Useful Tips For A Business-Wide Windows 7 Migration

Windows 7 has been on sale since October 2009, and if you're a dedicated geek you've probably been running it for 18 months or more at this point. But corporations move to a different and much slower drum, and 2011 is the year many will finally make the shift away from Windows XP and towards Windows 7. If you work in IT, what do you need to know about that process?So here's a scary statistic: according to analyst firm Gartner, in October 2010 83% of its client base was still using Windows XP as its main operating system. How did they end up so far behind the curve? In short: many chose to skip the delayed, bug-ridden and generally unpleasant experience that was Vista, forcing Microsoft to extend the support period for XP (which has been around since 2001). However, the final cut-off for XP support is in April 2014, which means that any organisation purchasing new PCs from this point is essentially stuck with deploying Windows 7 on these machines.

At Gartner's Infrastructure & Operations Data Centre conference in Sydney last week, analyst Annette Jump presented some interesting data on how best that process of migration can be managed. (At the same conference, Jump highlighted the inherent conservatism of larger IT operations when she noted that just 2% of large companies have adopted Google Docs.)

Why migration has to happen Forget all those features like Aero Snap that you personally like: the main reason corporations will make the move is because key applications will no longer be available in XP-supported versions. "By 2013, 60% of important Windows apps will have a release not supported on XP," Jump said. "ISVs [independent software vendors]want to support their apps in as few operating systems as possible. ISVS want you to upgrade to new versions of apps and potentially pay for the latest software." For that reason, she predicted just 5% of corporate desktops will be running XP by 2013. "Companies will be moving off XP not because of huge benefits, but because you have to move off XP."

Rip, replace or a mixture? Gartner's surveys of its client suggest the most popular strategy for migrating is attrition: waiting until hardware reaches the end of its life (typically a 3-5 year cycle) and then rolling out a new OS. That can be a cheaper approach, except that it means having to support multiple OSes until everyone has been upgraded. The "forklift" alternative — shifting everyone at once — is favoured by 23%. 10% expect a mixture of both strategies, and 9% aren't sure what they'll do. (We feel sorry for people working in those companies.)

Either way, it's not a speedy process. Jump estimates a typical large corporation will need three months for initial planning, six to nine months for testing compatibility with existing apps and hardware, and three months for pilot testing before a major rollout.

It's going to cost more than previous migrations While Moore's Law tends to ensure that spending the same amount of money gets you a more powerful machine, that advantage has been offset by the tendency to stretch the life of current hardware to reflect XP's extended dominance and global financial pressures. "In terms of hardware, because many companies stretched the lifecycle, there is a huge amount of really old hardware, so you may have to spend more money on new hardware compared to previous migrations," Jump said. "Don't plan to upgrade any machines that were purchased before 2010, because the useful life left in those machines will be less than half."

64-bit versus 32-bit is still causing confusion There's no clear pattern when it comes to choosing betwee 32-bit and 64-bit: Gartner's surveys suggest 31% expect mostly 32-bit and 18% are leaning that way, while 18% are planning for 64-bit and 28% are undecided. If you do go with 64-bit, hardware testing is important as 64-bit drivers for older devices remain less common.

Have you helped your company through a Windows 7 migration? Share your hard-won wisdom in the comments.

Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.


Comments

    I work for an IT company dealing almost completely with small to medium business's. Most company that we have come across are following the attrition approach but replacing computers is only a small cost compared to the "hidden" costs that crop up.

    many companies run specific software that they have not had to upgrade or change in 10+ years and so getting them to shell out 5000+ for a new version is quite hard, that or the company that made the software no longer exists.

    this then results in extensive retraining costs, both for their software.. and for the operating system itself, as many staff know how to do there job through rote learning without actual knowing what they are doing. so when things change they are lost.

    software and lost productivity is the main factor standing between most businesses and upgrading not the cost of the computers themselves

    Last October/November I was asked to completely rebuild the office computer systems.
    It was a perfect opportunity to rip out all the old and put in the new.
    I custom built seven new office PC's and 'refurbished' five new factory workstations.
    By 'refurbished' I mean reformat old pc's/laptops and harvest RAM from old machines.
    All the new machines are AMD quad cores, all Windows 7. They all have the same parts except the two graphics PC's which have 8GB RAM instead of 4GB. And for my graphics PC I stuck in a solid state drive (good chance to try one out) because I do a lot of image ripping for large format printing (up to 1GB image files).
    My processor is also bigger and better than the rest, lol.

    Anyway. . . Windows 7 64bit on all machines. Only the essential programs. I know exactly whats on the machines and how they should be running. If one plays up its because someone has installed something with adware or spyware on it.

    I have slowly been pushing people towards Firefox and Thunderbird at work and, after initial reluctance (because people are brainwashed by IE and Outlook) they really like them.

    I run small fast opensource programs on the machines like Sumatra PDF. There is no need for Adobe crap on the machines if they just need to view PDF's.

    Before I did all this it was a nightmare with all the PC's and laptops. Eg: quotes girl needed a new PC, so they bought her some shitty netbook. Slow piece of crap running Windows 7 starter!

    Was great to be able to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. . . and the ease and reliability of it all has been proof of that.

    The ONLY problem has been MYOB. It works on all the machines fine but we are developing a new company production program and, for what we need MYOB to do, MYOB wont do it on Windows 7 64bit.
    So, I frankensteined an extra PC running XP and MYOB that the production program can access to do its automatic invoicing.
    It is an issue with MYOB that the MYOB developers are aware of and "are working on it". But they have been working on it for over a year (according to reports).

    Wow, that went on longer that I was expecting.

    We're upgrading from xp to 7 in the next few months. About 75% of the machines are XP boxes from 2005 in need of replacement anyway, 25% are under three years old and are just being upgraded. We have half a dozen laptops we've been using to make sure win7 works with everything we need it to.

    our main reason for upgrade: A lot of our work relies on a Government-run database program built in .net. They're officially dropping support for XP in april, which means that at some point after that, it'll suddenly break for all XP users.

    I love the chance to replace all our hardware, but I'm annoyed at the way we're being pushed into it.

    Work at a financial institution (a building society/bank).

    Everything's Windows XP. Everyone's on IE7 (some still on IE6).

    Scary.

    'Nuff said.

    A couple of points on this, as we are in the process of a mixed roll out.

    Firstly you definitely need the hardware. There is no way around this, unfortunately I work at a company where that is proving difficult. As I suspect a lot of companies are, and I agree completely that XP being around for as long as it did has skewed an already difficult to deal with financial outlook.

    Another point on the 64bit / 32bit debate. Some old applications will not work. They have 16bit dlls or exes and that is an absolute no go. Even if you use something like citrix, you would need to make sure you have a 32bit server in your farm to support these.

    Some points you didn't mention is that windows 7 is a much more reliable operating system. The new deployment methods are far superior to XP. The biggest advantage is the free to use MDT, which will cut your image creation / deployment of new hardware significantly.

    Some other big features that can reduce ongoing costs is App-V, out of the box Powershell / WinRM, NAP / advanced firewall functionality for protecting your network further. On top of all this, I have found that it just seems to work like it should.

    Windows 7 is just like Vista rehashed. Full of gimmicks and fancy tricks. Aero Snap? There's a far better version in XP called Tile Horizontally or Tile Vertically that isn't limited to arranging just two windows but any number you select. There are many good useful features of XP removed and broken in Windows 7. The file manager, Windows Explorer was utterly destroyed in Vista and becomes worse in Windows 7. Poor usability. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_features_removed_in_Windows_7 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_features_removed_in_Windows_Vista . Unnecessary GUI changes. Vista was innonative but horrible usability wise and removed things. Windows 7 is Vista with few new features and again many features removed and fancy gimmicks and shiny graphics added. Sure it's more secure and XP is also *secure enough*.

      No.

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