Windows 7 Enterprise: the university edition

We've all heard the stories about Windows 7 - new themes, new wallpapers, better functionality blah blah. I'm just as bored of it as you are.

We've all heard the stories about Windows 7 - new themes, new wallpapers, better functionality blah blah. I'm just as bored of it as you are.

However, on the flip side to all this, I've been delving deep into the specialised university edition - Windows 7 Enterprise. The client, Enterprise edition, will be seen by many but what will go most unnoticed is the servers behind the scenes, being Windows Server 2008 R2.

As most universities seem to be running Windows XP, it'll be about the right time to upgrade. Some of the new technologies, as a student, I can see benefiting myself and others greatly. I'll guide you through three of the best.

BranchCache

What supports it: you need a server running Windows Server 2008 R2 (which is "Windows 7 Server", in some respects".

What you'll see: you won't notice a thing, it's all done behind the scenes.

Explained: Say your university has multiple campuses, like most universities do. You'll find one campus has the majority, if not all of the resources you require, so things will be pretty fast for you. If you're not on that central campus, you'll be using a wide-area network to connect in, which speeds will depend entirely on your non-university Internet connection.

When requesting a remote file, it could take anything from a minute to an hour. Once it is downloaded, it'll be stored in the local network cache so when someone else requests it, it'll be on their local network. It'll also keep tabs on the file you download to make sure it's kept up to date behind the scenes.

For the student: if you request a document from a campus far, far away, you'll not only be doing other people a favour by speeding up their file download, but works vice-versa so 99% of the time you'll have a speedy download regardless.

DirectAccess

What supports it: again, you'll need a server running Windows Server 2008 R2 and a Windows 7 Enterprise machine.

What you'll see: again, it's all done behind the scenes; you'll just notice seamlessness between intranet and Internet sites.

Explained: at the moment when you're at home or working anywhere other than on campus, there will be times you need direct access to a university resource. At the moment, you'll be using VPN (virtual private networking) which burrows a tunnel into the university network to make it look like you're actually, physically on the network.

For those with "managed PCs" which allow administrators to patch your computer, update policies and applications, this makes life more difficult. With DirectAccess, administrators and those working behind the scenes have a constant tunnel open to your computer (not in a bad way, in a "we give you Internet" way).

For the student: so, if you're on campus and want to access http://library, you will be able to. If you're away from campus, you won't be able to access http://library. But with DirectAccess, you will be able to access http://library from wherever you are. A simple concept, making your life that little bit less cluttered.

Language packs

What supports it: Windows Server 2008 R2 behind the scenes, and Windows 7 Enterprise as the client.

What you'll see: a customised language whenever you logon, suiting your primary mother tongue.

Explained: as you can with Windows Vista, language packs are now much smaller and easier to roll out to users. In a university environment, there are so many ethnic backgrounds, languages spoken, and people from all over the world. Not everybody speaks perfect English and this is a step towards making things more accessible for every student.

For the student: if you are an English student, you will logs in and select your language pack as "English", and this will stick to your user profile. If a Spanish student then logs in directly after you, their language pack will be "Spanish", and everything in Windows will appear in Spanish. No longer will the language be attached to Windows, rather the language is attached to your user profile - taking your language wherever you are on campus.

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