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Microsoft’s introduction of Windows 7 – an improved operating system on the previous offering, Vista – will allow small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to become more cloud-computing friendly.

This will in turn increase their efficiencies and cut costs.

Outsourcery, a leading communications and hosted IT company with 25,000 SME customers in the UK, welcomed the launch of Windows 7, highlighting how it can be used to seamlessly deliver software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions.

Mark Seemann, product strategy and development director at Outsourcery, said: ‘Until now, existing company software systems based on Microsoft technology have had to rely on a local on-premises Active Directory for security, user maintenance, user control and intranet network connectivity – as this would not work if the Active Directory is located within a SaaS cloud infrastructure.

‘But some of the new features introduced in the Windows 7 operating system will allow businesses to obtain access to their server applications within a hosted environment, which will reduce operating and capital expenditure and maintenance in the future.’ There are many new features in Windows 7 that enhance the delivery of the operating system over a cloud-computing solution.

For example, customers can now add their PCs to Active Directory without the need for them to be in the same network.

This can be done by importing a special security key obtained from a cloud-computing provider and will allow the customer’s on-premises Active Directory server to be virtualised and hosted within the cloud environment.

End-users can log into their domain and obtain access to any services (including file servers) without the need for a virtual private network (VPN) to be installed; instead data is encrypted using SSL certificates – the same security as used by online banking systems.

This removes the complexity and cost of maintaining a VPN – which requires specialist knowledge.

A feature originally added inside Vista now comes alive when combined with Directaccess, enabling users to automatically enforce their patch and antivirus levels – allowing management and maintenance of dispersed users from a central cloud service.

Both graphical and command-line systems get revamped in Windows 7 to work over web services instead of traditional direct connectivity, allowing easy remote management when in the cloud.

In addition, an improved remote desktop services, application streaming and virtual desktop infrastructure improve the user’s experience when used in conjunction with cloud services.

Seemann added: ‘Although some of these improvements are quite subtle and may not have grabbed headline attention, put together, they represent a significant advance towards mass adoption of cloud computing.

‘If Microsoft didn’t believe that cloud and SaaS were the future, it would not have gone to the trouble of putting these features into the core operating system.

‘We at Outsourcery welcome this move by Microsoft, as it allows our SME customers to embrace SaaS more easily, enabling them to work smarter and not harder.’

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