desktop workstation at the office, or an employee is going over a proposal on their tablet in a client’s office, you can be confident that your data is protected from hackers.

Once data is secured, another key challenge for SMBs is how to monitor and manage mobile devices and support BYOD scenarios efficiently. Windows 8 Pro was designed with mobile and remote workers in mind and we’ve seen groups like Century Council make the most of these features to better empower their mobile workforce.

Century Council staff spend much of their time on the road, meeting with community members, working to raise awareness of the dangers of alcohol abuse. With Windows 8 Pro, their team can access important documents and do real work no matter where they are. For example, staff can remotely access PCs back at the office via Remote Desktop to view and share files, documents and PowerPoint presentations. They also can work more quickly thanks to improved file search, faster startup times and faster performance offered by Windows 8 Pro.

Supporting mobile employees just gets easier with Windows 8.1 Pro. Microsoft OEMs are rolling out a host of new Windows devices, specifically designed for businesses. These devices are lighter, more powerful and offer longer battery life than ever before to help employees stay productive. Companies can choose between a variety of sizes and form factors, from small tablets to 2-in-1 hybrids to larger all-in-ones, and each device comes with the productivity tools that you expect on a Windows machine with tools like Office 365 and your existing Line of Business apps. With these new devices, employees can work from almost anywhere, and know their documents and data are secure. In addition, Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry helps businesses extend Windows 8.1 technologies even further to a host of specialized industry device scenarios requiring secure access to business-critical data delivered with rich, natural user experiences, such as point of service terminals, digital signs, kiosks and others.

With Group Policy, the IT department can ensure that all of the company’s devices are up to date, so IT doesn’t have to worry about monitoring dozens or hundreds of remote employee devices. This decreases downtime for employees and lowers the total cost of ownership for the organization.

We’ve also seen organizations, like Noviplast, who have paired Windows 8 Pro with a Windows Store app to maximize efficiency. Noviplast sells home and garden products across the Netherlands and Belgium and team members use a custom Windows Store app on tablets to monitor inventory and take orders. In similar scenarios, with assigned access, a new capability available in Windows 8.1 Pro, IT support can ensure that every tablet runs the same app experience. This helps create uniformity across devices and ensures that unnecessary apps are not accessible on the device, maximizing productivity.

These are just some of the benefits that Windows 8.1 Pro delivers to SMBs. We have a full list of Windows 8.1 Pro features on this chart and you can find additional guidance on how to approach the deployment process in a way that best fits your organization here. And for those businesses still running Windows XP, now is the time to upgrade to a modern OS as Windows XP will reach end of support on April 8, 2014. We have additional guidance to help with this transition here.

Windows 8.1 Pro is built for business and we’re excited to see what you think of it!

Updated November 8, 2014 1:13 am