Business users could face complex management challenges to get the most out of the Windows XP Service Pack 2 update due for release in July.
XP SP2 will, by default, switch on the Windows firewall, and Microsoft is recommending that users configure the Windows Firewall and use Active Directory to manage configurations of the firewall across large numbers of desktop PCs.
David Overton, technical strategist at Microsoft, said, "Our recommendation is to run [Windows] Firewall on all corporate desktops. It makes sense to use group policy [in Active Directory for managing the firewalls]."
Group policy uses Active Directory to roll out configurations across the business based on an end-user’s role, application requirements and level of authorisation.
However, research by analyst firm Meta Group has suggested that some users have been reluctant to use Active Directory.
Rakesh Kumar, vice-president at Meta Group, said users looking at a Windows migration should consider Active Directory, but suggested it might not be appropriate if it is used simply to manage a security infrastructure.
Gartner analysts Michael Silver and John Pescatore said, "Only those organisations that are pure Windows XP, Active Directory, group policy-driven enterprises will be able to depend on the Windows Firewall completely."
For most businesses, Gartner predicted users would need to install third-party personal firewalls on all desktop PCs.
What’s new in Windows XP SP2?
Windows XP SP2 is an 80Mbyte download which is due out in July. It offers improvements to Windows security and easier patch management
- Delta patches mean that users only download changes to patches. Microsoft said this could make patches 80% smaller
- Not every patch will require a user to reboot their PC
- Windows Firewall will protect desktop PCs from rogue applications
- Support for NX technology in AMD64 and Itanium 2 architecture will reduce the risk of buffer overflow attacks.