Microsoft's high end business product, the Enterprise Edition, was recently made available to small businesses with more than five PCs that are looking to upgrade. The product was originally restricted to companies that had already purchased Windows Pro on a PC and owned Software Assurance (SA) with their license - these tended to be larger organisations. But the change, made by Microsoft on 1 March this year, means that SMBs will now be able to afford this premium product. Companies with Open, Select and Select Plus license agreements are eligible for the upgrade.

There are a number of appealing features for the small company when the Enterprise Edition is used from within Windows 8. These include a bootable external USB stick allowing IT organisations to give contingent staff access to the corporate environment - a big benefit for small companies with a mobile workforce.

Similarly, Enterprise’s DirectAccess feature allows users to access resources inside a corporate network without having to launch a separate VPN – thereby helping IT administrators ensure that remote users are compliant with IT controls. The Windows 8 version of Enterprise makes DirectAccess easier to deploy and implement within an existing IPv4 infrastructure.

AppLocker is another feature likely to appeal to small businesses with limited IT resources. It mitigates user issues by restricting the files and apps that users or groups are allowed to run.
A side-loading app function means companies are not restricted to apps available in the Windows app store – this will be of particular interest to SMBs with in-house software developers.

BranchCache is another feature of the software that will help small companies to simplify their IT infrastructure. This feature allows users PCs to cache files, websites and other content from central servers, meaning content is not repeatedly downloaded across a wide area network (WAN), thereby reducing unnecessary traffic within a small IT infrastructure.