I’ve been looking a lot lately into high-end Windows 7 networking features like URL Quality of Service (QoS)-based traffic management and Secure Remote Connect. There is a lot to like here, and yes I am a Linux guy saying that, but I’ve also noticed that many of Windows 7’s best networking features are only available if you use Windows 7 Enterprise Edition. Furthermore, to get most of these high-end business features to show their stuff you’ll also need Windows Server 2008 R2 on the server end.
I find this more than a little annoying. Microsoft’s business has always been about locking users in to buying the latest versions of their products and making sure that you’ll have trouble staying with older products or switching to another company’s operating systems. The combination of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 underlines this point in red. For example, even if you just ‘upgraded’ to Vista and Server 2008 last year, you won’t be able to use even such low-end networking features as Windows 7 HomeGroups, Windows 7’s answer to XP and Vista’s MSHome/WorkGroup simple file and printer-sharing.
The simple truth is that with Linux or Macs, all the versions come with all the network features. That hasn’t been true of Windows since XP came along, and you had to pay an extra $100 to upgrade to XP Pro before you could use your Windows computer in a business network. That, at least, was straightforward. With Windows 7, it’s hard to know what feature is supported in what version so I thought I’d give you a helping hand in what’s what with Windows 7.