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Secure Mobility Face-off: Windows To Go vs. Laptop and VDI

BYOD is a game changer for the mobile workforce, and IT leaders are waking up to the opportunity.

One case in point: State Tech reported that Fairfax County, VA is issuing Windows To Go drives to employees who work remotely, “improving productivity and reducing the number of employee-owned PCs that IT must support.”

“There’s nothing to install or configure. Employees simply plug the drives into their Windows 7– or Windows 8–compatible PCs or other devices, connect to the county network via a virtual private network, and work anytime, anywhere.”

Microsoft’s Windows To Go – an enterprise feature of Windows 8.1 – is a simple, cost effective way to liberate the corporate desktop from any single device by placing a full version of Windows 8.1, applications, security tools and policies onto a secure USB 3.0 stick. Employees and/or contractors now can work securely on most any laptop or tablet with a USB port.

Imation was an early proponent of the mobile USB workspace, so it’s gratifying to for us to see the growing excitement and adoption of Windows To Go among both enterprise and government organizations. As we meet forward-thinking IT leaders at seminars, trade shows, events around the world, it’s increasingly clear that Windows To Go represents an exciting and pragmatic new way to work for teleworkers, contractors and road warriors – and even students and teachers.

IT needs to keep evaluating new ways to increase security, manageability and flexibility for a mobile workforce while managing costs. In this context, we’re hearing from customers that Windows To Go delivers advantages over laptops in five key areas, as illustrated in our infographic, below:

  • Cost – The Windows To Go drive can be the D in the BYOD strategy, costing 1/5 to 1/10 what it would cost to deploy a laptop – a benefit for BYOD strategy and easing replacement costs for lost or stolen drives.
  • Security – The Ponemon Institute reports that only 31% of lost or stolen laptops were enabled for encryption. Standardizing on a Windows To Go certified, hardware encrypted USB 3.0 drive dramatically improves security from data breaches.
  • Manageability – Windows To Go lets you centrally manage the OS just as you do with laptops. In addition, innovations such as the IronKey Enterprise Service add the ability to track Windows To Go drives and do remote wipe or remote detonation if they are lost or stolen.
  • Deployment – Windows To Go drives are easy to deploy, lightweight to carry, and less costly to ship. And with provisioning tools, even hardware encrypted drives can be deployed centrally by the dozen.
  • Resilience – IDC report that 86% of organizations have had laptops lost or stolen, and more than half of those reported a security breach. A ruggedized, hardware encrypted drive like the IronKey Workspace W500 resists both physical damage and physical tampering, and is useless to a thief if lost or stolen.

Of course, you can’t use a Windows To Go drive without a laptop. But when the work environment is on the move and BYOD is changing the rules of the game, Windows To Go delivers for IT and employees across multiple fronts.

We plan go into each of these advantages in more detail on the IronKey blog over the next few weeks, so watch this space. Comment below to share your thoughts in the meantime.

And if you want to learn more, download our latest whitepaper, an in-depth look at how organizations can use Windows To Go to empower and secure the mobile workforce.

Infographic Image

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Microsoft Interview: Windows To Go, Year One

When Microsoft launched Windows 8 in late October 2012, Windows To Go was immediately identified as a “hot” feature, designed for IT and perfect for BYOD.  The concept is both simple and powerful: your own fully manageable, corporate image installed on a bootable, certified USB drive.

As a key provider of certified drives for Windows To Go with our own IronKey Workspace solutions, we thought this would be the perfect time to ask our friends at Microsoft to reflect on the first year of Windows To Go.  The result: the following interview with Craig Ashley, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft for Windows  To Go.

Ashley_2x3

Microsoft’s Craig Ashley

How has the reaction been to Windows To Go since its introduction last year? Have there been any surprises?

I can honestly say it has been very positive. We developed Windows To Go with this idea that for customers that fall into a range of scenarios, from bring your own device to traveling light on the go, we could fit a full version of Windows on a USB drive and enable customers to have their own full version of a PC on a stick that fits in their pocket. This meant large enterprises with contingent staff or companies that had shared PCs or highly mobile staff could have a seamless PC experience regardless of the device they were on.

We have actually been surprised by how many customers are coming out with new and innovative scenarios. One of those was during the 2012 London Olympics.  Like most businesses last summer, the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust faced significant potential challenges to its ability to provide high quality care and services due to the Olympics pressure on transport networks in the city, which could prohibit staff from making it to work.  They originally thought the only solution was to provide staff new laptops.  However, Windows To Go provided a far more cost-effective and seamless solution that not only allowed their staff to successfully work remotely, but was simple to roll out.

Which vertical markets have really expressed an interest in Windows To Go?

We see interest across quite a few vertical markets. For example in healthcare and the public sector, Imperial College Health Care NHS Trust (which I previously mentioned) and the IT staff in Fairfax County, Va. see a good fit for teleworkers or remote workers who can boot Windows To Go on their own devices, as it allows them to use their device of choice and saving the companies the additional costs associated with managing a BYOD device. Another example is in manufacturing, where Boeing is currently piloting Windows To Go drives to sourced employees or contactors instead of a PC. One last example I’d like to share is in the airline industry, where Emirates, an international airline, distributed Windows To Go to use on their Windows 7 tablets for testing a new app at home before deploying the final version of the app on a Windows 8 tablet.

Other than government and regulated industries, are there any surprise industries that are testing Windows To Go?

We have seen interest across a wide range of industries. While the interest in Windows To Go is broad, the reasons for testing, piloting and deploying are similar: Windows To Go is just Windows 8.1, but on-the-go. By that I mean enterprises can manage it, deploy it, load applications on it, track it, and secure it just like they would their other Windows devices. For example, if customers use Windows To Go for contractors or remote workers, they can deploy using their existing processes.

Are you finding that most Windows To Go testers were already on the path to Windows 8 or are you finding that Windows To Go is a catalyst for Windows 8 adopters?

With Windows 8, we helped our business customers enable new scenarios for achieving everything from business efficiency to new forms of customer engagement. Some were already interested in great manageable Windows tablets. Some customers were excited by the security capabilities that Windows 8 offers. And some businesses are really seeing the value of Windows 8 through Windows To Go enabled scenarios.

With the launch of Windows 8.1, are more businesses familiar with the benefits and features of Windows To Go?

Absolutely. With any new feature or product there is always a learning curve associated with it. Windows To Go was first released last year with Windows 8, and since that time we have been continuously talking to customers, listening to feedback, and creating documentation necessary to educate users across a wide range of Windows To Go topics. One example and one that I am sure the IronKey team is very knowledgeable on is the fact that Microsoft only supports drives certified for Windows To Go. We have written blogposts and online documentation to be sure that customers understand this and many other Windows To Go requirements.

How long are prospects testing Windows To Go before they commit and what’s the size of the commitment (are they rolling it out slowly, just certain employees or across the board)?

Customer test plans and timelines vary by use case, industry, and the size of the Windows To Go deployment under consideration. Because Windows To Go is just Windows 8.1, customers are able to test and evaluate Windows To Go alongside their broader Windows 8.1 deployments.

Is Microsoft encouraging employees to adopt Windows To Go? What has your experience been like?

You bet. At Microsoft we always “dogfood” our own products. From the initial stages of launching Windows 8, Microsoft employees have had access to create Windows To Go drives. Our internal IT teams have created documentation that outlines the steps and processes for us to create and employees can use Windows To Go for a variety of reasons. I have two drives that I use on an ongoing basis, one for demoing Windows To Go and one for my day job. Many nights when I pack up to go home I simply grab my Windows To Go drive, my keys and head for the door. If I need to do work at home, I use the drive on my home office desktop, so there is no longer a need to carry my laptop and bag with me every time I leave now.

 

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IronKey Workspace for Windows To Go Review

Now that it has been certified by Microsoft, I was very excited to get my hot little hands on the IronKey Workspace W500 — the new platform from Imation for Windows To Go — and try it out for myself.

Imation's IronKey Workspace

Windows To Go is an enterprise feature of Windows 8. The implementation on the IronKey drive essentially lets you create an IT provisioned and managed PC on a Stick(tm) for work. You can use it securely on the work PC, then lock it down, unplug it, and then use it securely at home. The cool part is that when you’re using Windows To Go on an IronKey Workspace drive, everything from a data stand point is happening on the IronKey Workspace — the hard drive in the host computer is locked away from your workspace-on-a-stick.

As you can see, the IronKey Workspace looks great… a slick, simple, iconic design. The hard metal case is designed to resist damage and water, and to prevent unwanted tampering. Inside, AES 256 hardware encryption makes the data unreadable without a password, and the IronKey Cryptochip makes the encryption keys unreachable by even sophisticated bad guys.

But enough about the specs.  How does this thing work? Let’s get started.

The IronKey Workspace W500 is based on the iconic IronKey design.

In your typical enterprise, IT would use Windows To Go to either provision the drive for users, or to allow individuals to make their own Windows To Go devices on certified drives. The result is a corporate OS image on each IronKey Workspace. For this review, the IronKey Workspace had already been provisioned with a trial copy of Windows 8.0.

To get started, I plugged the drive into the USB port and pressed the power button. We immediately see something new — a Windows 8 symbol on my laptop PC — which normally runs Windows 7. If my PC hadn’t already been configured to boot from USB, I would have needed to make a quick adjustment to the Boot Options by hitting F12 during the initial boot up process.

Booting up Windows To Go

The drive opened up a preboot environment and asked for an admin password.

Entering the IronKey Workspace's preboot environment.

The IronKey unlocker explained that the drive needs to reboot. This is a security feature for the hardware encrypted drive. It ensures that no one can get near Windows or the data on the drive until they have proved who they are to the Cryptochip.  The preboot process also ensures that the IronKey Workspace connects to and accounts for the hardware configuration on the host PC — network connection, camera, sound, and more.

The IronKey Workspace reboots for extra security in Windows To Go.

And, after about 2 minutes, it was up and running on Windows 8. I spent a minute or so in the Windows 8 control panel to align the PC screen and the monitor, and I was ready to go! By the way, the next time I booted up the IronKey Workspace, because the device had already profiled the hardware on this machine, the boot process took about half the time.

Windows To Go runs the OS from the IronKey USB stick, but it let's you take advantage of the PC's hardware.

Another first time process — Windows 8 noted necessary updates to the anti-spyware and anti-virus programs. These were handled seamlessly. It also asked for a product key; as a trial copy, we didn’t need to do this.

A quick Windows 8 software update.

Now let’s put this PC on a Stick through its paces. The camera worked….

Windows To Go working seamlessly.

…as did the speakers, and the network connection. Tip: If you’re in an office don’t forget to turn down the volume before clicking on the latest from Macklemore & Lewis!

That's "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore & Lewis on Windows To Go.

One point to note: The Windows Store is not available on Windows To Go workspaces in Windows 8.0. The Store will be available on Windows To Go workspaces made with Windows 8.1 when it ships in a month or so.

Windows Store comes to Windows To Go in Windows 8.1.

Web conferencing was seamless.

Discussing our next trade show via web conference.

We don’t have Office on the Windows 8 trial, so I downloaded and installed Evernote for Windows onto the IronKey Workspace to write this review. Installation was as quick and easy as it would have been on the hard drive. In fact everything I did was fast.  Even though I was running off of the external IronKey Workspace drive, the PC performed every bit as well (and maybe even a little better) as it would if it had been running off the internal hard drive.

Working on Evernote for Windows on the IronKey Workspace for Windows To Go.

In Evernote, I was able to type at top speed with zero latency. This ability to work productively offline is a key advantage of Windows To Go over online-only solutions like VDI.

Conclusion:

Overall, as I wrote this review, checked email, participated in a web conference, listened to music and took pictures, it was easy to forget that I was running the OS and applications on a USB drive instead of the hard drive.

And for Windows To Go and the IronKey Workspace, that’s exactly what you want.

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Enabling BYOD with a Secure Windows To Go IronKey Workspace

We have now announced Microsoft certification and general availability of our IronKey Workspace W500. Microsoft’s certification process is a rigorous one, so we are extremely pleased to put this stamp of approval on our latest Windows To Go solution. And we’re excited to bring our secure PC on a Stick platform to the Windows To Go solution set.

According to Intel’s IT Manager survey on the current state of BYOD, one of the two largest barriers to BYOD adoption is that the devices used by employees cannot support security, encryption or remote wipe.  The IronKey Workspace W500 solves IT managers’ security concerns with its hardware based encryption, ability to issue ‘silver bullet’ commands to remote wipe the device, and centralized management.  The IronKey Workspace W500 is truly an IT provisioned, IT managed and IT secured device that fits into your network.

intel barriers snap

Source: Intel

Gartner predicts that half of companies will require BYOD in 2017, and as this trend spreads from mobile phones and smartphones to the PC, our Windows To Go workspace offerings position us strongly in this space. Strong market interest in our solutions backs up this trend – for example, we have initiated pilots large organizations that are interested in deploying thousands of devices. Use cases we are seeing include:

  • Executive travelers are seeking to bring a secure device to insecure countries, instead of a laptop.
  • Government agency looking to provide a way for employees to telework securely, using the workspace device on their home PCs.
  • A hospital is looking at providing secure workspaces to medical residents instead of providing PCs –a 10X cost savings.
  • Top universities are testing IronKey Workspaces for their students to use in computer labs, and then to allow them to bring their computing environment home.

Our new IronKey Workspace W500 represents a powerful, secure PC on a Stick offering for enterprise customers. This is a high-performance, ruggedized, high-security platform for organizations who see opportunity in using Windows To Go to support their BYOD initiatives.

You can learn more about the IronKey Workspace solutions at http://www.ironkey.com/en-US/secure-workspace/index.html.