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1/17/2013
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Windows 8 Rollout: One SMB's Story

At McCoy Tree Surgery, a major technology refresh happening now includes Windows 8, Server 2012 and Office 2013. The firm's IT chief shares the upgrade strategy.

Windows 8: 8 Big Benefits For SMBs
Windows 8: 8 Big Benefits For SMBs
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
If timing is everything, then IT pro Mark Kleine seems to possess a sound strategy.

Kleine, the chief technologist for McCoy Tree Surgery, is an early corporate adopter of Windows 8, Microsoft's revamped operating system. He recently kicked off a deployment that includes roughly 25 employees in the home office who will jump straight to Windows 8 from Windows XP boxes. Another 50 or so managers in remote offices -- McCoy operates more than 30 locations across six states -- will upgrade to Windows 8 later this year; most of those users are currently on Vista or Windows 7.

The Windows 8 upgrade is just a single piece of a much larger, deliberately planned tech refresh that also includes Windows Server 2012, Microsoft Office 2013 and other moving parts and pieces. In fact, a primary reason the home-office staff is still using XP is that Kleine wanted to wait and do a single, integrated upgrade across the organization.

"We obviously had the XP deadline, which we didn't want to pass, on the one side, and we had the latest and greatest on the other side," Kleine said in an interview. "We tend to try to match the server and the client software as best we can."

[ Here are a few reasons why some companies are staying with Windows XP. Read 3 More Reasons SMBs Stick With Windows XP. ]

He was comfortable sticking with XP while waiting for Windows 8 and Server 2012 because McCoy's Norman, Okla.-based headquarters is a relatively static environment. The older OS had continued to serve the company's back-office needs well. As a result, Kleine similarly decided to postpone new hardware purchases so he could upgrade PCs, servers and other gear simultaneously. "One refresh, one time" is Kleine's mantra of sorts, and now the strategy is coming to fruition with a broad IT investment.

"We've designed and spec'd machines that include the best of the current technology, virtualization, dual monitors, lots of memory and SSDs that we'll load up with the newest software, and hopefully be ready for the next five-plus years of operation," Kleine said.

The upgrade is also happening just in the nick of time, thanks to a rapidly evolving set of business needs and challenges. Technological changes to how McCoy operates -- Kleine said the company "quickly changed from office-based to mobile-based" -- have recently left it short on digital storage space. Likewise, a recent ERP upgrade necessitated a corresponding back-end refresh to ensure optimal performance.

McCoy's operations span thousands of miles of physical space. The company's 500-strong field crew members cut back trees and other vegetation so they don't interfere with utility lines and similar infrastructure. The 50 managers that oversee those crews comprise a mobile workforce that relies on netbooks, wireless access cards and a variety of productivity tools ranging from the mundane (email) to the not-so-much (specialized mapping readers and a custom real-time Google Earth management reporting system). The firm's legacy back-end was built around Server 2003 and had held up well as IT deployed new systems to meet the growing mobility needs. These included an organization-wide management reporting application, vehicle-mounted computers that report dashboard diagnostics and GPS locations via cellular modem and a paperless office document management system. But the storage infrastructure ultimately couldn't keep up.

"These new applications now require significantly more storage and have consumed our excess capacity," Kleine said, adding that he'd developed a positive pre-release impression of Server 2012 from a storage standpoint. "This software would be able to integrate local, building and cloud-based storage. As a SMB, our problem set includes redundancy and resiliency, and this type of storage would serve us well." McCoy is en route to 100% server virtualization as part of its technology overhaul.

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Smithy01
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Smithy01,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/18/2013 | 10:44:09 PM
re: Windows 8 Rollout: One SMB's Story
As per any new OS install you will often be prompted for many updates and reboots. Part of the process unfortunately, and is no different to Win7. Win8 will update with less reboots required (after the initial batch) so it will be less painful that Win7 rebooting itself overnight without asking you (default setting). Win8 will tell you that it will reboot in 2 days if you don't. The UI: there are many new gestures to learn. You can re-organise the menu including grouping, naming and re-positioning. Admittedly, this works much more easily on a touch screen, but you can still do it with a mouse and keyboard. You can also remove individual executable tiles if you don't want to see them. Just right click on the tile and select Unpin from Start. The charms do take a while to get used to. But here is a tip: when you want to find something, in fact anything, simply press the Windows button on your keyboard to get back to the UI and start typing whatever it is that you want: files, apps, web sites, things within apps (that support the UI search) and you can very quickly get to where you need to go. For example, start typing lance Armstrong from the UI, scroll down in the charm menu to the News App, and click enter. This will fire up the News app and go straight to any news story on lance Armstrong. And then if you use the Charm bar again, you can select share, and any app that can accept sharing requests such as the mail app, and very quickly share to friends. And as far as Win8 goes, do a Google search for the comments on the new UI for XP 11-12 years ago, and they are remarkably similar to the comments today for Win8. How time changes, yet stays the same...
SMB Kevin
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SMB Kevin,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/18/2013 | 3:06:42 PM
re: Windows 8 Rollout: One SMB's Story
@moarsauce123 - I like the idea of a follow-up. Duly noted.

As for user buy-in, not sure I agree. It's one of his key priorities and challenges in the deployment. To that end, he started small with key employees to introduce Win8 into the organization. Per his quote, the reception has generally been positive once people get used to the changes.

Of course, your (or anyone else's) mileage may vary.

-Kevin C.
InformationWeek.com
SkyRanger
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SkyRanger,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/18/2013 | 2:25:37 PM
re: Windows 8 Rollout: One SMB's Story
Moarsuace, thanks for making my point more clearly. The bottom left corner of the "new and improved" UI drove me crazy; I am also noting the difficulty in trying to select the power options popout bar which is performed by mousing to the lower right side of the desktop. I fought with my mouse to SUMMON the option bar like a snake handler coaxing the cobra out of a basket!
~ Another note on the charming UI. 90% of the time when I brought up the default view, I had to right click my mouse to "show all" of the "Fisher Price" icons before I could find the one I needed; clicking, clicking, clicking...
I also agree that W8 was designed for a tablet or phone, where Intel and others are unfortunately are spending the majority of their resources. The desktop is still the work horse of computers and l hope they get back to improving it soon...
~ GAProgrammer, yes I am bashing W8 but I am a huge fan of Microsoft... just very disappointed in the product. I found myself spending too much time trying to make W8 look and feel like W7. It was enough to cure me from even considering another venture.
I am a happy W7 user again. :)
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
1/18/2013 | 12:57:47 PM
re: Windows 8 Rollout: One SMB's Story
Actually, updating Win8 is weird. You request the current updates, get presented with a bunch of them, install, reboot (why?), then ask for current updates again: low and behold, there is another batch that requires install and yet again a reboot. At times I have to do this three times plus an additional check to make sure that all the updates are found and installed.
As for the modern UI, there is no way to organize the tiles in hierarchical levels as it was possible with the old Start menu. Also, by default every executable gets a tile on the modern UI. Ever installed SQL Server on Win8? Management Studio is placed in the modern UI as prominent as the configuration tools that get used maybe once or twice. That makes absolutely no sense. Also, accessing the modern UI from the desktop requires to move the pointer to the lower left corner, waiting for the tile to pop up, and then click. That landing space is not only ridiculously small, that area cannot be used for anything else. So why not just keep a button there, make it more obvious, and thus easier to use? And showing the charm bar in desktop mode always shows the gargantuan clock. Why? And how come that we still need to use the command line for so many things? Win8 does not bring anything beneficial to the table for the desktop user. Quite contrary, it makes desktop users less productive as many common tasks take more clicks and with the removal of buttons and reorganizing of pretty much everything established patterns are replaced by new, but not better patterns. On top of that, the modern UI looks as if a FisherPrice toy barfed all over the monitor.
Win8 may make sense on a tablet, but for a desktop it is indeed an epic fail. Plenty of people told Microsoft exactly that during the various beta phases, yet absolutely none of the input was used. Now Microsoft is wondering why people don't like it. If a company is that ignorant and careless then it should not wonder about their new product doing worse than their previously worse product.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
1/18/2013 | 12:46:06 PM
re: Windows 8 Rollout: One SMB's Story
The article doesn't state anything about end-user buy-in. All these IT dreams go bust if the end-users loathe to use the new stuff. I also suggest to report a follow up in a year to see how productivity developed with Win8. Based on my empirical and subjective studies productivity will go down because Win8 is dysfunctional and unintuitive. In general, the modern UI brings no benefits unless you use a tablet and even then there are already better solutions at lower cost available today.
The article also states nothing about Kleine evaluating alternatives. Was that even done? Or is it yet another business that has the Microsoft blinders on?
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
1/17/2013 | 7:19:39 PM
re: Windows 8 Rollout: One SMB's Story
Hrm, look, another Win8 basher....I am so shocked! /sarcasm off

The new look is not that different for most applications, which is where users are focused 80% of the time.

Updates are a nightmare, really? REALLY? Makes me doubt that you did more than load it up, decide it was bad and turned it off.
SkyRanger
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SkyRanger,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/17/2013 | 6:21:31 PM
re: Windows 8 Rollout: One SMB's Story
I tried Windows 8; it created more steps (clicks) to do the same work as Windows 7.
The new look and layout was cluttered. When I started or opened a program in W8's "slider window", it defaults back to the static W7 desktop view (which made no sense).
You also lose the most wonderful feature of all from every recent Windows version, the "Start" button!
Also, the updates were a nightmare. I saw no business value in W8 over W7. EPIC FAIL!
Clearly a small company strategy driven by a small IT shop.

I am happy to be back on W7 and truly feel sorry for those forced to "UPGRADE".
Good luck...
Verdumont Monte
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Verdumont Monte,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/17/2013 | 5:50:40 PM
re: Windows 8 Rollout: One SMB's Story
Actually, Once you get past first few days, Win 8 is delight to use. But of course there will be a lot of resistance initially, but Win 8 has lot of enterprise friendly features. I have been using the OS for 3+ months now, I have few minor gripes, but overall, it is a winner. Office 2013, On the other hand, unless you have an existing SA agreement with MS, is not worth the upgrade. If you have office 2010, you are better off with that.
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