The Windows 7 operating system is increasing its appeal to businesses large and small for its added security provision and promise of increased productivity and power-saving.
A recent IDC survey found that the majority of corporate America plans a move to Windows 7 in the next two years. Now CESG, a branch of UK intelligence agency GCHQ, has recommended that government departments upgrade, too.
The business decision to migrate to Windows 7 may be straightforward, but the process of migration can be rife with complexity for the IT professional. Available RAM, the state of software licenses, and the compatibility of existing applications are just some of the issues for systems administrators to ponder. A worst case scenario of unpatched and vulnerable PCs and servers could leave the business exposed and, worse, give IT a bad name.
First things first
Systems administrators, project managers and IT chiefs contemplating a migration first need to ask, ‘what proportion of the machines need the new operating system’? “You may find that only a proportion of the machines would benefit from Windows 7 software and as a result, the full cost of implementing the OS may not be applicable”, reckons Ian Aitchison, technology director, LANDesk.
Next, assuming that all the machines are in constant use, ask: ‘how many of those machines have the capability to run Windows 7’? A multi-national organisation with thousands of desktop PCs, will find it impossible to assess the cost implications of replacing redundant equipment without a clear understanding of its assets. An IT management suite can find the answers to these questions faster than manually booting up each computer and doing the checks and updates.
Application compatibility is a key challenge in any migration to Windows 7. IDC rates application compatibility as one of the most pressing concerns for all end users planning a migration in its white paper. Solutions to application incompatibility include replacement or repair of problem applications, and use of ‘virtualisation’ to bridge incompatibility issues. Novell is a keen proponent of the latter approach with its ZENworks suite.
“Take this opportunity to review the applications in use within the estate”, recommends Richard Tinker, director of infrastructure consulting at Avanade. Businesses should cull those that are incompatible with Windows 7, and reduce unnecessary spending of licenses for applications that offer similar functionality, he advises. A good starting point for all businesses is the Windows 7 Compatibility Centre website.
Security stays top of the agenda for a corporate migration, notes IDC. The arrival of integrated drive and external drive encryption BitLocker and BitLocker-To-Go, is encouraging Windows 7 adoption among other companies wishing to protect company data. In the event of machine or device loss, this encryption promises that the device can locked down.
Organisations migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 should take the opportunity to review the set of security products in their environment, urges Tinker. Windows 7 includes a firewall component, plus Microsoft now offers its own antivirus and antimalware solution so there may be opportunity for consolidation. Brian Green, director of end-use computing for Novell, urges IT workers involved in deployment and configuration to focus on identity not the technology for authentication.
Who’s on the move?
In a recent survey conducted by IDC of 390 IT professionals in the US:
• 48% said that their company has already started to use Windows 7
• 39% said that a formal migration programme
• 89% of companies surveyed have definitive plans to begin a migration in a 24-month period
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