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Straight To Windows 8? 7 Tips For SMBs

Should small and midsize businesses still running XP skip Windows 7? Here's an expert's take on what to consider in your upgrade plan.

5. Develop IT policies for Windows 8 now. If you've resisted consumerization and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) paradigm, you'll need to get a head start on writing your Windows 8 policies. "Windows 8 is highly consumer-targeted," Suzuki said. "Microsoft is very squarely going after iPad users and those use cases." If Microsoft's big bet works, IT will have to contend with a new wave of personal Windows devices inside the corporate perimeter that simply didn't exist in the past.

6. How's your hardware? Score this one in the Wait-For-8 column: "If you're still running XP, you're probably running really old hardware," Suzuki said. "Why not just upgrade to the latest, latest thing that's going to be compatible with the latest operating system, and you'll be set for a while?"

If only it were that simple. While Suzuki sounds reasonably confident about Windows 8 out of the gate, he's not so sure about the hardware and applications. "The first wave of hardware that's going to come out with the first release [of Windows 8] is going to have problems," Suzuki said. Traditional desktops and laptops should be relatively safe, but the new menu of touch PCs and devices, and the applications built specifically for them, will need time to work out the kinks. "They will invariably have some maturing to do."

7. The XP doomsday myth. Hardware concerns don't need to be a major hang-up for XP shops: Suzuki notes that by the time XP support ends in 2014, the Windows 8 hardware-and-software ecosystem will in its second or even third generation. Moreover, in spite of Microsoft's recent comments and the conventional wisdom that running an unsupported OS is a dangerous game, there's no real rush to leave XP behind if it's still working well for you. (Aging hardware might be another story.) Count this one in the Windows 8 column, too--if you're inclined to skip Windows 7, you don't need to jump to Windows 8 the week it comes out. If you can reasonably support XP for another 18 or even 24 months, Suzuki thinks skipping Windows 7 is "the right thing to do."

The end-of-Microsoft-support concern isn't a complete myth, but Suzuki doesn't see it as apocalyptic. He acknowledges there are risks in running past Microsoft's cutoff date, but he thinks they can be mitigated with strong security and other practices. He also points out that some organizations take a hybrid approach, moving certain user groups to Windows 7 while keeping others on XP--and later moving them directly to Windows 8. Your sales team or other mobile divisions could be good candidates for the latter approach, for example.

"Stay on Windows XP until you're good and ready, and make an informed decision," Suzuki said. "There's not necessarily a reason to go through the extra hoop-jumping to deploy Windows 7 [first]."

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