Opinion: Take another look at Vista

Rarely does a week go by that there isn't at least one story in the media about the supposed shortcomings of Windows Vista or how companies are scorning it because of incompatibilities or a perceived lack of business value. Reading this coverage, you might get the impression that Windows Vista's predicament is unique among the various versions of Windows. A decade spent helping customers assess the savings and business value of a Windows upgrade tells me otherwise.

When Windows 2000 was released, people complained about compatibility and performance issues and said they preferred Windows 98. When Windows XP came out, people complained about complex hardware requirements. They said they didn't need to upgrade because Windows 2000 was sufficient for their needs. When I spoke at a launch-day session about the benefits of Windows XP SP2, customers complained about high-compatibility restrictions and complicated features. Sound familiar?

And yet, looking back on the reputation of Windows Vista's predecessors, you find that, while there was some challenge accompanying the transition to each one, in time every one of these operating systems proved to be a solid investment. Now, people are griping about the same things in Vista. My experiences as a user of Windows and as an adviser to my customers have taught me not to be surprised about this response, but it has also convinced me that, regardless of what you read or hear, companies need to take a closer look at Windows Vista before writing it off.

It's part of my job to work with vendors and customers to approach a decision as pragmatically and strategically as possible. If there's still doubt about the value of Windows Vista, consider the following: It has required fewer security updates than Windows XP in its first year of availability -- nine updates vs. XP's 26. And the success of Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool suggests that Windows Vista is 60% less likely to be infected by malicious software than XP SP2. From a purely anecdotal perspective, there's no question that features such as BitLocker Drive Encryption provide a pronounced improvement in the security of corporate data on a notebook. And although some people may resent it, the User Account Control can seriously curtail the frequency of malware on a company desktop.

One of my government customers recently began deploying Windows Vista, and one of the challenges he faced was that many of the users on the network simply didn't understand how to use their computers safely, which sometimes resulted in a malware infection. Deploying different vendor security products only led to costly and inconsistent measures that were difficult to upgrade. With the upgrade to Windows Vista, he is getting a much safer experience out-of-the-box without requiring additional security products. As a result, the customer expects a 30% decrease in security-related calls to the help desk.

Other benefits, such as the energy-savings feature in Windows Vista, are providing substantial savings, but for many companies the No. 1 obstacle may remain deployment of the operating system. Admittedly, there are challenges with deploying Windows Vista, just as there are with any software product. But one thing is for sure: Windows Vista deployment is not as difficult as you might surmise from all the lurid headlines.

There are numerous tools and resources that can make the job easier. To those customers concerned with high-hardware costs, I suggest the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit. If they're worried about application compatibility, they might consider the Application Compatibility Toolkit and Microsoft Application Virtualization. If the cost of deployment is top of mind, then the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit should help allay those concerns. And finally, if there are any doubts about the business value that Windows Vista will deliver, I suggest using the Windows Vista Business Value Assessment tool, which generates before-and-after business values.

In my experience, many customers have serious misperceptions about Windows Vista. We've had to clear up those misperceptions by running compatibility lab tests to reassure them, and through careful planning before starting deployments.

Generally speaking, there's a lot of fear and angst over deploying an operating system, and this seems to be especially the case with Windows Vista. As someone who has worked on several versions of Windows, I implore customers to take a fresh look at Windows Vista and take advantage of the freely available deployment tools to expedite and ease their implementation. Despite what some folks might say, businesses of all sizes can expect significant business value from deploying Windows Vista.

David Feng is technical director at Systex Corp., the largest IT services company in Taiwan. Contact him at davidfeng@systex.com.tw.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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