Now that Windows 7 is here, you have some decisions to make. Microsoft has a virtual smorgasbord of options to choose from and it can get a little tricky trying to figure out which flavor of Windows 7 you should choose. In particular, which version of Windows 7 is right for small and medium businesses?
If you look at new desktops and laptops available from Best Buy or Dell you can see that there are some de facto choices made for you depending on the class of the system. Consumer systems come with Windows Home Premium (mostly the 64-bit version), and business systems come with Windows 7 Professional. Large businesses fall into a whole different category with both Microsoft and vendors like Dell, and those systems would come with Windows 7 Enterprise by default.
So, if you are a small or medium business, Windows 7 Professional is ostensibly the version of Windows 7 for you. Windows 7 Professional does have some capabilities that businesses need that you can't find in Windows Home Premium--support for more system memory and dual physical CPU's, the ability to join a Windows domain, file encryption with EFS (Encrypting File System), the ability to use Windows XP-mode virtualization, and software policy restrictions. However, it is also missing some important features that small and medium businesses can benefit from.
BitLocker (and BitLocker-to-Go)
Windows 7 Professional provides some data encryption with EFS, but it doesn't have the ability to protect the entire hard drive with encryption. Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 7 Enterprise have BitLocker drive encryption which encrypts all data on the entire drive. Roaming employees often carry gigabytes of sensitive or confidential information on their laptops which can be easily lost or stolen. BitLocker provides secure protection to ensure that unauthorized users are not able to access that data. BitLocker-to-Go provides similar data encryption for USB thumb drives and other portable data storage that are also easily 'misplaced'.
Employees that work from home, or connect with the company network while traveling are used to the concept of the VPN (Virtual Private Network). The VPN serves its purpose for creating a secure connection between the remote computer and the internal company network across the Internet, but it is far from a perfect solution.
Users have to go through extra steps to connect to the VPN, which is prone to disconnecting. The remote systems and roaming laptops only exist to the internal network when they're connected. That means they only get software and policy updates when they connect, which makes it difficult for IT administrators to protect and maintain them.
DirectAccess takes the place of the VPN connection and provides a seamless, secure connection between the internal network and the remote systems as long as they have an Internet connection. Users can access resources, and administrators can manage the systems as if they are connected directly to the internal network.