Windows OS Considerations When Upgrading from Windows XP

If you’re preparing for Microsoft’s “zero day forever” — the day in April when support for Windows XP ends and that hackers could have a field-day exploiting Windows XP PCs since they will no longer receive security patches —, you might be wondering if making the move to Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 makes the most sense. Obviously, this choice depends on your business needs and how much you can accomplish in the fewer than five months left until Windows XP support ends. But here are a few other things to consider when choosing the best OS to upgrade to for your organisation.

Windows 8.1

Let’s start with the latest OS first. A good reason to upgrade to Windows 8.1 straight from XP is if you have a growing number of very mobile workers who could benefit from the touch component of the year-old OS. There are added mobility and security features with Windows 8.1, including the new Workplace Join that lets you access corporate data from a server that then gets automatically deleted when someone leaves the company. This component basically dismisses the need for a remote device wipe, something many employees have an issue with as it also might remove their personal apps and data. So, if you have plans to ramp up mobility in your organisation in the coming years, considering how Windows 8.1 could fit into your strategy is worthwhile. There are also other new features such as the return of the Start bar to make it easier to perform tasks, better application management across devices through Assigned Access and more options for mobile device management.

If you’re running XP, you cannot upgrade straight to 8.1. You’ll have to upgrade to Windows 8 first and then 8.1, as Microsoft specifies that Windows 8.1 was not designed for installation on devices running Windows XP or Windows Vista. If you do decide to go this two-step route straight from XP, you’ll not only need new hardware but also a whole new crop of applications as well, as many that run on an old Microsoft OS won’t be compatible with Windows 8.1. Datacom has tools that can assist in the assessment of which apps will comply or can be remediated.

Windows 8

Moving to Windows 8 is also a consideration for organisations increasing the scale of mobility in the workforce. Other than mobility, your considerations for upgrading to Windows 8 should be whether you have the budget to purchase Windows 8-compatible desktops for your entire workforce and if you have the time — fewer than five months — to teach them how to use the new touch OS. If you are focussed on Windows 8, factor in support resources to help answer the onslaught of questions and troubleshooting needs your users are likely to have as they get used to an OS like none they’ve ever used before. But on that last note, remember that Windows 8 also has a desktop mode that looks and acts almost exactly like Windows 7. You can also forgo the Modern start screen and boot straight to the desktop. So, don’t let the touch component necessarily be a reason to avoid migrating to the OS.

Windows 7

More than 90 per cent of large businesses will move from Windows XP to Windows 7, according to Gartner. Microsoft itself has urged organisations to continue planned Windows 7 migrations and only deploy Windows 8 to user groups that need it most, such as mobile workers. However, the company has also encouraged businesses to start investing in Windows 8-compatible devices so that if and when they want to upgrade to Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, they don’t have to heavily invest in more hardware. The hardware component is what makes going from Windows XP to Windows 7 most reasonable for many businesses — it does not necessitate a hardware upgrade, meaning organisations can hold onto their PCs for longer.

Regardless of the next Microsoft OS you choose, enlisting the help of an IT provider to design, implement and offer post-support for your migration, in addition to procure any new hardware and software licenses that might be needed, will lower risks and ensure a more seamless transition.

4 Questions to Ask as You Plan to Upgrade from Windows XP and Office 2003

Do you know how much is at stake if your organisation loses data due to insufficient Windows XP or Office 2003 security updates or support? Take our risk assessment to learn.

Thirty per cent of SMEs are still running Windows XP and Office 2003 — and almost half don’t know support for both of these products will end in less than a year.

While you can still run Windows XP and Office 2003, you will no longer receive security updates or support after April 8, 2014. Even if you plan to upgrade to the new Office 2013 now, it’s not compatible with Windows XP. With these pressing security and compatibility issues,plotting your migration strategy now will help protect your business from risk of data loss and downtime. Here are some questions to ask to begin executing your Windows XP and Office 2003 upgrade plan.

1. Are my applications compatible? Prior to upgrading from Windows XP, you will need to see if your software will be compatible with your new operating system, whether it’s Windows 7 or Windows 8. That’s a process you don’t want to hold off on until right before you upgrade, as it can lead to significant downtime if it turns out that your apps aren’t compatible. And it’s not just Microsoft apps you have to worry about — explore the relationship with the apps you use that rely on the underlying Windows operating system and plan for remediation and compatibility testing.

2. Does my hardware fit? If you’re upgrading your operating system, you should consider if your workstations are optimised or whether you need to arrange for procurement of new ones. Knowing the hardware you will need now will help in forecasting your budget and also guide decisions around whether hosting certain applications in the cloud makes better sense.

3. Is it time to incorporate additional desktop services? Don’t narrow your Windows XP upgrade scope to just an operating system refresh. You could also use the occasion to take advantage of software asset management, volume licensing services and desktop support. Incorporating these services into your desktop migration strategy could help lower total cost of ownership, reduce business risk and improve IT management.

4. What user training will I need to conduct? If you’re upgrading to Windows 7 or 8 or Office Standard 2013, you’ll need to make sure your end users get up to speed before completing deployment. Choosing a few evangelists to test-pilot the new products and then arranging for training and post-deployment support through a managed services provider can ensure a streamlined approach.

To help you transition out of Windows XP, Office 2003 or both, Datacom is offering four different discounts on select Microsoft products, including Windows 8, if you purchase by June 21. We can also help your organisation take advantage of holistic desktop services to streamline your deployment and align your desktop strategy with your business needs.

2 Things to Consider When Upgrading to Windows 8

Love it or leave it, Windows 8 is almost here. Some love its new look and feel – the touch-enabled tiles especially –, while others prefer to stick with Windows XP and Windows 7 for now.

Organisations will largely base their decision on whether or not to upgrade to Windows 8 from Windows 7, Windows XP or another operating system on budget and how the new OS benefits their specific business. For those considering the leap, two of the most important factors to weigh include hardware and Windows 8 training for you workforce.

1. The right hardware 

Reportedly, Windows 8 will work with any hardware that can run Windows 7. That doesn’t mean, however, that everything will be compatible between Windows 7 and Windows 8 (Windows XP will prove trickier, as told in this PCWorld piece). Certain applications and hardware drivers might be incompatible; identifying Windows 8 compatibility with networking hardware will be crucial.

If you’re doing a hardware refresh without migrating to Windows 8 right now, but are considering it for the future, look into laptops or desktops offering ten-point touch to make the transition from Windows 7 or Windows XP easier. Datacom’shardware procurement services can help you purchase and acquire the compatible hardware for Windows 8.

2. Training time and resources

Because it’s a touch-first operating system, Windows 8 will likely require considerable more training for new users than Windows 7 or Windows XP. Some reports estimate that it will cost hundreds of dollars per user each day to train employees for Windows 8. Remember, too, that usability goes beyond the basics. Employees should be as productive on Windows 8 as they were on Windows XP or Windows 7.

Organisations must determine how much budget, time and staff they need to train the entire workforce (and don’t base it on how long it took to train employees for Windows 7 or Windows XP). They should measure how long it will take to get back to the productivity levels seen with Windows 7 or Windows XP and ensure they can account for downtime. A phased approach to deployment, a pilot user group and training materials will likely contribute to a successful Windows 8 training and deployment.

Ensuring you have support, whether from the internal IT department or an external IT provider or both, will factor largely into the success of your Windows 8 deployment. An IT provider like Datacom can help plan and roll out your Windows 8 deployment, provide licensing expertise related to software used for Windows 8 and offer desktop support post-deployment.

Attention Sydney readers: Datacom and Microsoft are hosting a free informational session on Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 this Wednesday, 24th October, at 8:30 a.m. at the Microsoft offices in North Ryde. If you’re interested in attending the event or receiving the post-event materials, fill out the contact form at the right of this blog post. 

Datacom Transforms Wilmar Australia’s IT Environment with a Move to the Cloud

Talk about a short deadline.

In 2010, sugar, ethanol and energy producer Wilmar Australia needed to transform its entire IT environment and rebrand its technology image as part of its divestment from parent company CSR. The catch: the project needed to be done in under a year for 1,500 employees in 31 locations to meet the divestment schedule.

The project involved leveraging the latest Microsoft technology for a desktop upgradewhile outsourcing core IT functions and moving Wilmar Australia’s IT infrastructure to Infrastructure as a Service. Wilmar Australia also wanted a brand makeover; it saw itself as developing into a more engaging, dynamic organisation and wanted its technology to reflect that.

A sweet solution

A lot of IT solutions providers might’ve balked at that lofty task. Not Datacom.

 Wilmar Australia’s new vision aligned very closely with Datacom’s approach to doing business – delivering enduring performance through fresh thinking. These shared values, along with Datacom’s technology knowledge and commitment to building strong partnerships with its customers, made choosing an IT solutions provider easier for Wilmar Australia.

The eventual solution for Wilmar Australia’s IT needs was a Microsoft stack running on Datacom’s IaaS cloud. The list of tasks involved to complete the project included:

  • Migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7
  • Migrating from Office 2003 to Office 2010
  • Adding messaging with Exchange 2010
  • Establishing a new Active Directory 2008
  • Updating legacy unified communications systems using Cisco and Microsoft Lync 2010
  • Incorporating document management with SharePoint 2010
  • Establishing database management and consolidation using SQL 2010
  • Integrating with BizTalk
  • Establishing security via Threat Management Gateway
  • Creating full disaster recovery

Datacom also helped move 240 of Wilmar Australia’s servers and over 90 of their critical business applications to the cloud.

Better technology, better business

Wilmar Australia’s employees across locations are now able to leverage the latest technology to collaborate and communicate better. With the latest operating system and office and communications tools, each employee is able to complete his or her tasks and assignments with renewed efficiency and simplicity.

Brendan O’Kane, General Manager of Information Services at Wilmar Australia, says the Datacom migration has set the organisation on a course toward greater agility and innovation.

“We have given people new tools and better access to help them do their jobs more efficiently and take a lot of noise out of the business,” he says. “The IT strategy is now supporting the business.

“The solution is a much better fit to our DNA than where we came from. We needed to be able to support change and innovation in a fast-moving environment, and the Datacom cloud allows us to do that.”

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?

New Things to Consider for Your Next Desktop Modernisation Project

With support for Windows XP – which is still in use by about 42 per cent of the enterprise market, according to a May IDC white paper –, ending by April 2014 and the typical operating system migration taking 18 months, it was time to start thinking about your next desktop upgrade yesterday. This time around, there’s even more to consider: Bring Your Own Device, new technologies and a slower pace of desktop rollout. How will these factors affect your desktop strategy?

New technology trends in the enterprise

Mobility, cloud, virtualisation and the consumerisation of IT – even if they were around in some capacity in previous years, they didn’t infiltrate the corporate IT landscape to the same extent they do now. These new kids on the block might entail some level of device management, updated security and governance policies and data centre overhaul, all of which require the organisation to reshape its IT strategy.

At their core, these technologies transform how apps and data are managed, secured and delivered to employees. What’s more, bringing together all these different technologies during a desktop modernisation project might necessitate a new licensing arrangement. Take, for instance, the new Companion Device License (CDL) Microsoft will require organisations to purchase for Windows 8 users who access corporate desktops through VDI on personal, non-Windows mobile devices. If you are unsure of how your licensing arrangement might be affected by your desktop optimisation project, Datacom’s licensing experts can assist you.

Mobile devices as desktop replacements vs. supplements 

Did you ever think the day would arrive when the PC as we know it would become obsolete? Some technology and IT thought leaders believe Windows 8 will signal this shift; Windows 8 and its cross-platform nature will give workers what they’ve come to want most – the ability to work from any device, at any time and in any location. Even research firm Garner posited that Windows 8 will end the traditional desktop to which we’ve grown accustomed by the year 2020, as tablets and mobile devices will step in to become the primary devices used in the office or on the road.

Other CIOs, IT managers and technology evangelists sing the opposite song – PCs will always be relevant and will continue to be the foundation of enterprise desktop computing. Some argue mobile might never allow for the type of productivity tools and applications required in the corporate space.

A longer refresh and rollout cycle

About two thirds of organisations now undertake large desktop refreshes involving both operating system upgrades and hardware replacement, according to international research by firm Freeform Dynamics. This combination approach has allowed some organisations to push the traditional three-year refresh cycle to four or five years for a number of reasons. On the hardware end, trends like Bring Your Own Device mean more employees are using their own computing devices, thereby extending the life of corporate desktops in some instances. From the OS perspective, some organisations have chosen not to follow the sequential order of operating system releases, opting to bypass Windows Vista and go straight from Windows XP to Windows 7, for example.

Even when an organisation does get to the point of a desktop modernisation project, Datacom has noticed the length of rollout is lasting longer. This is due to a number of reasons, including tight budgets, the need to give certain departments upgraded desktops faster than others and management constraints. Organisations wanting a full-scale desktop upgrade can take advantage of IT outsourcers that provide an end-to-end solution for desktop deployments, including post-rollout support. Datacom has helped organisations with as few as a couple hundred seats to as many as a several thousand upgrade their operating systems and desktop hardware, traditionally in less time than it takes internal IT staff to complete.

What has changed in how you approach desktop modernisation at your organisation?