Tech Topic Report: Windows 7 Migration

Microsoft Windows 7 Migration

The time is now

Windows XP has been the standard in Enterprise computing for ten years running, due to its stability and ease of use. Microsoft recognizes the continuing viability of its legacy OS and that “people keep their Windows-based PCs for many years.”[1] However, mainstream support of XP ended more than two years ago, and Microsoft will cease extended security updates and extended support on April 8th, 2014.[2] This is due to the rapid adoption of Windows 7[3] in both the enterprise and consumer markets, and undisputed evidence that Win7 is a superior, cost effective, flexible solution that will be the market leader for many years to come.

Organizations traditionally take 12 to 18 months before they’re ready to deploy a new desktop operating system to their workforce. Win7 was released in October 2009, and it is clear that adoption of the new OS in the enterprise market is accelerating rapidly. According to a survey conducted by Forrester Consulting, 77 percent of IT decision-makers representing large enterprise and public sector organizations in the U.S. and Canada rated a desktop upgrade as “a critical or major priority over the next 12 to 18 months.”[4] These firms have already migrated at least 20 percent of their users to the new OS, as Win7’s superior compatibility with legacy hardware means it can be deployed to existing as well as new PCs.[5]

This article outlines the advantages and challenges of migrating to Win7, and what its adoption means for our company. We use many legacy software packages, and it is important to implement best practices that allow greater governance over our application libraries going forward. In addition, possible solutions to recognized migration challenges will ensure a smooth transition. Our current system architecture is struggling to keep up with advances in software solutions, and we believe the time is now to begin implementing company-wide upgrades to Win7.

Advantages of Windows 7

Win7 provides our IT department an opportunity to gain more control over their end-user computing environments by providing a robust, modern platform that will support most legacy software while providing an opportunity to leverage emerging desktop and application virtualization technologies, reducing the need for future OS upgrades. Microsoft has recently introduced Windows Azure as a Win7-based cloud-computing solution,[6] and it is recommended that its implementation be considered in the future.  As well, employees reliant upon incompatible software can utilize a virtual XP environment that provides increased compatibility with legacy applications.

Unlike our current 32-bit XP license, the company can take advantage of deploying 64-bit hardware and software for new Win7 PCs, in order to take advantage of the increased speed and efficiency the platform offers. For systems requiring the use of 32-bit legacy software, Microsoft’s Win7 enterprise license will allow the install of a 32-bit OS.

Win7 will provide our organization with enhanced security applications that are easier to understand and more transparent. For example, the implementation of an improved form of User Account Control reduces the risk of the user making damaging changes to their PC. Also, an improved firewall allows us to phase out Norton Internet Security, reducing licensing costs and preventing system slowdown. Furthermore, effective system recovery and startup repair is installed to the OS partition automatically.

Migration Challenges

The IT department recognizes that there are substantial costs involved with a company-wide migration to a new OS, and we are taking the steps necessary to identify and overcome migration challenges. According to Annette Dow of Binary Research International, “common landmines to avoid as enterprises upgrade to Win7 include not doing enough up front planning, not doing enough testing, and expecting this kind of project to be completed quickly. Many conversion projects like this can take upwards of 6-12 months at a minimum.”[7] This report is being submitted to ensure that we avoid these “landmines.” We estimate the migration process will be completed in 8 to 10 months based on our current number of employees, with minimal impact on the day-to-day operations of the IT department.

Some PC hardware may prove problematic when installing Win7. Therefore, a team will inspect each system to weigh the costs of upgrading versus maintaining aging hardware, and allocate new PCs to any employee that is using hardware dated prior to 2005. PCs that are only compatible with 32-bit Win7 will be replaced first.

Historically, due to OS limitations, we have provided local administrative rights to PCs installed with XP. As such, our application library has been improperly managed, and many employees are relying on “rogue applications” for essential functions such as antivirus and intra-office communication. Win7 systems will remove administrative rights and ensure standard applications are used. A company-wide inventory will be performed and employees will be consulted individually, in order to reduce application bloat. At a later date, investing in virtualization or cloud computing solutions is recommended to further reduce the number of locally installed applications that need to be supported.

Even though Win7 provides improved backward-compatibility with applications designed for XP in comparison with Vista, application compatibility issues are to be expected. The Forrester Consulting poll reports that after other firms performed application remediation procedures, approximately 48 percent of locally installed applications were deemed incompatible.[8] Employees dependent on incompatible applications will be required to operate Win7 in XP mode, and it is hoped the steps undertaken to reduce the number of applications used will reduce the need for remediation.

Finally, IE6 has been the company standard browser since 2004, and unfortunately some of our web-based applications are unable to run on IE8/IE9 or other third-party browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Prior to implementing migration, a team must be assigned to ensure full compatibility with IE8, and partial compatibility with Mozilla and Chrome.

Conclusion

Win7 offers a marked improvement over XP in every facet of our enterprise computing needs, and we must act now and begin preparing for a company-wide migration, in line with actions undertaken by competing firms. Win7 provides the foundation to control the applications our employees use, ensure a stable and secure computing environment, and prepare our PC-based systems for future implementation of cloud computing solutions that will reduce our long-term costs and improve employee productivity. Though there are challenges inherent to migration, our IT department will be prepared to face and overcome these challenges, implementing Win7 in a phased deployment that ensures minimal loss of efficiency. The next step is to work with the accounting department to prepare a budget, and develop a plan for action. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

The IT Department


[1] Paul MacDougall. InformationWeek, “Microsoft Pledges Windows XP Support Through 2014.” Last Modified June 24, 2008. Accessed September 20, 2011. http://www.informationweek.com/news/windows/operatingsystems/208800494.

[2] Microsoft Corporation, “Windows Lifecycle Fact Sheet.” Last modified September 14, 2011. Accessed September 19, 2011. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/products/lifecycle.

[3] In order to conserve space, Windows 7 will be abbreviated as “Win7.”

[4] Dell Corporation. InformationWeek, “Windows 7 Migration Challenges and Best Practices for Large Enterprise and Public Sector.” Last modified September, 2011. Accessed September 20, 2011. http://www.informationweek.com/whitepaper/Windows-Microsoft/Applications/windows-7-migration-challenges-and-best-practices-wp1316208976?articleID=191703440.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Microsoft Corporation, “Windows Azure Platform | Microsoft Cloud Services.” Last modified September 20, 2011. Accessed September 20, 2011. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/.

[7] Daniel P. Dern. IT World, “Windows 7 migration: 8 things that are bound to happen.” Last modified July 26, 2010. Accessed September 20, 2011. http://www.itworld.com/windows/114957/8-things-are-bound-happen-during-a-windows-7-migration.

[8] Dell Corporation. InformationWeek, “Windows 7 Migration Challenges and Best Practices for Large Enterprise and Public Sector.” Last modified September, 2011. Accessed September 20, 2011. http://www.informationweek.com/whitepaper/Windows-Microsoft/Applications/windows-7-migration-challenges-and-best-practices-wp1316208976?articleID=191703440.

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About paulkhillier

I am technical writer with a wealth of experience in education and design. Currently, I am furthering my advanced knowledge by studying Technical Communication at Seneca College in Toronto. Producing effective, readable documents is my passion, and I take pride in producing quality work.

Posted on October 19, 2011, in Technical Communication. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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