Intel releases 2nd generation of vPro processors

Intel Corp. announced an update to its vPro processor line March 7, including upgraded anti-theft technology and identity protection geared toward SMBs. With the 2nd Generation Intel Core vPro processor family, based on the company’s Sandy Bridge microarchitecture, Intel says it wants to improve manageability for businesses with little to no in-house IT support.

“There’s never been a better time to be a small business,” says Elaine Mah, business marketing manager with Intel Canada, since many companies are now improving or retooling their products to accommodate SMB needs, including Intel.

The previous vPro processors have Anti-Theft Technology, but the feature has been enhanced with the new line. With Anti-Theft Technology 3.0, IT professionals can remotely enable or disable a lost laptop via text message. It also allows the laptop to be located with GPS coordinates.

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Lost or stolen laptops are a major problem for businesses, and can have a devastating impact on small businesses in particular, according to Mah. In a December 2010 study, Intel found that 329 U.S. businesses had more than 86,000 laptops lost or stolen.

Definition
vPro: A chipset feature built directly into some Intel processors and network adapters. Features improve security and manageability for IT admins.

Even though many of those laptops contained sensitive information, 70 per cent lacked basic security precautions, such as encryption, the study suggests. The average annual loss per business, according to the study, was 262 laptops.

Improving anti-theft capabilities is a good move for Intel, says Steve Kleynhans, vice president for the client computing group at Gartner Inc. “That’s reflective of how they’re making it appeal to SMBs and companies that support them,” he says. The vPro processors have great capabilities, says Kleynhans, but people didn’t know how to use them. “I still think a lot of people are confused about what vPro actually is,” he says.

With the 2nd generation of vPro processors, Kleynhans says, the focus isn’t really on improving functionality, but rather the ease of use. Intel is working on telling businesses how they can use the technology, rather than just describing what it is, he says. It takes time for people to understand how to capitalize on the vPro’s potential, he says, but this is a step in the right direction.

Intel has also expanded the vPro’s Keyboard Video Mouse Remote Control to encompass HD video and screen formats. This means an IT service provider working away from your office can view and operate your PC as if he or she was there, cutting the need for on-site visits dramatically, says Mah.

The new processors also include Identity Protection Technology (IPT), which is integrated into the hardware. Certain websites, including PayPal and eBay, recognize that you have a vPro system and will prompt you to run a series of automatic tasks that will secure your account.

The 2nd generation chips also include Quick Sync video, which allows for faster HD video conversion and the new Host-Based Configuration feature that automates the set-up process for vPro functions on new computers. The chips also improve upon aspects of the older vPro processors, including Turbo Boost Technology and enhanced HD graphics.

While your business may not need to scrap your PCs entirely, it’s important to invest in security features, especially when support features and services for your computers start to wane. “We’re asking that small businesses spend smartly,” says Mah.

Harmeet Singh is a Staff Writer at ITBusiness. Follow her on Twitter, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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