What’s Different About Windows 8.1 – and Why it Matters to your Business

Just a year after the release of Windows 8, Microsoft released Windows 8.1 on Friday, the first in the company’s new “rapid cadence” update cycle for its Windows operating systems (the usual release frequency is every two to three years). As a ZDNet story from July pointed out, Windows 8.1 is not just a service pack. It does have several measurable differences from Windows 8 — differences that might provide compelling reasons to consider upgrading to the new OS.

Better application and data management

Windows 8.1 has endeavoured to provide better application security across devices through Assigned Access. This new Windows 8.1 feature initialises a preconfigured set of filters to block access to other applications, giving the user permission for only a specific Windows Store app on the device. You can choose how to manage the applications based on device, work scenario or capability needed. Other security features protect corporate data on Windows 8.1 in BYOD arrangements, such as Remote Business Data Removal, which wipes sensitive data from compromised devices and encrypts all consumer Windows 8.1 devices.

Enhanced device mobility

For organisations with many employees who must connect from outside the office to a corporate network, the Windows 8.1 DirectAccess feature removes the need to launch a separate virtual private network. DirectAccess delivers corporate applications via secure firewall and is able to automatically provide security software and policy updates to remote computers to keep corporate data safe. DirectAccess also helps IT administrators keep remote user PCs in compliance.

More options for device management

Windows 8.1 has an open MDM policy, allowing businesses to enrol either corporate or personal Windows devices with any third-party MDM solution, including AirWatch and MobileIron, that can communicate with Windows’ built-in OMA-DM protocols. The OMA-DM protocols provide secure communication with cloud-based MDM services so your organisation doesn’t need to buy additional infrastructure. Organisation-provisioned devices that regularly connect to corporate networks can be managed by System Center’s enterprise management capabilities.

Stronger IT control

Previously, Windows 8 provided “all or nothing” access to users accessing PCs based on whether they were a member of the corporate domain or not. The new Workplace Join enables users to work on any device while still accessing corporate resources.  IT can choose to allow access to certain resources while restricting access to others. Users can enrol in Workplace Join themselves by registering their device with Windows Intune.

If you are considering Windows 8.1 and already use Windows 8, you don’t need to purchase additional licenses — you already own the license for 8.1. An IT provider with specialisation in desktop management can help you upgrade and ensure your workstations are optimised for 8.1.

See how you can sign up for a Windows 8.1 Customer Immersion Experience.

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