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Windows IT Pro UPDATE-- Clock Starts Ticking on Windows Vista--December 27, 2005

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1. Commentary
- Clock Starts Ticking on Windows Vista

2. Hot Off the Press
- Microsoft Abandons MSNBC Cable Channel

3. Networking Perspectives
- Best Practices for Recovery Storage Groups and Exchange Server 2003

4. Peer to Peer
- Featured Thread: New User Administrator Rights
- Tip: Running a VPN?

5. New and Improved
- Archive Emails and Critical Data on Optical Media

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==== 1. Commentary: Clock Starts Ticking on Windows Vista ====
by Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]

I think it's fair to say at this point that Microsoft has been through the wringer with Windows Vista. Originally envisioned as a revolutionary Windows client upgrade with a next-generation database-backed file system and a video-driven 3-D interface, Vista is now very much an evolutionary upgrade to Windows XP. The whiz-bang file system is gone, replaced by, well, NTFS, and the Jetsons-like UI has been replaced by a pretty UI that will slip back into an ugly XP-like UI at the first sign of a software error.

But if Microsoft's corporate customers are to be heard--and they should be, since they constitute one of the largest single markets for the Windows client--then none of this really matters. Tech pundits, industry analysts, and college-aged fanboys with too much time on their hands can debate the relative merits of Vista's Aero Glass UI till they're blue in the face. What really matters is whether the OS has enough beef to get customers to pony up for the costs of upgrades and, if necessary, training and other related expenses.

In my extremely positive review of Vista build 5270 (see the URL below), which Microsoft recently issued as its December 2005 Community Technical Preview (CTP) release, I note that Vista is finally starting to show some of the fit and finish one might expect from a shipping product. The UI is fairly clean in places and the end user applications are coming along nicely. Performance is getting better, too, although it has a ways to go. My review is positive mostly because Vista development is on the upswing, and it shows in this build.

That wasn't always the case. During a particularly ugly part of 2004-2005, we didn't hear much about Vista because Microsoft was in the middle of a painful process called "The Reset" internally, in which it had to restart Vista development with a pared-down version of Windows Server 2003, which it componentized and then began adding back features. This setback cost Microsoft about a year of development time, causing the Vista release to slip until late 2006.

So what does Vista offer corporate customers? Is there any compelling reason to upgrade to Vista? And perhaps more important, are there reasons to avoid the upgrade?

The answer to all of these questions, of course, is yes. But as with any Microsoft upgrade, you'll need to balance the cost of upgrading with the benefits you'll supposedly receive by making the leap. To date, Microsoft has been very quiet about the enterprise-related features in Vista, but I think I can present a few features you'll find interesting.

Full-Volume Encryption
We're all aware of the horror story of the traveling executive who inadvertently loses his or her notebook in a cab, hotel, or bar, and realizes that it contains crucial insider information about the company. To combat data theft, Vista includes a full-volume encryption technology called BitLocker Drive Encryption (which works better with underlying Trusted Platform Module--TPM--hardware in modern PCs) to encrypt a system's entire hard drive. Non-TPM systems must use a USB memory key or similar device to unlock the drive when booting.

Image-Based Deployment
I've discussed this feature before, but given Vista's three-plus years in development so far, that's not surprising. Thanks to its componentized nature, Vista supports a new, more efficient image-based deployment scheme and a new version of Microsoft Remote Installation Services (RIS) called Windows Deployment Services (WDS). With WDS, you can automatically deploy Vista installation images over a network in a more elegant and timely fashion.

For companies that want to upgrade or migrate XP Professional Edition systems to Vista, Microsoft is providing updated versions of earlier tools, such as the User State Migration Tool (USMT) and new tools such as the PC Migration Assistant Wizard, which moves settings, files and folders, and user accounts from an old XP or Windows 2000 PC to a new Vista PC.

Better Group Policy
With Vista (and Longhorn Server), you control policy settings via new XML-based ADMX files, which replace the proprietary ADM files that earlier Windows versions use. This functionality will require new versions of the Group Policy Object Editor and Group Policy Management Console (GPMC), but will make automating Group Policy tasks much simpler. The biggest change with ADMX-based Group Policy is that common Group Policy Objects (GPOs) will now be stored in a single domain-level location, reducing storage requirements and making all GPOs more accessible to domain administrators. You can then use File Replication Services (FRS) to automatically replicate the central store to all domain controllers (DCs).

One big concern that businesses have today is that employees will plug a USB memory key, iPod, or other USB-based storage device into a PC, copy sensitive corporate data to that device, and then bring it off site and either lose it or purposefully give it to others outside the company. With Vista, corporations will be able to control device access via Group Policy, determining which types of devices that users can and cannot connect.

Better Security
This topic could entail an almost book-length discussion, but Vista will offer numerous security advantages over XP or other Microsoft OSs. Key among the changes are Protected Mode Admin (aka User Account Control--UAC), which forces even administer-level users to OK changes that could affect the system, and Protected Mode IE, in which Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 always runs under privileges below those of other running tasks. Vista will also include an integrated malware scanner and eradicator called Windows Defender and numerous other security features.

So why might you want to avoid Vista? All the obvious reasons apply: It's a big upgrade and likely to be extremely disruptive. Despite the surface similarities with XP and earlier Windows versions, Vista also includes several new features and enough changes to upset the productivity of the typical information worker. In some ways, Vista's change to a more evolutionary approach will result in fewer training costs, but it's still a big change from earlier versions.

As of this writing, you have about 9 months to sort out a Vista strategy, and by early 2007, I expect that Vista will likely be the only easily obtainable Windows version with new PCs. The question, I guess, isn't so much whether you're going to upgrade, but when. The clock is ticking.

Windows Vista December 2005 CTP (Build 5270) Review


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==== 2. Hot Off the Press ====
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft Abandons MSNBC Cable Channel
In the waning days before Christmas, Microsoft officially severed its MSNBC cable news channel partnership with NBC, which will completely own the station within 2 years. However, Microsoft retains joint control of, which is the most popular news destination on the Web. What's interesting about this story isn't so much that it happened--the Microsoft/NBC partnership had soured long ago--but the way that it happened. Read the details at the following URL:

==== 3. Networking Perspectives ====
by Alan Sugano, [email protected]

Best Practices for Recovery Storage Groups and Exchange Server 2003
Read Alan Sugano's article to learn how to use RSG to restore a single mailbox.

==== Events and Resources ====
(A complete Web and live events directory brought to you by Windows IT Pro: )

Microsoft Exchange & Windows Connections 2006
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WEB SEMINAR: Get the tools, tips, and training that you need to avoid a messaging meltdown when an outage strikes. View this seminar today:

WHITE PAPER: Plan and implement reliable strategies to maintain highly available Exchange Server 2003 messaging systems. Download this free white paper today!

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==== Instant Poll ====

Results of Previous Poll:
The voting has closed in Windows IT Pro's nonscientific Instant Poll for the question, "How often do you require users in your organization to change their passwords?" Here are the results from the 147 votes:
- 13% Every 30 days or less
- 22% Every 30 to 60 days
- 36% Every 60 to 120 days
- 7% Every 120 days to 1 year
- 21% We don't enforce a password-change policy

(Deviations from 100 percent are due to rounding error.)

New Instant Poll:
The next Instant Poll question is, "How satisfied are you with your current IT job?" Go to the Windows IT Pro home page and submit your vote for a) Very unsatisfied--I quit, b) Unsatisfied--I'm actively searching for a new job, c) Satisfied, but will consider offers, or d) Very satisfied--I'm staying put.

==== 4. Peer to Peer ====

Featured Thread: New User Administrator Rights
Forum user mblanco2000 writes that he added a new user to his Active Directory (AD) and gave the user Administrator rights to the domain. However, when he logs on to the client PC, the new user doesn't have the Administrator rights that were assigned. Read more about his problem and offer your thoughts at the following URL:

Tip: Running a VPN?
by Alan Sugano, [email protected]

Make sure to use at least 3DES (or Advanced Encryption Standard--AES) for your VPN encryption. DES is cryptographically weak and can be cracked. Also, consider using a certificate instead of a shared secret to increase your VPN security.

==== Announcements ====
(A complete Web and live events directory brought to you by Windows IT Pro: )

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==== 5. New and Improved ====
by Blake Eno, [email protected]

Archive Emails and Critical Data on Optical Media
Primera Technology released the OptiVault Archival Appliance to help you back up and recover all email messages and other critical data onto optical media. The product uses write once, read many (WORM) technology to maintain compliance and to quickly recover data of all types without excessive use of your primary storage devices or media. OptiVault also includes the EMC Dantz Retrospect Single Server Edition with Retrospect Agent for Exchange to provide you with automated backup. Having EMC Dantz and Optivault in one solution gives you data transfer and write speeds as fast as 60GB per hour. For pricing information, contact Primera Technology at 800-797-2772. Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!
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