Microsoft have announced extended support for Windows XP will cease in April 2014. For some organisations the thought of migrating to a new desktop operating system is too much and they intend to remain with XP for the foreseeable future. However such a strategy can leave an organisation open to compliance issues with PCI and COBIT.
Migrating doesn't need to be painful, however it does need to be planned. We've outlined our approach to desktop migration to help you plan yours.
The first decision you need to make is which operating system do you want to migrate to? The most popular choice for many organisations is to migrate to Windows 7. Windows 8 doesn't yet seem to have many supporters in large organisations but you should look at both options to see which is most appropriate for your organisation.
Having made the operating system decision the next step is to audit your hardware inventory. This is necessary to ensure all of your hardware meets the minimum specification required by your chosen operating system. Here there are 2 key questions:
- What do I do if some hardware needs replacing?
- How I am going to roll-out the new OS?
For question 1 you could adopt a strategy that replaces any machine that is 3 or more years old. As new machines can be purchased with the OS installed this will reduce the number of additional licenses to be purchased. The second question might be solved by simply replacing the hard drive with one that is preloaded with the new software. The old drives are then recycled and loaded with the new OS. This can be a very quick way of rolling out the upgrade to organisations with a large user base and with minimum user disruption. Alternatively loan machines can be deployed whilst user's machines are rebuilt with the new OS.
The deployment of a new OS also presents an opportunity to validate your software inventory. Is all of your deployed software licensed? Do your users require all of the software currently installed or can some licenses be recovered? Have users installed software that they shouldn't have? It's also a good opportunity to review access rights and remove any administration rights from users that really shouldn't have them.
Not all applications that run under XP will run under Windows 7/8. In particular IE9 may present some compatibility problems with some web sites. Regressing to IE8 may solve some issues. Also if the opportunity is being taken to upgrade your office suite of applications, macros in Excel may need to be rewritten. An extensive test plan is a prerequisite and for this you will need a full software inventory. You will also need a strategy for dealing with applications that are unsupported or will not run at all in your new environment.
It may be possible to upgrade your applications to supported versions and the cost of doing so needs to be factored into the migration budget. Where applications need to be rewritten to enable them to execute, an effective stopgap is to host them in a VDI environment running XP. This will enable the migration to proceed whilst applications are rewritten and tested.
One key decision that needs to be taken is to decide if the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows is to be deployed. The consensus appears to be that 64-bit is preferable given that 32-bit applications operate in the environment under WOW64. However whilst most applications operate without problems the same is not true of drivers and you should be sure that 64-bit drivers are available for your peripheral devices before choosing this route. A more detailed insight into the pros and cons of 32-bit v 64-bit is available here.
The speed of rollout will be determined by the size of your organisation and its geographical spread. You should be aware that during the rollout period users may experience compatibility issues where users on the new OS use features and formats that are not supported by XP. A good step is to enable compatibility mode as default and ensure your users are made aware of compatibility issues as part of the training.
It's not a good idea to keep data on the local drive, but if your organisation does then you will need to take steps to secure the data. Other personal data such as email signatures and browser favourites also need to be saved and restored during the migration.
The amount of training your users will need will mainly depend on your user's computer skills. For the computer literate migrating from XP to Windows 7/8 is mostly getting used to the Office ribbon and where to find things. For those organisations whose users are not so computer savvy extensive training and support, such as floorwalkers, will be required and this should be factored in to your rollout plan.
Having made all the key decisions, completed your testing and executed your strategy for dealing with unsupported / misbehaving applications you will need to develop a rollout schedule. One thing you should be aware of is that the rollout will not go to plan. Users will be unavailable, sickness, training, urgent offsite meetings etc. always crop up and you should expect an amount of rescheduling. Avoid building complex linked rollout schedules. It's best to have a list of users and dates in a spread sheet that can easily be amended. You may also want to consider having a different rollout strategy for senior users and business critical users than for the rest of your organisation.
If you would like help planning your migration then please contact us by phone on 07771 784 246 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our feedback form here.
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