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Network World - Enterprise IT organizations eager to upgrade aging Windows XP and Vista systems to Microsoft's just released Windows 7 could make the process a whole lot smoother by investigating a handful of management technologies and processes aimed at greasing the skids of such a major software update.
"At some point, Windows users will need to transition over to Windows 7 because XP will no longer be supported and Vista just didn't take off in terms of adoption," says Steve Brasen, principal analyst at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA). "The ability to manage and automate the processes around upgrading to Windows 7 will be critical for midsize and enterprise organizations."
Here industry watchers share seven essential steps enterprise IT managers must take when considering a move to Microsoft's Win 7.
1. Test desktop durability.
According to data from Forrester Research, even two-and-a-half years after the general availability of Windows Vista, Windows XP still runs 86% of all enterprise PCs powered by Windows. The research also shows that those considering an upgrade won't be able to take a direct path from XP to Windows 7 -- which represents a few challenges. For one, hardware could be lacking the necessary drivers, memory and other components.
"Migrating XP to Win 7 will challenge many IT administrators because you can't upgrade directly. Some are suggesting companies buy all new hardware or perform a complete refresh of the computer," explains Katherine Wattwood, vice president of product development for Persystent Software.
Persystent Suite offers customers features that test existing PCs for hard disk space and other components required in Win 7. The software can help IT managers determine which PCs could handle the updated operating systems and which would need to be swapped out or updated themselves.
"Pre-migration planning and hardware compatibility testing would be critical to determine which PCs are Win 7-ready," Wattwood says.
2. Plan for licensing.
Unlike previous Windows operating systems, such as XP, Win 7 offers several editions, or options, enterprise IT departments must consider when planning to migrate to the latest software. Industry analysts say three should be considered by IT managers.
First, Windows 7 Professional -- comparable to Vista Business -- could be the least expensive option, according to Forrester Research, which points out this edition is available via OEM, retail or volume licensing. Windows 7 Enterprise is the edition the companies have the right to deploy if they own a Windows license covered with Microsoft Software Assurance, the vendor's software maintenance program offered as an option with volume licensing. This enterprise version offers additional features that global organizations might find useful, such as DirectAccess, which gives mobile users access to corporate accounts without a VPN or BranchCache, a feature Microsoft says decreases the time users at remote offices spend waiting to download files across the network. Windows 7 Ultimate, Forrester says, could be considered as more of a consumer option and isn't sold via volume licensing -- but could be put to use as a media PC in a corporate environment.