Friday, October 16, 2009

Reporter's Notebook

In today’s installment of Reporter’s Notebook, Eric Olmsted writes about next week’s long-awaited release of Microsoft Windows 7. Olmsted is the owner of On Line Support, Inc. of Vancouver. He can be reached at

“7” is your lucky number

If the Vista operating system had you gnashing your teeth and silently (or not so silently) cursing the minds of Microsoft for the last two years – “7” may be your lucky number. After months of development and much hang-wringing by top Microsoft executives and shareholders, Windows 7 is slated for its market debut on Thursday.

In planning Windows 7, Microsoft responded to business customers’ requests – i.e. complaints – for a better-performing, easy-to-use and secure operating system. As anticipated, Windows 7 comes with many improvements over previous operating systems and includes several features targeted to business, including enhanced mobility and improved security.

Here’s a rundown on some major new features:

Enhanced Mobility

One of the new features of Windows 7 is DirectAccess, which connects remote users securely to a corporate network that allows them to access corporate file shares, websites and applications without the need to connect to a virtual private network (VPN). Your employees can even disconnect from the network, work offline and then have their network files automatically updated with any new changes.

Improved Security

Given today’s data protection legislation, many small businesses will appreciate the security controls of Windows 7. If you don’t have an in-house IT department, you may be running with few or no access controls due to a lack of technical knowledge about controlling access to shared networks. Windows 7’s simplified configuration for workgroup networking includes an easy-to-use interface that gives you control of who has access to data and equipment.

Windows 7 also increases control of sensitive data on laptops or USB drives. A feature called Bitlocker, a file security and encryption system, enables you to allow only authorized users to read data on portable media, even if the media is lost or stolen. Another feature, AppLocker, allows an IT administrator or outside consultant to control which applications can run on user computers, providing another way to limit the risk of malicious software.

Other Features

Unlike Vista’s stand-alone operating system, Microsoft added XP compatibility to Windows 7, enabling XP applications to run on the new system unmodified.

If your application still does not run in XP mode, you can create a Virtual PC that runs Windows XP. Your previously-installed applications running on Windows 7 appear exactly as they would on XP – a huge incentive for companies who want to purchase new computers with Windows 7 installed.

Microsoft also incorporates a highly intuitive desktop experience, including a new taskbar displaying larger icons for easier viewing. Another feature allows you to peek inside a file by hovering over a thumbnail.

To upgrade, or not to upgrade…

Though Windows 7 is far-and-away better than either Microsoft XP or Vista, I recommend installing it only on new equipment. The reason is that many older machines utilize a 32-bit operating system that is incompatible with Windows 7’s 64-bit requirements.

Yes, the stars have aligned, Vista seems just a bad dream and Windows 7 is a newer, faster replacement that has all the bells and whistles you’d expect, including one very important thing: it actually works.