In previous posts we’ve written a lot about how Windows 8 will bring a new user interface to PC and mobile device users. But Windows 8 also introduces many features designed to help IT professionals better manage and protect their enterprise information. One of the more interesting tools IT industry watchers are talking about in this area is Windows To Go.
Part of the Windows 8 Enterprise edition (which we’ll discuss in greater detail later this month), Windows To Go will enable users to access their Windows 8 corporate image from a USB drive. IT administrators will have the power to burn whatever image they like on those USB drives, so they can determine the exact OS experience their users will have. Users can then boot that image from any x64 PC at any location, regardless of whether they are online. (Note: Windows To Go is not supported on Windows on ARM).
This is important to IT professionals because it gives them the ability to control the environment their users work in—from managing app and file access, to enforcing policy compliance and administering streamlined support. Windows To Go can further help IT professionals better secure and manage access to company information by employees using their own personal computers and mobile devices.
For their part, employees will like Windows To Go because their devices will retain the same user interface and provide access the same apps and programs. Instead of fiddling with apps and trying to remember what programs they can access, employees can get to work and be productive.
Furthermore, users will be able to plug their Windows To Go flash drives into nearly any device they want, whether it’s their own or provided by their employer. Because Windows 8 offers a consistent user experience across devices, Windows To Go functions—and manages—the same whether it’s on a laptop or a tablet.
Securing IT Access for Temporary Employees
When companies hire contract and temporary employees, IT needs to provide these individuals with access to the files, apps and programs they need to do their jobs, while protecting company intellectual property. That means limiting both the information employees can access and how much of it they can store.
The Windows 8 Product Guide for Business describes how Windows To Go meets this challenge. You can issue temporary workers a Windows To Go drive for as long as they work at your company, which restricts their access to a specific, custom image—so you can determine what files, apps and programs they can access.
Moreover, while using that image, no data will be stored on their computers. In fact, at the 2012 CeBIT expo Microsoft showed that simply removing a Windows To Go drive from any device caused the system to shut down just 60 seconds later—without leaving a footprint. With Windows To Go, you can grant system access to these workers and still be confident your data won’t be compromised.
Windows To Go versus Windows
Windows To Go operates just like other Windows installations with a few exceptions, according to Microsoft:
- Hibernate and sleep are disabled by default to prevent data corruption
- Internal computer hard disks are offline by default when booted in Windows To Go
- Trusted Platform Module (TPM) isn’t used
- The Windows Recovery Environment isn’t available
- Push button reset isn’t available
Cloud versus Windows To Go
For organizations that host most of their data and applications in the cloud, Windows To Go and desktop-virtualization solutions in general may be unnecessary. Employees can access whatever information they need, from any device, through a simple browser. So compare Windows To Go against cloud computing options before you buy a fleet of flash drives.
Is your company planning to upgrade to Windows 8? How will you use Windows To Go in your enterprise? Leave your thoughts in a comment below.
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