As for security concerns over there being no official VPN, Schuster says that DirectAccess is used with Windows Server 2008 R2 in the background, which will use the most secure protocol, IPv6, to encrypt data transmitted across the Internet. "It's not as if you don't have a VPN or firewall; we've just integrated that into DirectAccess," she says. "There is no longer a separate step to get to that secured tunnel."
BranchCache, which also requires the use of both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, is a feature designed to speed up networks in remote offices that are away from corporate headquarters. Basically, BranchCache will speed the accessing of large remote files stored on the corporate network, says Schuster.
For example, a copy of a file server is downloaded from the corporate network and cached locally on Windows Server 2008 R2 at the branch office. When another user at the branch office requests the file, it is downloaded immediately from the local cache rather than over a limited bandwidth connection back to headquarters.
Users don't have to go back to the corporate network and use up bandwidth to download it again, Schuster says.
"And what IT can do with BranchCache is set the amount of partition on desktops in branch offices that can be used for caching, set how current documents need to be before forcing users to go back to the corporate network to get them again, and check what level of permissions users need to have," she says.
Windows 7 has bolstered enterprise search functionality from the desktop.
Although Windows Vista enhanced desktop search, and Microsoft has invested in SharePoint portal search and Internet search, the problem, according to Schuster, is that those are three different searches and you need to go to three different places.
"With Windows 7 we have federated that search," Schuster says. "So right from your desktop you can expand search from the desktop to SharePoint sites to the Internet and then go find a document wherever it may be: on your computer, on your network or on the Internet."
With the "federated" search in Windows 7, users can select which intranet and SharePoint sites are available for searching or IT can pre-populate a user's start menu with links to specific Windows portal sites. Search results are presented in Windows Explorer the same way that users of Windows XP and Vista are used to.
BitLocker to Go
The BitLocker hard-drive encryption feature was introduced in Windows Vista to protect data on lost or stolen laptops. In Windows 7, the feature has been extended to protect storage devices such as external hard drives and USB sticks.
Called "BitLocker to Go" in Windows 7, the feature allows external storage devices to be restricted with a passphrase set by IT before users have permission to copy data to them.