In my last post I talked about what kind of hardware you would need for Vista. However, Microsoft has released five (5) different versions of its Vista operating system, so the next logical question is: Which one should I get? Those five versions are:

  • Vista Home Basic
  • Vista Home Premium
  • Vista Business
  • Vista Enterprise
  • Vista Ultimate

The Home versions are out of the question for any firm that has a central dedicated server, as opposed to a peer-to-peer server (where one of your workstations doubles as your server), since it only has simple networking capability. Really, Home is only an option if money is really an issue, as the Business version has much better networking and security features. Also, Home Basic lacks the slick Aero Glass GUI, so it would only be useful if you did not want to invest in the video hardware necessary to handle it.

Vista Enterprise is beyond the needs of the solo and small firm, and its specialized features are of questionable value to us. Thus the real question is should you go with Vista Business or Vista Ultimate. This decision lies in the existence of one feature in Ultimate that is not available in any other version: BitLocker Drive Encryption.

As lawyers, we deal in sensitive, confidential information every day, and we need to be sure our computer systems are protecting that data from prying eyes. Even with password protected accounts on your computer, hackers can still try to break in to your network (or a lost or stolen machine) by booting the operating system from a CD-ROM and hacking the drive. Also, older donated machines can result in sensitive data getting into the wrong hands if the drive is not properly wiped clean. As Microsoft puts it on their web site:

BitLocker provides both mobile and office enterprise information workers with enhanced data protection should their systems be lost or stolen and secure data deletion when it comes time to decommission those assets.

More specifically, BitLocker encrypts the entire hard drive, not just individual files. Microsoft describes it as follows:

Drive encryption protects data by preventing unauthorized users from breaking Windows file and system protection on lost, stolen or inappropriately decommissioned computers. This protection is achieved by encrypting the entire Windows volume; with BitLocker all user and system files are encrypted including the swap and hibernation files.

The difference between the upgrade price of Vista Business v. Vista Ultimate is $60. Personally, I think this is worth the investment, especially if you use a laptop in your practice. So the bottom line is, the choice lies between Business and Ultimate, with the latter being the better choice, if only for your laptops.