Top business features in Windows 7

We lay out a few of the key business IT features in Windows 7 you’ll want to evaluate in the upcoming Release Candidate.

This creates a secure IPSec tunnel over a standard internet connection, in the same way that Outlook can connect to Exchange via https, so you can control which internal resources users can access remotely and push updates when they're connected.

Like BranchCache, a Windows 7 feature that caches content for branch offices on slow network connections, DirectAccess will require Windows Server 2008 R2, confirms Stella Chernyak, and "it does need some upfront work but the benefits are very much worth it".

Desktop improvements

End users will also get simplified access to content across the organisation through search federation. Libraries in Windows 7 aggregate multiple folders and data locations, on the PC and on the network; search federation uses OpenSearch to extend this to any document store, portal or search engine that supports OpenSearch.

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"The beauty for the user," says Chernyak, "is that they get the results back in same format as local search results highlighted user can just drag and drop file on desktop, can even get a file preview."

Search federation respects access rights, so users can only search what they have access to and you can pre-populate PCs with search connectors so that users don't need to remember how to get to portals and repositories; they can search as if for local documents but get the most recent and accurate information.

Windows 7 does not include a hypervisor for virtualisation, though it does have improved support for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) including multi-monitor, better graphics and local printing.

But the biggest news is the new Windows XP Mode, which uses Virtual PC - currently an additional but free download for Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate versions of Windows 7 - to run apps that require XP. Instead of a separate desktop, these show up as standard windows similar to running Windows apps in Parallels on Mac OS X.

Users can start virtual XP apps directly from the Start menu, so depending on performance and assuming your PCs have the required AMD-V or Intel VT, this could be a simple way to support apps that cannot be upgraded and still move to the other benefits of Windows 7.

Click here for our review of the Windows 7 beta.

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