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Why, when and how to migrate to Windows 8

Businesses should feel no pressure to adopt the new operating system, maybe ever

By , Network World
June 29, 2012 11:05 AM ET

Network World - Windows 8 machines are coming out sometime this fall, but that doesn't mean businesses should shift to panic mode to upgrade their corporate desktops and laptops, experts say.

While the new operating system offers significant new features compared to previous Microsoft upgrades, none is so compelling that it overrides practical business factors, they say.

The platform does have a lot to recommend it, says Nick Govelovich, a systems analyst on the IT enterprise computing team at PolyOne Corp., an international plastics manufacturer based in Avon Lake, Ohio. For example, Windows 8 boots quickly, takes less time to create a PC image than Windows 7 and its Metro touch-based user interface has interesting possibilities for devices used on factory floors or at human resources kiosks, he says.

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But like a lot of other businesses, PolyOne is still in the middle of transitioning from Windows XP to Windows 7, hoping to get that done in time to beat the April 8, 2014, end of support for XP. "The general feeling is we just did all this work to move to Windows 7," he says. "Why would we do it all over again to move to Windows 8 in a year?"

That's a good question, says Gartner analyst Michael Silver. Organizations that go through an OS transition suffer what he calls migration fatigue and don't want to face another one soon, so the answer is to wait.

There are other reasons to hold off as well, he says. Windows 8 will probably be generally released sometime this fall, which means it won't be ready for widespread corporate deployment for 18 months or so, Silver says. That means a realistic start date of early 2014 -- too close to the expiration of XP support. "There's not enough runway there until you run into the deadline," he says. "You need to focus on getting XP out."

Waiting also gives more time for Windows 8 to establish itself as a stable platform and to prove its benefits in real world corporate networks, says Nigel Fortlage, vice president of IT at GHY International, a customs brokerage in Winnipeg, Canada. The company just finished its switch-over to Windows 7 last fall and only undertook the project because of the looming support deadline, not because it had problems with the XP operating system.

While going to Windows 7 caused a spike in help desk calls initially, most of them were about how to use features that were new compared to XP, not because of desktop problems that needed fixing. After about five months, that spike has slacked off and now help desk calls are 80% fewer than they were with XP, he says.

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The goal for him is to have a stable desktop that doesn't require a lot of IT effort to maintain and that users can operate without ongoing education. That's what he has now after migrating to Windows 7, and Windows 8 won't be attractive until it's equally reliable. "I don't want to deal with it for years and years if I can help it," he says.

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