Managing Vista networking through Group Policy

A look at some of the new abilities of Group Policy in Windows Vista

Group Policy was introduced in Windows 2000 Server and was a great boon to administrator productivity. While Group Policy was enhanced and extended in Windows Server 2003, there were not many improvements to the actual settings that Group Policy could manage from a networking standpoint.

That has changed in Windows Vista. Now, administrators can use familiar tools to manage everything from LAN settings to network security modes, wireless capabilities and quality of service. And all of this can be done centrally through familiar Group Policy administrative tools, like the Group Policy Management Console.

In this article, I'll take a look at some of the new abilities of Group Policy in Windows Vista -- and some cases in conjunction with Longhorn Server -- to manage network capabilities and communications.

Hot spots

Some of the most desired new capabilities in Group Policy are:

-- Wired LAN settings: You can now, through Group Policy, configure wired connections that are authenticated by 802.1x schemes.

-- Multiple security modes: Wireless clients, each with different security capabilities and the ability to participate in different security methods, can all connect to an access point configured with a single service set identifier (SSID) -- lessening administrative burden and keeping connectivity setups simple.

-- Extensibility and expandability: New Group Policy support for vendor-specific attributes, like different Extensible Authentication Protocol types, mean heterogeneous hardware types are no longer a real problem for achieving a unified security configuration.

-- Control over allowed SSID lists: Again, though Group Policy, you as the administrator can set up a list of wireless access points (more specifically, their associated SSIDs) that Vista clients can access, or a list of SSIDs to which clients are denied from connecting.

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