Microsoft foretastes enterprise-grade setting sync in Windows 10


Microsoft’s public preview of the enterprise-specific synchronization of settings, apps and passwords between devices running Windows 10, which was first touted nine months ago, is now available.

Dubbed “Enterprise State Roaming,” the capability is tied to Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) Premium, the commercial cloud-based directory and identity management service. Azure AD is, at the most basic, an in-the-cloud replacement for on-premises Windows Server-based Active Directory. Enterprise State Roaming (ESR) was first mentioned by Microsoft in May 2015 when it trumpeted several Windows 10-specific functions powered by Azure AD, including self-provisioning, single sign-on and a corporate-oriented Windows app marketplace.

ESR was to be the enterprise-grade cousin to the personalization sync available inWindows 10, and before that, in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 — a souped-up, more granular version of the consumer-level skill set, essentially.

According to Microsoft analyst Wes Miller “This [Enterprise State Roaming] is very different from the roaming technology native in Windows 10.”

Apps licensed by the company, for instance, roam — in other words, synchronize so that they’re available on multiple machines — only on workplace-owned devices; ditto for office Wi-Fi passwords, and desktop and Internet Explorer settings mandated by corporate.

The ESR preview requires Windows 10 — the November upgrade, and a subscription to Azure AD Premium. The Windows 10 system must be Azure AD joined, or joined to an on-premises Active Directory that is set to automatically register with Azure AD.

Azure AD Premium is a paid service, available separately for $6 per user per month; most commonly, it’s obtained through a license to Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), which includes Azure AD Premium as part of the package.

“Azure AD is definitely something organizations should be looking into,” said Miller. “People are doing profile roaming today anyway, so [enterprises] should keep a watch on Azure AD regardless of whether they’re now using on-premises.”


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