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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.

Next page: Manage quality of service--and features specific to business editions of Windows

URL-Based Quality of Service

Quality of Service (QoS) is invisible to Windows 7 users, but the OS lets network administrators set up QoS policies based on Web addresses--that is, on URLs. With this feature, a system manager can set arrange for traffic from the local branch's SharePoint server or from the corporate server that hosts training videos to receive higher network priority than, say, traffic consisting of YouTube videos of zombies vs. gamers.

With more and more applications' being hosted on servers, enabling administrators to easily ensure that high-priority network traffic gets through becomes more crucial than ever.

Direct Access

Two major network features in Windows 7 are available only to Enterprise Edition and Windows Server 2008 R2 users. DirectAccess is, in essence, an IPSec VPN that runs--thanks to Teredo again-- over IPv6 on ordinary IPv4-base LANs and the Internet.

Officially, Microsoft claims that DirectAccess isn't a VPN, but for practical purposes that's exactly what it is. DirectAccess provides both VPN services and a way for network admins to push software updates and modify Group Policies to the laptop of a user who is thousands of miles away from your company's nearest IT staffer.

DirectAccess also gives network administrators the option to permit laptops to go directly to the Internet for most of the users' network needs while sending and receiving only office traffic through DirectAccess. With ordinary VPNs, once you're on the network, all of your traffic gets routed through the office, regardless of its actual content.

Another plus for DirectAccess is that, unlike with a VPN, you don't have to log in to it. Once you have DirectAccess set up, the connection is always on. With DirectAccess, you can't be caught out by Firesheep or other all-too-simple network snooping tools.


The other important feature in Windows 7 Enterprise Edition and Windows Server 2008 R2 is BranchCache. This capability puts a Windows 7 spin on the old networking cache idea of retaining a local copy of frequently accessed information. With BranchCache, if you and your coworkers look at the same corporate document frequently, the software will create a local copy and keep it in your branch's Server 2008 R2 Server.

Alternatively, if you don't have one of those, you can use Distributed Cache, an arrangement that involves directly caching the files on other local Windows 7 computers for distribution to other Windows 7 clients as needed.


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