Sunday, 20 May 2007

Features not available in Vista Premium: for business users

Offline folders

In the beginning there was the need to access files stored on a network folder even when the network was unavailable. Another compelling reason to use this feature is the fact that not all networks are created equal: some are slow; some have a tendency to crash just before you saved your work.

For businesses, this is a must, no question about it.

The problem is that more and more home users are beginning to use networked files and folders. Microsoft is well aware of this, and prepares the launch of a file server for home use, possibly as early as the fall of 2007.

There are though differences in the way this feature is used/needed in a business environment and at home. He main point of using Offline folders as opposed to manually copying and transferring files, is that

a. The synchronization is done automatically between the local copy and the networked copy whenever the network connection is re-established

b. If both the local copy and he networked copy have been modified since the last synchronization, he user is alerted and given a choice of which version to keep.

These 2 points are likely to be less important in a home environment: what are the odds that both you and another family member are editing the same movie at the same time and without telling each other about it?; and if after all that editing you forgot to replace the networked copy, chances are you’ll just do i as soon as you discover the omission with no other dire consequences.

I’d give this a maybe towards justifying the price for an Ultimate version of Vista, and that only for those who DO use networked files.

Small Business Resources

Domain join, corporate roaming, remote desktop, full support for the mobility center are the features available in Ultimate and Business editions and not listed elsewhere, so I suppose this is what Microsoft means by “small business resources”.

If you want to use your home PC to VPN to work, you might need the Domain join and Corporate roaming features (and a very nice soon-to-be-fired network admin, but that’s another story). Problem is small businesses don’t generally use these features, and large businesses don’t allow the home PCs to be tied directly into the corporate network.....

The mobility center is not a bad idea by any means, and it even has some cool features like the ability to choose a “presentation” mode for your laptop (In this mode the screen saver and system pop-ups are disabled), easier connection to external displays, a centralized view of battery and network status (together with the other settings like sync, presentation mode, screen orientation, brightness....). If you use a laptop you might find these improvements useful.

The feature is however also noted as partially supported in the Premium edition. I have been to date unable to determine exactly what is missing from that edition, so until I know more, I’d say this one is only a YES if your wallet is thick enough.

Windows fax and scan

If you need to fax/scan from home....bummer. Not only the feature is only available in the Business and Ultimate editions of Vista, chances are it won’t work with your existing hardware. Anything bought before 2006 will face major compatibility problems. For hardware bought during 2006, you might get lucky, if you invested in the latest models. Otherwise add the cost for new hardware to the price difference between Premium and XP or consider being creative (Essentially use an XP PC to do the job. The creativity is where to find one handy...)

If you do decide you need it bad enough, you will appreciate the sleek interface though.

Wireless network provisioning

See Small Business Resources above. Corporate roaming on a wireless network could very well fit here. One really cool feature supported in Vista is the ability to authenticate on a wireless network before you reach the desktop, and to use the same credentials to authenticate with the domain controller. In real life, that means that only authorized machines will connect to the network, but they will do so with a minimum fuss for the user.

As for most of the other IT and business oriented features, at home you decidedly do not need this. If you need to connect to your work network though, the ones who know what they will require are the network admins, so be sure to check with them before you make a decision on which edition of Vista to buy.