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?

Get the Star Treatment with a Volume License Enterprise Agreement

By Lauren Fritsky

Does your organisation have more than 250 computing devices, whether they are traditional desktop computers, thin clients or mobile devices? Are you considering transitioning to cloud in the near future? Do you need help managing other aspects of your IT environment?

If you answered “yes” to all these questions, the Microsoft volume licensing Enterprise Agreement might provide the most beneficialvolume license to your enterprise.

Organisations that choose an Enterprise Agreement for their software licensing get purchasing discounts in addition to star treatment in the form of immediate software upgrades when new versions, such as Windows 8, are released, 24-hour technical support and access to other services such as desktop support that could benefit their overall IT strategy.

Obtaining a volume license through a Microsoft volume licensing Enterprise Agreement can solve the problem of having individual desktops with different software licensing, which could lead to compliance issues. The Enterprise Agreement streamlines and simplifies IT management by offering a single company-wide agreement. Your organisation might have 300 PCs, but this volume license allows you to manage them as one.

Datacom has also found in its experience that certain organisations can save up to 40 per cent compared to other licensing arrangements through an Enterprise Agreement. Plus, these enterprises gain access to a full range of Software Assurance benefits, which include immediate software upgrades and releases, user training and technical support. If you obtain your agreement through Datacom, you can also potentially gain access to our desktop deploymentdesktop support and software asset management services. Additionally, you can transition to cloud and shift employees between onsite software and cloud under your Enterprise Agreement.

If your organisation started out with an Open Value agreement and is ready to grow past 250 desktops, Datacom’s licensing experts can help you make the transition to an Enterprise Agreement.

Microsoft Open License Agreements Explained

By Lauren Fritsky

Software licensing is complicated. The difference between Microsoft volume licenses can be dictated by anything from having a single extra seat at your organisation to having a crop of employees working remotely.

For instance, the Enterprise Agreement is for organisations with 250 seats or more and offers attractive Microsoft volume licensing pricing while the Open license agreementtypically targets enterprises with between five and 250 seats that want more flexibility in the number of PCs they must license. Both can help your enterprise control costs while standardising software across all PCs to ensure continued compliance and include flexible pricing options plus Software Assurance.

Enterprises can obtain three different types of agreements through the Open license programme. The non–company-wide option is for enterprises that need to license servers or a limited number of client machines; the company-wide Open license agreement offers a single platform option for rights to the latest Microsoft-licensed products, enabling enterprises to customise desktops with various software components.

For enterprises looking for increased flexibility in their licensing agreement, the Open Value Subscription allows the ability to scale the number of licenses they need as their number of seats goes up or down. You pay a lower fixed price for each of your organisation’s machines as long as you continue to use the software. And you can subtract or add licenses as your organisation’s business needs change. This licensing agreement also permits company-wide licensed products to be added to new client PCs at no additional cost for the year and provides extra cost savings in year one if you have current or older versions of licensed products running.

If you’re unsure of which volume license agreement is best for your enterprise, let Datacom help. We have licensing experts on staff who possess deep expertise in Microsoft volume licensing and can assist in designing a cost-effective agreement while providing value add in the form of desktop support.

4 Reasons to Do Desktop Virtualisation Now

By Julian Buckley

Good on you if you’ve already virtualised your servers. But you’re missing out on immediate manageability benefits and key long-term cost savings by not virtualising your desktop too – something CIOs still shy away from due to cost and implementation concerns, according to an article on CRN. Going that extra step in IT virtualisation to manage your desktops from a central location will bring quick improvements in four key areas.

Mobility leads to productivity

Think of how productive your staff could be if you could immediately let them work from the road or at home. IT virtualisation lets employees connect to the desktop from anywhere and any portable device. Allowing staff to use mobile applications to manage email, projects and tasks increased productivity by 45 per cent at enterprise businesses surveyed by research firm Aberdeen. Virtualisation can let you quickly deploy desktops and applications to overseas or remote workers and allows employees to work from home during a natural disaster or other major event.

Energy savings

Want to cut next month’s energy bill? Desktop virtualisation brings many of the same energy-saving benefits of server virtualisation. One of the main ways you can help the environment through a desktop virtualisation deployment is by replacing clunky, high-power PCs with lower-energy machines.

Streamlined security

Imagine being able to quickly and efficiently identify and solve security issues on any machine. IT virtualisation of the desktop lets you do this. In fact, more than half of CIOs surveyed by Citrix said immediate isolation of a compromised application was a top security benefit realised by virtualising the desktop. Secure data and application delivery was an additional reason for deploying desktop virtualisation, according to 66 per cent of CIOs surveyed.

Through IT virtualisation for the desktop, you can maintain control over data, applications and devices from one place without temporarily reducing end-user access to these areas. Virtualised desktops also allow you to issue security updates and patches to all systems from one location, giving you instant time savings.

Better compliance

Imagine how much time your IT staff can save by removing the hassle of checking each individual employee’s machine to ensure he or she is complying with security, search and usage guidelines. Virtualising the desktop allows you to immediately start monitoring employee behaviour from a central platform. Managing the desktop from this unified location also allows IT staff to ensure volume license compliance across all desktops and improves Software Asset Management by allowing faster software inventory.

As a company that supplies managed IT virtualisation services to enterprise businesses, Datacom has seen this solution help companies reduce operational expenditures and cut the time it takes to conduct certain IT tasks from weeks to minutes.

Julian Buckley is the Business Manager of Professional Services for Datacom in QLD.  Julian leads a team of solution architects, project managers and consulting engineers that evangelise, design, scope, deliver and implement purpose-built, client-focused infrastructure and virtualisation solutions for our customers. His team in QLD focuses on long-term relationships with clients, building end-to-end enterprise ICT architecture for corporate, education and government clients across Microsoft, Citrix and VMware technology sets.  A local leader in virtualisation in the QLD market, Julian’s team can help all clients achieve greater return on investment, reliability and performance through best practice, industry-leading solutions.

The Big Technology Trends That Could Change Your IT Management

By Lauren Fritsky

This year has been touted as a game changer for technology in Australia. A few of these trends could influence your IT management decisions in the months to come.

Younger and older workers driving new technology

It’s no surprise Gen Y is spurring the need for IT advances at many businesses, as reported in a recent Computerworld story. The real news lies in the fact that adults aged 55 to 64 are the fastest-growing users of technology in Australia, according to theAustralian Bureau of Statistics. Get ready to see this population knocking on your office door requesting a Bring Your Own Device policy so they can answer emails from their smartphones.

Greener offices and data centres

Australian businesses will spend about US$3.1 billion on energy-saving projects by 2014, according to the Verdantix Critical Moments® report. Factors like the government’s new carbon tax scheme and electricity costs are driving some of these efforts, leading to shifts toward paperless offices and more energy-efficient lighting.

Technologies like IT virtualisation and cloud services are also considered potential office energy-savers, as they consolidate resources and require less equipment. Pike Research predicts that by 2020, data centres will reduce terawatt hours by 31 per cent and cut GHG emissions by 28 per cent. As a trusted and award-winning cloud services provider, Datacom can discuss how your business can take advantage of cloud solutions to cut energy costs.

Mobile adoption

Enterprise adoption of mobile devices has soared, with 71 per cent of businesses planning to deploy custom mobile applications, says a recent Symantec survey. It’s a smart move, as Gartner predicts nearly half of enterprise email users will shun desktops in favour of Bring Your Own Device, such as a mobile or tablet, by 2016. Datacom expects to see this rapid embrace of mobile require businesses to revisit volume license agreements to ensure all devices remain compliant.

What are the technology trends affecting your business?

Back to Basics: 3 IT Management To-Do’s for the New Year

By Chad  Basham

2011 was a big year.  With the rapid adoption of new technologies, the ubiquity of the tablet, consumerisation of IT and the growing interest in BYOD there was a lot for IT leaders and managers to deal with. And this was just the thin end of the wedge.

As we start the New Year, your focus will return to enabling agility and flexibility within your business, and handling all of the technology challenges that come with it. But in tackling this, don’t forget about some of the few simple – but crucial – “Technology 101s” that are worth revisiting.

Take Control of Server Sprawl

With highly virtualised environments and easy access to cloud services, server sprawl is now even tougher to control. When performing health checks across our clients’ server environments, we constantly see significant overinvestment. On average, our large clients have 20% too many servers for their needs. Fixing server sprawl has instant impact in terms of savings on volume licensing, reduced management costs and more efficient hardware use.

Proactively Manage Capacity

Proactively planning for business, service and component capacity demands is critical to avoiding bottlenecks that could become major problems. Investment in prevention of bottlenecks is the key to cost savings. Rather than throwing either hardware or IT support team time (or both) at the problem when it hits, invest in predictive analysis that can significantly streamline the processes. Identifying current demands, analysing how they could change over time and planning how best you will provide this capacity will optimise performance and efficiency, ultimately reducing pressure on infrastructure and reducing financial investment. With the rise of cloud computing you have many more options available to you.

Understand your Assets

Like any other business asset, your organiation’s hardware and software fleet needs to be well-managed to ensure it delivers maximum return on investment. Gaining control of inventory and uncovering potential savings through process improvement is critical to business success. However, many organisations don’t have a clear inventory of assets, or a software asset management strategy. For example, when performing an asset analysis, we’ve often found that organisations have underestimated their application use by 10%. Such lapses could incur fines and a retrospective bill for out-of-date licenses. More importantly for the business, incomplete asset evaluation could impede critical decision making and further escalate unnecessary costs.

If you don’t already have your eye on these basics, make 2012 the year you put processes in place to ensure they’re handled. You’re sure to free up funds, avoid risk of fines and divert fewer resources to managing them on an ongoing basis.

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About Chad Basham

Chad Basham is the General Manager of Professional Services for Datacom, NSW. With 20 years of global technology experience, Chad leads a team of solution architects focused on designing agile IT environments that result in more productivity and overall cost savings for Datacom clients. His team’s goal is to help internal IT departments focus on strategy, including creating overall technology roadmaps, designing efficient end-user computer and infrastructure environments, and implementing a variety of vendor solutions, including Microsoft desktop software.

Hardware & Software Asset Management: 3 Surprise Discoveries

By Gary Wainwright

Like any other business assets, an organisation’s software and hardware assets need to be well-managed to ensure they deliver maximum return on investment. Logging details on a bulging spread-sheet – no matter how detailed – just can’t offer the level of detail required to deliver an effective asset management strategy.

A recent study by KPMG International revealed that 74% of the companies polled used a manual license tracking process, often fraught with human error.  The involvement of multiple departments, multiple authors and multiple lists wasted valuable time – often resulting in fragmented and incomplete reporting, which incurred steep fines for out-of-date licences.

Unfortunately, it’s only after a surprise discovery that has an impact on an organisation’s bottom line that CIOs choose to make hardware and software asset management a strategy. A few of the surprises I see most often in larger organisations involve the following:

Application downloads: During an asset management evaluation for a large mining client, original estimates reported that only 15 applications were used throughout the organisation, so only these would require migration to a new platform. However, the final count revealed more than 300 applications in use, many tied to a specific task in the mining industry, demonstrating the scale of “application creep” throughout the organisation.

Security risks: Unauthorised software can be a significant security risk. As tech-savvy staff members discover applications to assist with workflow, they often download viruses, security cracks or cookies that could present a genuine security issue for the organisation.

Soaring IT support costs: As multiple versions of popular software are released, demands on the IT team for supporting those versions escalate. For example, although staff may believe they are on the latest version of Adobe, this may not be the case. Extrapolate this scenario across the many different packages and applications being used within your organisation and you can see how IT support costs will soar.

Are you managing your organisation’s assets to avoid surprise discoveries?

During a Software Asset Management project, you’ll likely discover unused equipment, multiple gaps in information-sharing and multiple versions of the same software throughout your organisation.  Incomplete information could impede critical decision-making and escalate unnecessary costs.

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About Gary Wainwright

With more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry, Gary Wainwright specialises in providing technology solutions that result in high dollar savings and increased agility for a broad range of large clients. In 2010, Gary joined Datacom Systems to focus on achieving growth in the integrator market.  As the General Manager of Professional Services for Datacom in Western Australia, he leads a team of solution architects who work on a variety of projects, including helping organisations better understand their infrastructure and better manage their hardware and software assets.

Windows 8: Where Desktop OS meets Mobile OS?

With the seemingly unlimited capabilities of today’s smart phones, people are essentially already carrying mini-computers in their pockets at all times. The truth is, however, that mobile operating systems have always offered experiences wildly different from that of desktop versions. This made sense in the early days of smart phones, as the mobile devices were not capable of running advanced applications like those on a desktop. But today’s mobile technologies, including the increasingly popular tablet PCs, are more than capable of handling the additional bells and whistles, leaving many experts calling for an all-in-one OS solution.

And that’s exactly what they will get in 2012. Microsoft’s Windows 8, the first OS capable of running on both desktop and mobile devices, is set to debut next year. The merging of desktop and mobile software will no doubt be a hot topic among experts, mostly because when executed properly, a cross-platform OS would save a lot of people both time and money. Web and mobile application developers, for one, would be able to write just one programme that works on both desktop and mobile platforms. This can drastically reduce the costs many businesses incur when working with app development experts. Users would be able to continue using the tools they are familiar with on their desktop and phone or tablet, saving the time to get up to speed on new versions of the software. And most importantly for business executives, organisations would be able to buy one software package that works in both environments.

Windows 8 promises to include all those benefits, as well as unveil a new integrated Windows software store, similar to Apple’s Mac App Store. A free preview has already been leaked to the public and there has already been much written on what Windows 8 could mean for the industry. Among the other notable benefits are fewer regulations for app developers, the ability to support app “free trials” and a revenue sharing plan that rewards successful apps.  That revenue share base for all apps in the Windows store will start at 70% (same as Apple’s) but increase to 80% once the app reaches $25,000 in revenue.

Microsoft is also catering to customers like Datacom’s mid- and large-sized businesses who are looking to get or are already involved in Microsoft Enterprise Agreements for their software licensing. According to Microsoft, enterprises will have more control over the mobile operating system, which will be crafted with its ubiquitous design language “Metro.” In short, as part of the enterprise group policy, IT administrators will be able to choose the access employees have to the Windows store and its apps. In addition, enterprises can choose to deploy Metro apps directly to PCs, without having to go through the store infrastructure. These changes will help each business customise the software for their organisation and help IT departments better control app management, of particular relevance to many remote locations in Australia.

But as the Windows 8 launch date draws nearer, the main questions most organisational leadership teams will now face is: Should we make the switch in 2012?  The answer is that it’s too early to tell. Organisations involved with enterprise software arrangement should consult their Microsoft reseller partner to learn more before making any drastic changes. As one of only a few licensed Microsoft large account resellers in the Australian and New Zealand markets, we’ll be closely monitoring the Windows 8 launch and be sure to pass along updates as we get them. It will certainly be an exciting time in software development as the gap between desktop and mobile could be closing for good.

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About Todd Gorsuch

Todd Gorsuch is a director with Datacom focused on developing national programmes and capabilities that meet the software, hardware and IT service needs of large organisations in Australia and Asia. Leading a national team, his goal is to ensure Datacom clients receive maximum cost savings, added value and increased agility with each IT purchase. His philosophy is that when a technology environment is created or updated with the organisation’s customers in mind, and built around their unique culture, a competitive edge is gained and revenues increase.  

A Pre-Project Checklist for Large-Scale Desktop Deployments

With software asset managementvolume licence management and many more tasks involved in any large-scale desktop deployment, relying on a few highly meticulous staff members isn’t enough. This undergoing will require a robust pre-project checklist delineating the most important tasks to ensure a smooth desktop deployment.

To better prepare, consider these 4 essential to-dos. While it’s by no means a comprehensive list, it should get you thinking about all of the major areas you need to cover during a desktop deployment project, and whether you have the staff and expertise in-house to complete it or you need to look to an experienced IT firm to help.

1. Conduct a comprehensive hardware and application discovery and analysis.

In order to determine the extent and depth of your desktop deployment, you must have a thorough understanding of your environment. This phase should begin with an understanding of the machines that need to be replaced and those that will remain. This will determine the hardware platforms the desktop operating system will need to support. Next you’ll need to focus on applications to provide a useful inventory and to reveal how multiple versions of software applications are used throughout your organisation. In many instances, different divisions use multiple versions of the same software, for no logical reason. With your entire organisation’s hardware and software taken into account with asset management, you can begin to decommission older versions, create consistency and save money before your desktop deployment.

2. Tally your peripherals.

Some divisions have multiple peripherals for specific business processes. For example, the warehouse may have one set of scanners to track incoming and outgoing units. But a fulfilment department may use an entirely different set of scanners to log packages that are ready to ship. While your research may reveal one peripheral that can address each business process, you’ll want to include these in your software asset management strategy.

3. Assess your infrastructure—or infrastructures – as well as your deployment mechanisms.

Can your current global infrastructure accommodate your desktop deployment? What about the network and servers in your regional offices? And how will your deployment affect security—globally, locally and regionally? How will a telecommuter receive the updates they need without forcing themselves to become IT experts? Do you have the correct deployment mechanisms to handle the size of your rollout?

If your resources are already depleted assessing your devices, software and peripherals, IT consultants may be the best option for a comprehensive assessment and deployment.

4. Ensure you have the space to accommodate a large-scale desktop deployment.

Logistics are often forgotten about during the desktop deployment planning period. During rollouts, physical storage space is required to store new computers prior to rollout and old computers that need to be decommissioned or repurposed. Do you have adequate space to store packaging and hardware? Packaging for PCs, monitors and other peripherals can take up significant space.

Following this pre-project checklist will certainly add time to your deployment timeframe, but far less than fixing myriad hardware and software issues after launch. The investment in preparation always pays dividends in a successful desktop deployment.

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About Rohit Bhuteja

Rohit Bhuteja is the General Manager of Professional Services for Datacom, Victoria, Australia. With 19 years of technology experience, Rohit leads a team of solution architects focused on designing agile IT environments that result in more productivity and overall cost savings for Datacom clients. His team’s goal is to help internal IT departments focus on strategy, including creating overall technology roadmaps, designing efficient end-user computer and infrastructure environments, and implementing a variety of vendor solutions, including Microsoft desktop software.

Small Technology Changes Can Equal Big Savings

By Jonathan Ladd

The economic downturn forced organisations to recalibrate their information technology costs – paring back all but essential roles and functions. Unfortunately, some organisations cut too deeply and nicked the bone. Now, as the two-speed economy rumbles along, IT departments should look to small yet meaningful changes that can result in substantial IT cost reductions that also enhance employee productivity.

Re-evaluate

First and foremost, you should review your organisation’s software asset management. For some organisations, economic downturn has necessitated tough choices relating to employee headcount. At the same time, some countercyclical organisations have prospered and grown. Regardless of which camp you are in, your organisation’s software licensing needs probably changed. Re-evaluate the number of licences you’re using compared to the number of licences you need. Organisations we’ve worked with have realised significant IT savings by right-sizing their software volume licences to better match current conditions. It may be that your organisation should revise its software licensing model altogether – companies in the 250-750 employee range, for example, should take advantage of Microsoft Enterprise Agreements to streamline desktop management and get better software pricing. On the flip side, if your organisation has reduced its staff and you have unused licences, scale back immediately and avoid extraneous costs.

Monitor

One of the easiest ways to avoid unnecessary costs is to maintain the software you already have. While updates are seemingly innocuous, every CIO of a good size organisation knows and dreads Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of each month, on which Microsoft releases security patches. It’s a challenge to keep every computer up to date, but it’s worth the effort. By working regular updates into your firm’s enterprise software policies and processes, you can avoid costly security breaches that require expensive quarantines, hard drive wipes, compromises to your intellectual property and customer information, and other costly remediation. Software asset management is part of any true value-added service offering.

Virtualise

AOL recently restructured its entire infrastructure, and more importantly, its supporting tools and processes, to create a lights-out, completely automated deployment environment. That was a big shift for an Internet provider that has typically resisted change. Moving to the Cloud and virtualising certain IT functions need not be such a “sea change” in IT policy. You can gradually shift physical resources to Cloud environments and take advantage of virtualisation solutions. The steady drumbeat of Cloud providers entering the market has provided the full gamut of options, from entire infrastructure supporting environments to smaller, flexible solutions.

No one wants to make momentous changes in policy in such volatile markets. But given the rapidly changing tech environment, organisations that remain static will soon be overtaken by the competition or be rendered less relevant.  Small technology changes can equal big savings.

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Jonathan Ladd is the group CEO for Datacom responsible for directing strategy and success for the company throughout Asia and Australia. With over 30 years of technology, management, strategy, consulting and director-level experience, he’s worked across multiple sectors, and in many countries and cultures. Jonathan has held IT leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies, as well as in his own technology consulting business. Currently, he chairs a finance industry steering committee guiding a national payments system innovation.