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Understanding the features of Windows 11 Enterprise

IT admins considering a migration to Windows 11 should learn how the features of the Enterprise edition can benefit their organizations.

When looking into the Windows 11 upgrade, one important factor to consider is how the Enterprise edition has changed from the previous OS.

Microsoft released Windows 11 Enterprise in October 2021, along with other Windows 11 editions. While the updated operating system comes with a new look and feel, it also comes with new hardware requirements, which might limit its adoption for some organizations.

Aside from these changes, Windows 11 doesn't deviate greatly from Windows 10. Administrators can manage the OS in nearly the same way they do with Windows 10. Users can work with the same applications without significant disruptions to their workflows.

What are the Windows 11 Enterprise features that will help users?

Windows 11 Enterprise has the same core codebase as Windows 10. Even so, the OS offers several new features targeting end users who rely heavily on their desktops to do their jobs. Although most of these features are available on all Windows 11 editions, some of them are particularly noteworthy to Enterprise edition users.

Windows 11 features a new interface with a simpler design than Windows 10, changing the overall look and feel. Microsoft moved the Start button toward the middle of the taskbar and cleaned up the Start menu. Users can pin and unpin apps to the taskbar and menu, and IT administrators can use policy to customize the taskbar and menu to meet their organizational needs.

Microsoft has also added a Widgets feature to provide quick access to personalized content. The new Desktops feature allows users to create and personalize virtual desktops for specific tasks. The Snap Assist feature now includes layouts and groups, making it easier to organize and access apps. Windows 11 also includes Auto HDR for optimizing the display on high dynamic range (HDR) monitors.

Windows 11 Enterprise has the same core codebase as Windows 10. Even so, the OS offers several new features targeting end users who rely heavily on their desktops to do their jobs.

Microsoft has replaced the Skype chat client with Microsoft Teams. Users can now access Teams directly from their taskbars and start a chat or video call with a single click. Another helpful feature is Power Automate, a low-code platform that allows users to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, even if they have no coding experience.

Windows 11 Enterprise provides advanced threat protection as well, such as Microsoft Defender Firewall, Windows Defender Exploit Guard and Windows Information Protection. It also includes features such as Windows Hello for Business to enable two-factor authentication and Cortana management capabilities. Support for DirectAccess is another feature, enabling remote users to connect to an organization's network without the need for traditional VPNs.

Additionally, Microsoft gave the Microsoft Store a new look and expanded it to accommodate more public and retail apps. Depending on an organization's applied policies, this change could benefit end users in certain roles. Users can now download and install Android apps from the Microsoft Store as well. Windows Subsystem for Android is a new feature in Windows 11 that makes it possible to run Android apps -- even those available through Amazon Appstore -- directly on Windows 11 devices.

How much these types of features increase the productivity of Windows 11 Enterprise users will depend on how they work and how they use their desktops.

How can IT admins improve their desktop management with Windows 11 Enterprise?

Because Windows 11 Enterprise is built on the same foundation as Windows 10, administrators can install and manage Windows 11 much like they do Windows 10. For example, they can use Windows Autopilot, Microsoft Endpoint Manager or the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit to deploy Windows 11 to eligible devices. They can also use the Group Policy feature to manage those devices, just like on Windows 10. Windows 11 security and privacy features are also similar to Windows 10.

One of the most significant differences between Windows 10 and Windows 11 is the new hardware requirements that come with Windows 11. At minimum, a Windows 11 device requires a compatible 64-bit processor or system on a chip with two or more cores and speeds of at least 1 GHz. The system also requires at least 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage to install Windows 11, in addition to any storage needed for updates or to enable specific features. Plus, the underlying system must include a Trusted Platform Module chip to support hardware-based, security-related functions. Windows 11 comes with several other hardware requirements as well.

Organizations that find their PCs incompatible with these new requirements must purchase new equipment before they can upgrade to Windows 11 Enterprise. Because of the hardware and labor necessary to implement the new devices, this hardware refresh can greatly increase costs and put a strain on personnel.

Microsoft assures organizations that they can run any of their Windows 10 applications on Windows 11 and offers App Assure -- a free Microsoft support program to address application compatibility issues when moving to Windows 11. The service does not include application inventory or testing, researching independent software vendors' apps or app packaging-only services.

Microsoft has also introduced changes that affect customers who use Endpoint Manager to administer Windows Enterprise devices. Starting with Windows 11, the Intune Company Portal serves as a private repository for an organization's apps. Users can access the repository through the Company Portal app and select which apps to install and run on their devices.

Windows 11 also includes Microsoft Windows Terminal Service as part of the installation, rather than requiring a separate download. The application combines Windows Command Prompt, Windows PowerShell and Azure Cloud Shell within the same terminal window, to simplify administrative tasks. In addition, Windows 11 comes with update and delivery optimizations to improve performance and streamline update management.

Microsoft plans to release a new Windows 11 version once per year, along with monthly quality and security updates. For Windows 11 Enterprise customers -- as well as Windows 11 Education and IoT Enterprise customers -- Microsoft offers 36 months of support, with the servicing timeline based on the yearly release date. By contrast, all other editions come with 24 months of support.

How does Windows 11 Enterprise differ from Windows 11 Pro?

The Windows 11 editions include Enterprise, IoT Enterprise, Education, Pro, Pro Education, Pro for Workstations and Home. Most organizations should expect to use either Windows 11 Enterprise or Pro. Windows 11 Enterprise comes with Microsoft 365 Enterprise, while Windows 11 Pro doesn't include this subscription.

Enterprise includes all the features available with Pro, and adds functionality that is more suitable for large, IT-based organizations. The Enterprise edition includes integrated capabilities to deploy and manage Windows devices at scale.

Additionally, Enterprise offers a connection to Azure Virtual Desktop and Azure Active Directory, while Pro only offers a connection to Azure Active Directory. Pro also lacks the level of threat protection that Enterprise offers with software such as Microsoft Defender Firewall. Other Enterprise-only features include Universal Print and DirectAccess.

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