Economy plays a role in decisions around migrating to Microsoft Windows 7

Enterprise IT managers thinking about an upgrade from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7 must consider many factors, including finances.

Microsoft’s release of Windows 7 could drive IT managers to update outdated operating systems and aging hardware, but many considerations must be addressed before undertaking a major software deployment – especially during difficult economic times.

Microsoft’s release of Windows 7 could have many IT managers considering a move from existing installed systems to the newest release, while industry watchers suggest enterprise IT organizations weigh all the pros and cons before taking the plunge.

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“We are in a slow economic recovery right now and businesses are being very careful about where they are putting their money. In some cases, it is not worth it for them to take the time and invest the expense to do an upgrade of the infrastructure,” says Steve Brasen, principal analyst at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).

Migrating myriad desktops to a new operating system is quite the undertaking in itself, but considering Windows Vista didn’t take off in enterprise environments, an upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 represents more than the standard set of management challenges. With patches already coming from Microsoft, enterprise IT managers could plan for an upgrade in 2010, but not without first determining the transition costs, productivity loss and potential compatibility problems, analysts say.

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“For the average business user, there isn’t a huge benefit to moving to Windows 7 at this time,” Brasen explains. “But Microsoft won’t support XP forever and businesses ultimately will be forced to go to Windows 7 so the process should be well planned.”

A survey of 1,100 IT professionals conducted earlier this year suggested that many would postpone an upgrade until budgets and technology seemed more able to handle the project. Dimensional Research, in a survey commissioned by systems management vendor Kace, found in April that 84% of survey respondents had no plans to upgrade existing desktops and laptops next year, and nearly three-quarters were more concerned about upgrading to Windows 7 than staying with an outdated XP operating system. About two-thirds said they were concerned about Windows 7 as an operating system, 88% of those specifically indicated they were worried about software compatibility issues.

More than 60% of respondents noted that such an operating system upgrade would require staff to work evenings and weekends, which could be a challenge considering lean IT departments resulting from the ongoing recession. Economic factors, such as budget freezes and staff reductions, were cited as other reasons to not immediately adopt Windows 7, according to Dimensional Research’s findings.

“We had heard so much positive news around Windows 7 that the results of this survey were surprising. For one, there was a complete lack of excitement among those we surveyed around this operating system,” says Diane Hagglund, senior research analyst at Dimensional Research. “There is a very cautious approach to this release; no one is rushing to embrace the operating system just yet.”

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