3 Oct.

Windows 8.1 Enterprise (2/81)

In the last post I gave a high level overview of the differences between Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Pro, and today’s update is taking it up to the next level with what additional capabilities are included with Windows 8.1 Enterprise. Before we get into the features though, it’s worth discussing how you get a hold of Windows 8.1 Enterprise.

There are several ways you can get a hold of Windows 8.1 Enterprise, and they are as follows:

1. Volume Licensing (Open, Select, Enterprise Agreements etc)
2. Windows Intune (as one of the options)
3. MSDN Subscriptions
4. Evaluation version (currently based on the Preview, not RTM)

I won’t go into the pros and cons of each of these today, but if there’s enough demand I’ll revisit them in the future.

Now, onto the features…

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This capability simplifies Start Screen customisation based on groups or roles with Group Policy. This helps to keep the required apps in a more prominent position, and you can even limit the customisation capabilities that users are assigned.

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Windows To Go allows the creation of Windows 8.1 Enterprise images on bootable USB drives. This feature was introduced with Windows 8 Enterprise, but some additional functionality has been added this time round including support for Windows Store access. There are a number of usage scenarios that I will cover in a future post, as well as discussing some of the licensing implications of Windows To Go, which also explain why it’s only available with Windows 8.1 Enterprise and not other editions.

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As someone who has benefitted from DirectAccess since its introduction, this is a technology that many people aren’t aware of, or if they are aware, may have been dissuaded from implementing due to early complexities. With success releases of the technology the deployment options have gotten simpler, making it easy for an organisation of any size to provide remote network access without having reliance on VPN technologies. The concept of just using the applications you need without being concerned about their location makes this one of the most underrated pieces of the last few Enterprise editions of Windows.

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BranchCache acts as a WAN optimiser, and can either work with a Windows Server 2008 R2 or later server in hosted cache mode, or alongside other Windows 7,8 or 8.1 Enterprise clients in distributed cache mode. For content to be cached it needs to be coming from supported versions of Windows Server and supported roles, such as IIS, file server and app servers such as WSUS or SCCM. Some of the underlying components of BranchCache on Windows clients are also used by Windows Intune as part of the peer distribution system for Windows Updates and app distribution.

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Windows 8.1 Enterprise can be used as the guest in Microsoft VDI solutions to provide advanced capabilities through RemoteFX to improve the end user experience. USB redirection as well enhanced graphics capabilities make the VDI experience more like a traditional desktop experience.

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AppLocker received support for Windows Store apps in the Windows 8 update, which means that you can control access to modern apps, as well as traditional Windows applications, scripts and installers. You can control the ability to run applications based on the publisher information, the version details, as well as the path and hash details.

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For customers looking at ways of installing their own custom apps without having to go via the Windows Store, Enterprise Sideloading gives the ability to deploy apps in a more structured and simplified manner.

I’ll use these features as the basis for the next seven posts, kicking off with Start Screen Control.

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