Why now is as good a time as any to upgrade to Windows 7

Windows 7 branded mug of teaYou may be wondering why you would bother upgrading your existing Windows XP and Vista machines to Windows 7, when Windows 8 has just been released.

Whether you are a home user or a large company there are great benefits to be  had from upgrading and using your new Windows 7 PC as a stepping stone to Microsoft’s latest and greatest.

Windows XP recently celebrated its 10th birthday, a major achievement for it to keep such a stronghold but also a major issue when it  becomes time to change to something new. The are always scare stories when Microsoft releases a new OS. The fact of the matter is, change often creates such fear-mongering when really its an opportunity waiting to be taken advantage of.

Businesses stayed away from Windows 7 for 2 major reasons

  1. Windows Vista had a terrible launch, fraught with bad reviews and needing an extra expense of upgrading hardware
  2. Due to people sticking with XP, business software wasn’t upgraded and smaller bespoke software would cost a fortune to redevelop for a new OS

Nowadays, this isn’t as much of an issue. Windows 7 runs easily on hardware  over 4 years old and really flies on the latest kit. All major applications have been updated or can be delivered via modern methods like application virtualisation or by using tools like Microsoft’s free application compatibility toolkit or XP Mode. OS deployment technologies have moved on too, meaning you can upgrade people from XP to 7 in a couple of hours.

Don’t leave the users behind

The only issue left is the best way to retrain your users so they don’t feel stumped when they come across the new user interface. This part may need to be handled with a little more tact as no SysAdmin or IT manager wants the ire of 100 users not knowing how to add a printer! Certainly, they should see instant speed benefits if they’ve been using 32-bit XP on 64-bit hardware but using the OS to is full potential is not something they are likely to pick up on after years of working in their comfort zone.

From my own experience I’ve found a short 20 minute demo of new features is all that is needed to get your users going. After using the OS for a couple of days there will be no stopping them. Some tips I’d give is to start off with the improvements to the start menu and taskbar, as well as all the new ‘Aero’ window management features. Some are a bit gimmicky, like Aero Flip (press WIN+TAB) but they give that wow factor that can make exploring a new OS fun. You can also reassure them that Windows has stayed really customisable and, while they should try and embrace the change, they can easily make it “look like XP” if they really want to. If you are going for a major company upgrade of many users you may want to stage the deployment to get the key players on board. Create a bit of buzz around the office by putting up posters or giving little prizes to people who turn up for your training sessions.

Windows 8

Now Windows 8 is available you may think that even contemplating Windows 7 as an upgrade path is an unnecessary step. However, I’d argue that it provides a great base to modernise your workforce, at low cost, on their existing hardware. You get to deploy a secure, well established OS with wide-ranging support from software and hardware manufacturers. Many newer PCs and laptops may even have the Windows 7 OEM license attached to them waiting to be used!

Windows 8 has a lot of potential to become the mainstream OS for business and consumers alike. Especially as more touch-friendly devices are appearing. I didn’t have an issue using it with just a mouse and keyboard but personally, I wouldn’t want to push it on to end-users without some compelling hardware to help sweeten the deal. The best part of this approach is that virtually all applications or devices that you are using with Windows 7 are supported by Windows 8

We see a future with a heterogeneous environment of Windows 8 devices and apps running alongside Windows 7 PCs and applications. So, customers can move forward with their Windows 7 roll-outs more confidently and with more motivation than ever. And not only will Windows 7 hardware be compatible with Windows 8, so will software investment. There is no doubt that the best way to get to the future is to embrace the present. – Tami Reller: Worldwide Partner Conference 2011

Microsoft know that Windows 8 won’t be the “office norm”, in fact I suspect Windows 9 will likely be a more fitting OS for businesses, just like how they tweaked the mash of ideas in Vista into the much more refined Windows 7. As 7 & 8 play so nicely together, you can happily introduce Windows 8 slowly into your environment when and where it makes sense (i.e. tablets/hybrids for sales people).  Staying on Windows XP will only make things more difficult for your company when software stops getting supported (XP support ends in April 2014). I’m sure most SysAdmins have wept in trying to support ageing/obsolete  programs without anyone to call for help. I.T. is constantly changing and your business should be factoring this in to your IT policies, not just with hardware but software too. Use Windows 7 as a fresh start into a modern ‘heterogeneous’ IT lifecycle

The bottom line of what I’m trying to say is XP MUST DIE! We killed IE6 now it’s XP’s turn.

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