Microsoft Windows 7 Enterprise review

Steve Ballmer made some bold statements when promoting Windows 7 Enterprise to businesses at a London event earlier this month, including his view that companies could save “around £100 per PC in reduced helpdesk and administration costs”.

Microsoft Windows 7 Enterprise review

The key to these savings, however, isn’t just Windows 7: many of the benefits will only be derived if you deploy Windows Server 2008 R2 at the same time. Prime among these is DirectAccess, one feature that’s included in Windows 7 Enterprise but not Windows 7 Professional. Microsoft sees DirectAccess as a direct replacement for VPNs, giving mobile workers the ability to access their business network as if they were sitting at their office desk.

At this point we should note that DirectAccess is also available in Windows 7 Ultimate, which offers precisely the same features as Enterprise – the only difference is how you buy them. While any man or woman on the street can buy Ultimate, you have to be a Microsoft volume licence customer to obtain Enterprise.

However, this doesn’t mean only large organisations need apply. According to the Microsoft Volume Licensing website, purchases can be limited to just five licences.

So which features in Windows 7 Enterprise might offer enough to tempt an upgrade? Chief among them must be BitLocker and BitLocker To Go. The former technology hardware encrypts all the data on a business laptop equipped with a Trusted Platform Module, so that even if an employee loses a laptop you can be certain the data within it can’t be accessed. BitLocker To Go takes this a stage further, offering an easy way to encrypt all the data on an external USB drive.

The other headline feature that’s potentially useful is Virtual Hard Disk booting. If you want to deploy multiple disk images, and have your users boot from these rather than a conventional partition, then Windows 7 Enterprise supports it; Windows 7 Professional doesn’t.

There are plenty of useful features Windows 7 Enterprise shares with Professional though. Unlike with Vista, where the business editions cut out consumer-targeted features such as Windows Media Center, you get everything thrown in. That adds an extra entertainment dimension to business laptops, and could be a compelling reason to upgrade some of your staff’s existing Vista laptops to Enterprise (a relatively cheap way to motivate them in these tough times).

To see all these features, read our in-depth review of Windows 7 as a whole. There’s a lot to like.

Considering the high cost of Windows 7 Ultimate, the combination of Windows 7 Enterprise and Server 2008 R2 under a Volume Licence scheme could be a tempting alternative. We certainly suggest that qualifying companies take a look at this version before splashing out on other Windows 7 editions.

Windows 7 versions

Details

Software subcategory Operating system

Requirements

Processor requirement 1GHz or higher

Operating system support

Other operating system support N/A

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