Group Policy Settings: Things to Know

By CIOReview | Monday, August 8, 2016

Group policy is a core component in the Microsoft Windows 2000 operating system for controlling the working environment of user and computer accounts. It spells out the specifications for groups of users and computers including registry based policy settings, scripts, and software installations. The role of group policy settings is not limited to managing user access and applications, but it also entails desktop and server security. 

As Microsoft launched new management tools recently, little was discussed on the status of Group Policy. However, now with the arrival of Windows 10, the importance of Group Policy editor has grown multi-fold. To configure domain joined desktops and tablets using Windows based tools in a network, Group Policy is the ideal solution. It is clear that Microsoft retains its Group Policy settings with every new version of Windows.

Locking down the control panel

There may be times when IT administrators may want to prevent users from accessing the Control Panel in Windows. Group policy regulates this process by adding restrictions on control panel settings, thereby preventing unauthorized access to machines in the network. Even though User Account Control obstructs the user attempts to make changes in Control Panel, Group Policy will be an added defense against such unauthorized accesses.  Such a move will ultimately improve productivity as users will not spend their time toiling with Control Panel.

Managing and securing desktops

With proper planning and implementation, Group policy acts as a vital tool in managing Windows desktops. But two main factors that prevent IT administrators from effectively using this feature is the insufficient knowledge of the Group Policy applications, and uncertain objectives. However, understanding Group Policy is not a difficult task if certain aspects of the desktop behavior are identified.

Group policy gives a pivotal control over a large number of settings with respect to Change and Configuration Management features in the Windows Server domain. Companies, apart from securing enterprise networks should also focus on monitoring end points such as desktops and mobile devices. For example by using Group Policy one can mandate the storage of recovery key in Active Directory before encryption, in all encrypted removable devices. This ensures that the ability to unlock data on the drive rests with the organization even in case someone forgets the password on any of the USB encrypted devices. 

The features of Group Policy Objects and Group Policy Settings vary among different versions of Windows. For instance, it can restrict the use of desktop gadgets and offer security settings for Internet explorer 8.

Optimizing group policy settings for virtual desktops

Group Policy settings play an important role in keeping a group of virtual desktops and their profiles consistent. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) being made up of numerous desktops and user groups poses the biggest challenge to IT teams, as they have to reduce the number of different bases required to run those desktops. Group Policy is one of the methods to apply unique settings to groups of desktops, based on user permissions and access. 

With the knowledge of Office customization tools for client deployments, IT teams can make changes to the configuration and security settings for MS Office, without editing the registry. The Group Policy objects also allow the redirection of folders and start menu, which can be used to restrict virtual machines.

Backing up Group Policies in Windows Server 2008

There have been varying opinions by experts on the backing up of group policy objects in Windows 2008. One of the arguments is that, since group policy objects are already replicated to domain controllers, there is no need to back them up. It is supplemented by another set of expert views that says, if a backup of at least one domain controller is being done, then certainly the group policy objects are backed as well. However the most important reason to carry out an exclusive backup objects is: Group Policy specific backups are easy to manage.