Windows 2000 Professional Eases Telecommute

With telecommuting’s emergence as a viable business paradigm, Microsoft Corp. (www.microsoft.com) introduced a number of features in its Windows 2000 operating system that should make it easier for enterprises to enable remote worker access over low- or high-bandwidth remote access service (RAS) connections.

According to a recent forecast by market research firm IDC (www.idc.com), more than 10 million US workers will telecommute to work at least 20 percent of the time this year. Market research firm GartnerGroup Inc. (www.gartner.com) -- which in 1999 estimated that 20 million salaried American workers would telecommute to work at least one day a week -- expects that by 2003, 65 million employees will telecommute to work on a similar basis.

Windows 2000 Professional is seen by many observers as a telecommuter-friendly client operating system. Its new features include client-side virtual private network (VPN) support, a new encrypting file system that makes it safe to store sensitive business information on laptop computers, an off-line storage mode that lets users access network shares even when they’re physically attached to a network, and an upgraded power management system.

"There’s no question that it’s a more laptop friendly [operating system]," says Rob Enderle, senior analyst with Giga Information Group Inc. (www.gigaweb.com).

Shanen Boettcher, lead product manager for Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) with Microsoft’s Windows 2000 team, says the company’s goal with Windows 2000 Professional was to provide the same user experience whether a client was attached directly to the network or connecting remotely via RAS.

"If you’re using Windows 2000 for your day-to-day work, and if you also travel a lot and if you use your RAS a lot, the whole experience from moving to a corporate LAN to dial-up in a hotel to broadband connectivity at home should be pretty seamless to you," Boettcher explains. "Windows 2000 is pretty sophisticated in terms of its ability to recognize and manage all of these different types of connections."

A new feature found in Windows 2000 Professional is a hibernate ability. This feature lets a user capture the precise system state of his or her machine and then shut it down. When the machine comes back up, the operating system will be restored to its prior state. Any applications that were open or in progress at the time that the machine was placed into hibernation will be restored exactly as they were.

Hibernation is seen as an essential feature for the laptop-toting telecommuter.

"It’s one of the nicest things that people are going to notice about using this software," Boettcher says. "I haven’t rebooted my laptop in months. I just place it in hibernate and it comes right back up."

Windows 2000 also eliminates many of the periodic blue screens of death and general protection fault errors that users of Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 95/98 were regularly subjected to.

According to Giga, 90 percent of Windows 2000 Professional users find the operating system to be a more reliable platform than any of the Windows iterations that preceded it. Additionally, about 75 percent of those surveyed reported that Windows 2000 crashes less frequently than did Windows NT 4.0, and -- as if that’s not enough -- offers two to 10 times more reliability to boot.

Also of interest to laptop-toting mobile users is Windows 2000 Professional’s IntelliMirror feature. This technology makes it possible for a user to access his or her resources even when he or she logs on to random workstations across an enterprise network.

Because it can create a local image of the files that are stored on network shares, IntelliMirror’s Offline files technology also makes it possible for a user to disconnect from a network and continue to have access to his or her resources. Moreover, IntelliMirror’s offline files technology is complemented by a synchronization feature that makes it possible to compare and update, if necessary, offline files and folders with those on the network.