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.
5. Plan ahead - and then plan some more
This may seem too obvious for words, but Windows 7 migrations require a significant amount of planning. Unfortunately, IT organisations all too often fall short in this area, according to Gartner. Windows 7 pilots should last at least three months and include a first phase for pushing Windows 7 out to a group of users to ensure that all applications work, a second phase to improve the deployment process; and a third phase focusing on education and support.
"Many enterprises plan pilots as short as a few weeks," Gartner's Michael Silver says. "Shortening the pilot increases risk significantly and often results in logistical and compatibility problems during deployment, which makes the project look less successful to the users. A project the user community deems unsuccessful cannot be considered a success by the IT department."
One organisation that takes this advice to heart is Del Monte Foods, a food production and distribution company, which plans to upgrade 3,000 business users to Windows 7 over three years.
David Glenn, director of enterprise operations for Del Monte, says his company is piloting Windows 7 within its IT organisation, representing 140 users across the country. Network testing is one of the key factors. Del Monte is examining how various applications perform over different network connections, and is in general finding good results.
"Windows 7 does offer a lot more stability and performance capabilities than XP did," he says.
If your company is still primarily a Windows XP shop, it's time to start planning for Windows 7 now even if you don't plan to upgrade all desktops immediately. XP support ends in 2014 but software vendors are "unlikely to support new versions of applications on Windows XP starting in 2011 [and] by 2012 it will be common," Gartner says. By 2013, few new PCs will include Windows XP drivers.
Microsoft is technically offering Windows XP 'downgrade rights' until 2020, but for the reasons stated above few businesses are likely to take that option.
The speed of a company's Windows 7 migration will vary based on the age of its hardware, whether it is running on XP or Vista, the types of users it has and other factors including the length of its typical PC refresh cycle.
Moving from Vista to Windows 7 should be a lot easier than moving from XP because of application compatibility, Gillen says. "If you've already deployed Vista, you've done 95 percent of the work," he says. Although most OS refreshes occur when companies roll out new PCs, it's only practical for a company with Vista PCs to upgrade those same PCs to Windows 7.
Regardless of whether the upgrade happens over the course of a few months or is phased in over a couple of years, planning should happen far in advance and IT departments should consider all the new technologies that make desktop management more efficient, including desktop virtualisation.
Instead of simply porting existing applications to Windows 7 and "recreating the architecture you've lived with for the last decade," Gillen says "my advice to customers is to seriously consider all the options they have."
The goal is to make the end user migration quick and easy, but "it's not a quick process for the IT department," Gillen says.
See also: How to upgrade to Windows 7