How to simplify Windows 7 migration

There is no doubt Windows 7 is turning the heads of many companies. In fact, more than 19% percent of the global IT workforce is expected to be using Windows 7 by the end of 2010.

Why the quick uptake? Many organizations have aging machines that need refreshing, while others see the end of mainstream XP support on the horizon, and still others are being swayed by the promise of improved mobility, security, networking and search capabilities.

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Any operating system upgrade can be disruptive. It takes time and careful planning, and it can deplete IT resources and drain employee productivity if not done correctly. But it doesn't have to, especially if you are armed with the right set of tools.Smart organizations are recognizing that a trifecta of technologies -- asset management, configuration management and application virtualization -- can ensure a successful Windows 7 migration.

The first key step is to figure out how much change the upgrade will entail. That's where an asset management solution comes into play. It gives you a clear picture of your Windows 7 readiness.

Do your PCs have enough horse power? Enough RAM? Will your applications be Windows 7 compatible?

Besides helping you identify key migration targets for Windows 7, if you're looking to refresh aging PCs, an asset management tool can help keep track of hardware contracts. This makes it easy for you to plan and prepare for hardware refreshes as part of leases that are becoming due.

With that nailed down, consider a centralized configuration management tool. These can simplify the process of creating a Windows 7 operating environment and distributing that to your target PCs. By utilizing the automated tools, policies and processes with configuration management, organizations can reduce administration time and save up to 50% of the cost of a typical Windows 7 migration.

There are a number of ways that configuration management solutions can help simplify a Windows 7 migration. For instance, with personality migration capabilities, you can extract your user's Windows XP DNA (e.g., application settings, bookmarks) and apply them to new Windows 7 devices so your users don't lose productivity.

In addition, today's solutions not only let you create and automatically deploy Windows 7 images to your target, but they also ensure that all the correct hardware drivers and applications specific to the user are automatically installed, further lowering the cost of migration. Finally, today's tools allow enterprises to schedule migrations during times that won't disrupt the business. By leveraging power management capabilities like wake-on-LAN, you can wake up devices, back up data and migrate them to Windows 7 overnight.

Once you've completed your migration, managing and optimizing your Windows 7 environment is paramount. One of the benefits of centralized configuration management is you can now manage the life cycle of your Windows 7 devices alongside your other Windows, Mac and Linux devices, thereby reducing the cost of running daily IT tasks.

In addition, to optimize the Windows 7 experience, companies can leverage application virtualization to help users drive even more productivity. This technology turns your Windows, Java and .NET applications into self-contained applications and keeps them running in isolation, eliminating application, OS and registry conflicts and reduces user downtime.

For instance, with application virtualization, you can run otherwise incompatible applications side-by-side, such as Internet Explorer 6 (that may be required for some of your key business applications) next to Internet Explorer 8 (so you can get the latest browsing experience), because each will be running in its own bubble.

In addition, application virtualization can dramatically lower the cost of testing and deploying new applications because virtual applications aren't installed -- they simply run like a Windows executable. Finally, you can run virtual applications directly from a USB stick (or other removable storage device) and take them with you as needed, thereby providing more flexibility especially for your growing mobile workforce. And by leveraging the configuration management solution you have in place, you can automatically and seamlessly roll out virtualized applications to your Windows 7 machines, getting them moved over quickly and with minimal business impact.

Windows 7 is going to continue to be a key driver in the industry. But for any organization to migrate successfully, it needs d to have the right parts in place.

By arming your organization with the powerful trifecta of asset management, configuration management and application virtualization technologies, you can ensure your organization's move to Windows 7 will be a success.

Ho is director of marketing at Novell. He leads marketing for Novell's End-User Computing solutions, where his responsibilities include strategic planning for the ZENworks family of products, including competitive messaging, public and analyst relations, demand generation, sales enablement, and joint go-to-market development with Novell's partners.

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This story, "How to simplify Windows 7 migration" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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