Beware of XP's dirty little secrets

What do you say when users ask to connect to the office with XP Home? No ways, says networking columnnist Dave Kearns.

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NET KNOW-HOW WITH DAVE KEARNS

By Dave Kearns

Beware of XP's dirty little secrets

The era of Windows XP is upon us, and may the deities have mercy on our souls. For well over a year I've preached the gospel of XP avoidance and urged network managers, PC support people, CIOs -- anyone in any position to influence technology purchasing decisions -- to engrave in stone "thou shalt not use Windows XP." I've likened it to a plague and called it an abomination unto the world of business computers. I've urged the quick upgrade of windows 9x/ME desktops to the more business oriented Windows 2000 Professional. Many have heard, many have listened and many have chosen this, the true way.

But the forces of evil have many ways to foil our defenses. Even now, even as we celebrate the fact that no computer on our network will run the dreaded XP, its acolytes are spreading out. They're preaching at Circuit City and at Best Buy -- they've even infiltrated Fry's! The XP disciples are working the phone lines at Dell and the web site at Gateway. What they are doing is spreading the word that XP, the "home" edition, is something every home computer user needs. They need the flash, the glitz, the movies and the music. It's everything that they ever wanted in an entertainment device -- and it comes pre-installed on every PC they buy.

Well "So what," you say, "Why should I care what the user installs at home?"

In a little while -- maybe six months, six weeks or six days -- that user will come to you and say, "Can I use my computer at home to get to my files on the network?"

When that happens, you'll discover the nasty little secret of XP. While XP Professional contains all of the glitz and glamour (and security-challenged) features of XP Home, the home version contains none of the network services that come in XP Professional (or in Windows 2000 Pro)!

The list below contains features from XP Pro that are not in XP Home:

  • Centralized Administration -- joins Windows XP Professional systems to a Windows Server domain to take advantage of the full range of powerful management and security tools.
  • Group Policy -- simplifies the administration of groups of users or computers.
  • Software Installation and Maintenance -- automatically installs, configures, repairs, or removes software applications.
  • Roaming User Profiles -- gives access to all your documents and settings no matter where you log on.
  • Remote Desktop -- remotely access your Windows XP Professional PC from another Windows PC, so you can work with all of your data and applications while away from your office.
  • Offline Files and Folders -- gives access to files and folders on a network share when disconnected from the server.
  • Encrypting File System -- protects sensitive data in files that are stored on disk using the NTFS file system.
  • Access Control -- restricts access to selected files, applications, and other resources.
  • Remote Installation Service (RIS) -- provides support for remote operating system installations where desktops can be installed across the network.

The users are going to come to you wanting these things. They may not be able to articulate their desire; it might simply be "How do I get to my Powerpoint presentation on my C: drive?" but they will want these things. So you better be prepared.

Right now, start drawing up a policy document -- or a memo, if your enterprise doesn't support IT policies -- and start the process of getting it approved, signed off, whatever it takes. You want everyone in the enterprise to know that your IT department will refuse to work with any XP Home system. At best, you might provide passive support for an XP Pro system installed at home.

This is very important -- when some bozo who just happens to be an executive demands you attach his XP Home system to your network, it could be your job on the line. Be pro-active so that the question will, hopefully, never arise.

What are your thoughts on XP? Do you think your IT department should support it? Head over to the forum and let's talk about it.

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This was first published in November 2001

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