If you're considering migrating to Windows 7, then take note, it's probably one of the biggest technology migrations you'll experience. However, here's five tips to help you ensure the path to Microsoft's latest operating system is smooth.
2. Test applications for potential incompatibility
In a Gartner report titled 'Pitfalls to Avoid on the Road to Windows 7 and Office 2010 Migration', analyst Michael Silver says organisations need to test applications on Windows 7 to make sure they will run and also determine whether the makers of the applications will support them on Windows 7.
"Most organisations have more applications than they know about that users consider to be important or critical," Silver says. "Many organisations that have tested applications for Vista believe that these programs will run with Windows 7, but ISVs often limit support to specific versions."
For critical applications, which may carry financial and legal risks if they fail, "lack of ISV support may represent too much risk to move to Windows 7". A decade ago, "Windows 2000 Professional broke a lot of applications," Gillen says.
With Windows XP, Microsoft created some compatibility tools to run earlier applications. But if an application made it onto XP only because of the compatibility tools, there's no guarantee it will run on Windows 7, Gillen says.
Complicating matters even further is that some customers use web-based applications that work only on Internet Explorer 6, an out-of-date web browser that is two releases behind the IE8 that comes pre-installed on Windows 7.
Some companies are spending money to buy new applications or upgrade existing ones so they will work with Windows 7 or new versions of Internet Explorer. Although expensive, this is often the best long-term approach.
"Our research tells us customers are very much looking forward to Windows 7," Gillen says. "They realise it's not going to be a completely smooth transition. The life cycle is over on XP and customers get that."
3. Use Windows XP Mode - but not for long
Not every application has to make the move to Windows 7 immediately. That's because virtualisation technologies let older applications run on guest operating systems. Microsoft's virtualisation technologies include Windows Virtual PC, MED-V (Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualisation) and the related Windows XP mode, which lets you run a virtual instance of XP on a Windows 7 desktop.
"It's a definite option for people," but is usually not the first choice for a widely used application, says Nortec consultant Tim McGilvery. "It usually is one or two users."
XP Mode is a sure-fire way of supporting XP-based applications on Windows 7, but Gillen says it shouldn't be used as a long-term solution. Rather, it should simply be used to ease the transition between XP and Windows 7.
Challenges include the fact that "you have two operating systems to manage and be responsible for," Gillen says. "If you're running XP Mode, it doesn't take away the fact that the base operating system is out of Mainstream Support. It solves the short-term compatibility problem, but it doesn't solve the long-term migration problem."
Microsoft recently ended support for Windows XP Service Pack 2. Service Pack 3 is eligible for support until April 2014, but only for 'Extended Support', rather than the more comprehensive Mainstream Support.
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