Planning a Small Business Windows 7 Migration

Is reconciling the cost versus the benefits of migrating to Windows 7 keeping you up at night? Given the cash-flow crunch most small companies face on a daily basis, no one could fault you for a case of cold feet. Still, Windows 7 offers notable benefits, a fact that became apparent in the software’s early testing stages.

Before Windows 7 operating system officially launched, CDW surveyed 618 members of its Customer Advisory Board (CAB) who had tested the Windows 7 beta software. According to the findings, 83 percent were at least somewhat satisfied with the new operating system both in terms of quality and performance. 

Based upon the survey and direct conversations with customers, we found that people who tested a pre-release version looked forward to performance and security improvements in Windows 7, as well as to improved desktop search tools, overall ease of use and a productivity-boosting new user interface.

Despite the positive reviews, only about one-quarter of the respondents anticipated migrating to Windows 7 within 12 months of the October launch, and about half reported no plans to migrate, some noting they may wait to invest the money associated with a Windows 7 migration until Microsoft no longer supports their current operating system. 

This tug-of-war between short-term economic prudence and long-term improved system performance can be a challenging dilemma for small businesses owners. But with technology budgets remaining tight in 2010 and the need for business efficiency at an all-time high, small businesses should formulate a Windows 7 desktop implementation plan to help reduce operational costs.

Adopting Windows 7: Plan from the Bottom Up

Small businesses should begin the migration process with a thorough audit of the business’s Windows-based devices.  In most cases, computers purchased within the past three years and currently running Windows XP or Vista will support Windows 7. 

Additionally, review all your Microsoft licensing agreements before you adopt any migration plans.  Some businesses may need to revise their licensing before moving to Windows 7, although that shouldn’t be a barrier to adoption. 

Researching products like Microsoft’s Desktop Optimization Pack and Systems Center may further reduce deployment times and management costs. In fact, Microsoft licensing specialists, often found at third-party solutions providers, may be able to help you develop a licensing strategy that reduces these long-term costs. 

In addition to licensing, consider important issues such as support and integration requirements for Windows based systems and applications – and how they will change as the newer Windows operating systems mature and XP fades. 

Remember the CDW CAB survey? Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they will not move immediately to Windows 7 because their current operating system meets their organization’s needs. This is no doubt true given that even old XP based systems still function adequately for many people. 

However, it’s risky for a business to delay upgrades until their current operating system shows convincing signs of inadequacy.  Organizations of all sizes that still rely primarily on Windows XP may not realize that Microsoft no longer provides security patches or fixes and has reduced application support for XP. 

Finally, check all the hardware requirements for running Windows 7 and critical applications at an optimum level before beginning the migration. During the transition from Windows XP to Vista, many businesses experienced performance issues because they overlooked the requirements for running Vista at full capacity. 

Migrating in conjunction with replacing old desktops and notebooks refreshes improves the opportunity for success, but don’t forget to consider the additional impact of your commonly used third-party applications. And remember that off-the-shelf hardware configurations typically consider only the core operating system and Windows applications. 

Apply All the Necessary Tools

While investigating system requirements, also keep tabs on which of your applications work with Windows 7.  Although CDW’s CAB survey respondents indicated that more than 80 percent of their applications ran on Windows 7, about one-third of them reported that some third-party applications weren’t compatible during testing. 

According to the survey, applications commonly mentioned as not yet compatible with Windows 7 included various virtual private network (VPN) and security applications, as well as proprietary third-party software. 

The most common way to address such incompatibility and to support third-party applications is by running Windows XP virtually within Windows 7, a solution that many businesses find successful. 

Businesses can also examine whether the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance is a viable add-on.  Among many features, MDOP contains: 

  • Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V), which resolves application-to-application conflicts by isolating the applications from each other, enabling them to run as network services.  This creates a fully virtual IT environment where computing resources can be dynamically allocated in real-time based on real-time needs
  • Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), which delivers applications in a Virtual PC running a previous version of the operating system, removing the barriers to Windows upgrades by resolving application incompatibility with Windows Vista or Windows 7

In order to capture all that Windows 7 has to offer, follow the lead of Thomas Edison, who astutely noted, “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”

Liz Eversoll is vice president of Microsoft practice at CDW Corporation.


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