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Upgrade your business network with Windows 7 pro features

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | Jan. 21, 2011
Though Microsoft doesn't make a big deal of Windows 7's many networking improvements and new features, they offer a fine reason to upgrade from XP. There used to be many reasons to skip migrating to Windows 7; but as the operating system matures and XP ages, Windows 7 is becoming a worthwhile update.

Even though it's more secure, HomeGroup is easy to set up, thanks to the included setup wizard and configuration dialog box. By default, HomeGroup makes all of a computer's Libraries sharable. However, Windows 7 makes it easy for you to decide what to share and what not to share.

You can also share individual folders, but Libraries are better for sharing files. Users and administrators have the option of letting other people view but not edit Library files.

And unlike in earlier takes on Windows peer-to-peer networking, a PC can belong to both a HomeGroup and an older business domain or Active Directory (AD) network.

On the negative side, HomeGroups must consist of Windows 7 members only. Mac OS, Windows XP, and Windows Vista won't work with it. Still, if you're moving all of your PCs to Windows 7, it's a handy and easy way to set up peer-to-peer networking.

Easy Connect

With Easy Connect and its underlying Peer Name Resolution Protocol (PNRP), your help-desk, with your permission, can remotely connect to your Windows 7 PC to fix HomeGroup problems. This arrangement is much superior to the traditional "What do you see on your screen now?" back-and-forth of past years.

Remote Assistance did the same kind of work in XP and Vista. But Easy Connect is simpler and more secure. In addition to adopting password security, Easy Connect uses Windows 's built-in Teredo IPv6 network protocol tunneling over the Internet to provide more-secure connections between you and your tech-savvy troubleshooter.

You may not need your IT department's help with networking problems, though. Windows 7 comes with an update on Vista's diagnose-and-repair feature, called 'Fix a network problem'. This automatic check-and-fix utility can't solve every network problem, but it's useful for cleaning up the most common difficulties.

Location-Aware Printing

Besides these home-user features, Windows 7 has lots of improved capabilities for business users and network administrators. Suppose, for instance, that you regularly take your business laptop home and then back to work. With Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate, you can use location-aware printing to switch printers automatically, depending on where you are. Afterward, Windows 7 will automatically send your print jobs to your study's printer (if you're at home) or to your office's main printer (if you're at work).

View Available Networks

Users on the road will appreciate Windows 's new VAN (View Available Networks) feature, which gives you a clear, convenient look at all available network options, from Wi-Fi to VPN (virtual private network) to 3G. It's a small but very useful feature.


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