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Moving to Windows 7

Many businesses are evaluating the question of whether or not they should upgrade to Windows 7 immediately, and if they decide to upgrade, when. This hesitation for rapid adoption has been learned the hard way: owing to the hype and the subsequent disappointment of Windows Vista. The majority of businesses are still running Windows XP, an operating system that is 8 years old and counting (released in Oct 2001). So, a system that old begs the question, should you upgrade to Windows 7 now? Should you continue running your computer environment on “old reliable” XP until Windows 7 has proven itself? Will Windows 7 prove to be more user-friendly and less bug ridden than Vista?

The decision to upgrade is not a simple or easy one to make and decision makers must consider many factors before making this decision. What are the business advantages to upgrading? Will making this change enable you to provide better service to your customers? Will it increase employee efficiencies, and the access to real-time business information? These are just a few questions you must ask before making this important decision for your enterprise.

There are several factors for evaluating an upgrade and your responses to these factors will help you determine if you should upgrade, and how urgently you need to do so. The first step in this process is to evaluate your current environment, and determine what immediate issues would be resolved by a change in technology. Next, you must determine what business enhancements can be gained by this change, and how this new operating environment will enhance your strategic business and IT objectives and long-term plans.

One of the dominant issues in upgrading is the cost of service and support and the management of the upgrade. How is your IT and service environment running currently? If there are support issues and security issues that are causing problems today, would a change to the operating system resolve these issues? You should evaluate these issues from performance issues to specific errors that may be occurring.
 
The next step is to consider what capabilities will be gained from a move to Windows 7. Probably the most talked about feature in Windows 7 is the improvement in start-up time. End users are finally getting what they have wanted for years, a faster start up. Each time a user boots up, the computer will be available instantaneously. This is made possible because the Service Control Manager in Windows 7 has been updated and does not require all services to be started while the computer is booting. This should save users the valuable time that was wasted while they waited for their systems to become available.

In addition, Microsoft has added features that make it much easier to work with multiple documents at one time. Windows 7 now includes a streamlined and enhanced Ribbon UI, which was first introduced in Office 2007. Enhanced features of the OS include:

For knowledge workers these features will provide significant productivity gains, although these gains may be difficult to quantify the ROI in hard dollars savings. In production environments, such as a call center, these functions will be easier to quantify for ROI justification. Imagine a customer service representative managing multiple windows and applications; their efficiency will be greatly enhanced by these capabilities. For more details on new features and benefits of upgrading to Windows 7 go to http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/compare/top-ten-reasons.aspx
 
Windows 7 provides some advantages for networking and security that may prove useful if you are currently having problems in this area. AppLocker is a new capability in Windows 7 that provides system administrators improved methods to restrict which programs can execute and run; useful for limiting user installed applications that could compromise security. An updated version of BitLocker is another new feature that provides a new drive encryption, including BitLocker-to-Go, for encrypting removable media, such as a USB drive.

Additionally, there are enterprise advantages that come with Windows 7 that Microsoft will continue to build on over the next 18 months. BranchCache is a new feature that reduces network delays and saves network bandwidth when information is retrieved from a remote server. Depending on your environment, and how many people in your organization work remotely, this could provide significant productivity gains. DirectAccess provides a way for companies to let remote users’ access corporate servers without having a dedicated VPN, (Virtual Private Network), thus saving money and time. It streamlines the ability of your user community to access information directly from their desktop that is stored on servers.

On the strategic front, considerations for life-cycle management should be evaluated. Microsoft has already stopped mainstream Support for Windows XP; it only has Extended Support until April 2014. Extended Support provides some security hot fixes (free) and some non-security hot fixes (requires the Extended Hot fix Support Agreement by Microsoft (EHSA). Some companies may consider continuing to run on Windows XP, a viable strategy since Windows XP is a time tested operating systems and presumably most of the bugs have been worked out. However, if there are system problems that require specific fixes not supported, you may find yourself out on a limb, and have to solve those problems with your own in-house IT staff. When you are at the point of using your IT staff resources to fix problems on an old OS you are wasting valuable people and productivity assets.

Additionally, if your systems are running Windows XP, this hardware may be ready to be replaced soon. As these systems are replaced, it would prove an opportune time to replace the operating systems as well. If your systems are running Windows XP, a base metal reinstall will be required to move to Windows 7. And a machine running Windows XP will probably not have the horse power to run the most recent version of Windows. If you are one of the few that moved to Vista over the last three years, then you will be able to upgrade to Windows 7 without doing a base metal reinstall, and your hardware may have the capacity to run Windows 7.

You also must consider the following items; your old operating system may not be able to support many of the new applications you need to stay not just competitive, but one step ahead of your marketplace. If you are running an older OS, you probably are running it on older hardware. New business applications require more memory, faster processors, for example, quad core vs. dual core, especially for more sophisticated media applications.

As you consider your options for upgrading and managing software installation, it is also an opportune time to consider a solution that would allow you to facilitate zero touch upgrades. Although there is limited upgrade capabilities built into Windows 7, these capabilities will not get you to zero touch. IT Works, by SMT, is a product designed to provide zero touch migration and maintenance for your computing environments. Eliminating the requirement for manual intervention during software installs and maintenance provides a significant efficiency and cost savings by reducing the man hours needed for an upgrade by as much as 90%.

The bottom line is that the majority of businesses will decide to upgrade to Windows 7 based on one, if
not several, of the reason listed above. Windows 7 offers significant enhancements and capabilities above what Windows XP or Vista offered and will provide value to your organization. Planning a migration is a multi-month endeavor which includes: budgeting, testing, and planning the logistics of the migration. Based on your planning and testing cycles, a complete upgrade process may take twelve-to-eighteen months. Owing to the time element involved in enterprise-wide upgrades it is strategically advantageous to begin the process now so that you do not lag behind the market and can seamlessly improve performance within your organization, as well as enhance interoperability with partners, suppliers and customers.

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