The 7 Secrets of a Successful Windows 7 Migration

If you’ve clung to Windows XP for this long — or have already invested in a labyrinth of patches and workarounds for Vista —, your organisation might as well wait to deploy Windows 8, right? Not necessarily. In fact, far from it.

By the end of 2011, Windows 7 earned its spot as the most popular operating system worldwide. In 2013, Microsoft will have discontinued XP support for nearly 60 per cent of many critical business apps, withextended support for the operating systemending in early April 2014. The lack of support, combined with the worldwide acclaim of Microsoft’s current operating system, might justify the jump to Windows 7 for many organisations.

As you plan your desktop deployment, find a provider that will guide you through these seven key elements of a smooth Windows 7 upgrade.

1. Assess the environment — including the network, desktops and peripherals. Any successful large-scale desktop deployment demands an exhaustive inventory. When planning to make the Windows 7 leap, everything from servers to desktops to the dinosaur printer for Accounts Payable is affected. Completing an organisation-wide inventory will likely demand a large portion of your IT staff’s time. If your provider offers an audit of your current IT environment, the cost-benefit analysis may prove it to be a worthwhile investment.

2. Evaluate the merits of upgrades. Though the inventory might be demanding, many companies benefit from discovering how many relic peripherals, programmes and processes their departments and employees still rely on. If Windows 7 doesn’t support certain programmes or hardware, determine what will be upgraded, when and how it will affect other operations. While you might want to upgrade everything immediately, the delays and added cost might not be justifiable.

3. Ensure stable releases. Whether you do your desktop project yourself or rely on an IT provider to do it for you, you’ll need to leverage a few tools to ensure your deployment is compliant. For instance, Datacom uses tools such as Microsoft System Centre Configuration Manager (SCCM), Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT), Altiris and Acronis to enable a secure desktop deployment.

4. Include virtualisation in the mix. A Windows 7 upgrade isn’t solely focused on upgrading desktops. As you move to the new operating system, focus on virtualising many of the applications your employees use frequently to allow them access to their productivity tools from any location. This step not only helps boost productivity but also prepares for an eventual Windows 8 migration.

5. Streamline the licensing process. If you’ve yet to secure a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, now is likely the time. Some organisations can achieve discounts of around 40 per cent off. You can also ensure compliance by allowing your provider to manage volume license agreements. Your staff will save time now by reducing their paperwork load and negotiation responsibilities and have an automated system in place to alert them when licenses approach expiration.

6. Test applications for compatibility. While Windows 7 is generally very stable, no operating system is perfect. Before flipping the switch, ensure all applications have been tested. You could use application compatibility tools, but you’ll likely need to conduct a manual software audit as well to ensure all apps are accounted for.

7. Include desktop support in the contract. If problems arise after the deployment, you don’t want your IT staff scrambling to get everything back in working order. Nor do you want to spend time negotiating a contract with your provider when systems are down. Ensure your provider is obligated to work through any hiccups that arise within a reasonable timeframe.

In our experience, organisations that have followed these steps have enjoyed a smooth and productive Windows 7 deployment. What tips would you add?

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