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5 tips for a smooth Windows 7 migration

Microsoft Windows 7 upgrades require extensive planning

By , Network World
September 27, 2010 07:08 AM ET

Network World - The move to Microsoft's Windows 7 will be one of the biggest technology migrations in years, so it's important to get it right.

"This is a once-in-a-decade movement," IDC analyst Al Gillen says. "People that move to Windows 7 can expect to be on Windows 7 for a pretty long life cycle, much like we have with XP today. So whatever you do, and whatever decisions you make are decisions you're going to have to live with for a long time."

11 tools for Windows 7 migrations

But many organizations face problems because of insufficient planning. According to a Gartner report, most organizations undergoing Windows migrations "underestimate how long it will take them to [test applications and fix problems]; don't build a business case or properly track the benefits of their projects; [and] allocate insufficient time for their pilot."

There are probably too many Windows 7 migration issues to list in a single article. But here are five tips to help you on the path to Microsoft's latest operating system.

1. Virtualize applications and user settings

Desktop virtualization commands much of the attention in the IT market today, with some vendors saying the technology will ease migration to Windows 7. But this isn't the only type of virtualization that can make Windows 7 upgrades and future OS migrations easier than they might otherwise be.

Two technologies to consider are application virtualization and user virtualization. Nik Gibson, the enterprise desktop practice leader at Forsythe, a technology consulting firm, has worked with many large enterprises on virtualization projects, and says it's often easier to virtualize applications than desktops. "We see that a lot. It takes longer to virtualize the desktops than the applications," he says. "The desktops are more unique," with various use cases depending on the employee.

Gibson says "virtualize your applications" is the first tip he would give to customers planning a large Windows 7 migration. "And that just makes sense," he says. "If you can decouple your applications from the base operating system, it's going to be easier to migrate that operating system."

Application virtualization will not only aid the current move to Windows 7, it will also make future upgrades to Windows 8 easier too, IDC's Gillen says.

Application virtualization isn't exactly new, but has undergone a bit of a marketing makeover in the past few years. What Citrix used to call its Presentation Server product for application streaming is now referred to as XenApp and labeled a "virtualization" technology. VMware's ThinApp, based on technology acquired in 2008, is another option in this market.

But application virtualization won't help move each user's personal data and settings from one OS to another to another. That's where user virtualization comes in. Software such as VMware's RTO and AppSense's user virtualization product will take a user's profile, data files and settings, and move them easily from one machine to another, for example from a Windows XP computer to one with Windows 7, Gibson says.

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