Microsoft's latest operating system has been launched to great fanfare from the security industry.

Unified communications company Outsourcery claimed that Windows 7 is an improvement on Vista and will enhance the ability of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across the UK to increase efficiencies and reduce costs by becoming more cloud computing friendly.

It also welcomed the operating system's ability to deliver Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions.

Mark Seemann, product strategy and development director at Outsourcery, said: “Some of the new features introduced in the Windows 7 operating system will allow businesses to obtain access to their server applications within a hosted environment, which will reduce operating and capital expenditure and maintenance in the future.”

He pointed to new key features in Windows 7 that will enhance the delivery of the operating system over a cloud computing solution, including offline domain join where customers can add their PCs to Active Directory without the need for them to be in the same network. This can be done by importing a special security key obtained from a cloud computing provider and will allow the customer's on-premises active directory server to be virtualised and hosted within the cloud environment.

Also, DirectAccess allows end-users to log into their domain and obtain access to any services (including file servers) without the need for a virtual private network (VPN) to be installed. Instead data is encrypted using SSL certificates - the same security as used by online banking systems. This removes the complexity and cost of maintaining a VPN, which requires specialist knowledge.

Network access protection is a feature originally added inside Vista that, combined with DirectAccess, enables users to automatically enforce their patch and anti-virus levels - allowing management and maintenance of dispersed users from a central cloud service.

“Although some of these improvements are quite subtle and may not have grabbed headline attention, put together, they represent a significant advance towards mass adoption of cloud computing,” said Seemann.

“If Microsoft didn't believe that cloud and SaaS was the future - it would not have gone to the trouble of putting these features into the core operating system. We at Outsourcery welcome this move by Microsoft, as it allows our SMB customers to embrace SaaS more easily, enabling them to work smarter and not harder.”

A survey by Sunbelt Software and the Information Technology Intelligence Corporation (ITIC), indicated that nearly 60 per cent of respondents will deploy Microsoft Windows 7, with approximately 30 per cent transitioning to the new desktop operating system within the first six months. Another 11 per cent of respondents indicated they will wait for the first Service Pack to ship.

Eight out of ten users rated the quality of Windows 7 to be 'Excellent' or 'Very Good', and only two per cent rated it as 'Poor' or 'Completely Unsatisfactory'.

ITIC principal analyst Laura DiDio, said: “The survey findings are a clear indication and validation that Microsoft's Application Compatibility Toolkit and its extensive 'Ecosystems Readiness' outreach programs for OEM hardware vendors and independent third party software vendors (ISVs) have been extremely successful.

“The customer feedback has been very positive. The general consensus among network administrators we interviewed was that Microsoft has successfully addressed the backwards compatibility issues with legacy hardware, drivers and applications. Windows 7 looks like a winner.”

Additions and support has already been announced, with Check Point adding Windows 7 OS support to its endpoint security. It claimed that its endpoint security offers customers one solution that addresses the unique threat concerns of each OS. Policy for all endpoints can be managed from a single console, greatly improving overall endpoint security as well as administrator effectiveness.

Ben Khoushy, vice president of endpoint security at Check Point, said: “In less than four years businesses will have seen three different Microsoft operating systems. Rather than install a common platform, businesses will likely operate with a mixture of the three different operating system (OS) types.”

Meanwhile DeviceLock has announced that its version 6.4.1 can be installed on all new Windows 7 desktops, laptops and servers for immediate protection from insider-originated data breaches.

Ashot Oganesyan, DeviceLock CTO and founder, said: “With Windows 7 so highly anticipated, we recognise that many customers will want to waste no time in migrating to the new platform. So we pulled out all the stops to build Windows 7 support into DeviceLock before the operating system launch.”

It will allow customers to precisely control, log, shadow-copy and audit end-user access to all types of local ports and peripheral devices on corporate endpoint computers. These include USB, FireWire, LPT, COM, IrDA, Removable, HDD, Floppy, DVD/CD-ROM, Tape, Modem, Bluetooth and WiFi.