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Practical Migration: Managing Your Windows 7 Rollout

Our survey shows that IT pros have warmed to Microsoft's latest OS. Now, the trick is selling an upgrade to the business and easing users off XP with minimal heartache.

To say that enterprise IT's acceptance of Windows 7 is on a steady upward trend would be an understatement. Responses to our July 2009 InformationWeek Analytics survey asking about deployment plans contained such vitriol as, "Stop being so greedy" and "Stop abusing your OS monopoly." Our personal favorite: "Be more like Apple."

Today, however, attitudes are much more upbeat. Our February 2010 survey of 699 business technology professionals from companies with more than 500 employees yielded responses like, "Better and more useful than I expected," "It is a vast improvement over Vista," and "It just works, finally."

While the OS still has its share of detractors, a critical mass of comments--and the hard numbers--point to a positive direction in terms of broad-based acceptance. To analyze changes in overall rating, deployment timelines, and migration barriers and drivers, we compared the July 2009 and February 2010 responses of those hailing from companies with more than 500 employees. Then we went on to ask current respondents about testing strategies, the app compatibility outlook, their plans for 64-bit editions, and the nuts and bolts of deployment strategies; we cover these in depth in our full report, at

In terms of the percentage of PCs running various operating systems, Win 7 now accounts for an average of 7% of PC operating systems. Trending data suggests most of that pickup is coming from retired Windows 2000 and XP installations. While a 7% share is not an earth-shattering debut, it's also not a bad showing considering how risk averse we've been over the past year, and how complex and costly OS migrations are. Direct trending data collected in our most recent poll further reinforces our view that enterprises are generally more amenable to Windows 7: 55% of respondents feel comfortable classifying Windows 7 as an "excellent" operating system, compared with just 34% six months ago.

Now the question starts to become: What's the competitive cost over the next 18 months of not moving to Windows 7? From a support staff perspective, already-limited hardware support for XP will continue to dwindle. Newer peripherals won't have XP drivers, forcing you to use older drivers not optimized for performance. The latest versions of vital enterprise applications (antivirus especially) will also likely begin dropping, or offering subpar, support for XP within 18 months.

The existing mix of XP and Vista machines will continue to cause headaches as well, and most organizations are planning their Office 2010 deployments. Do you really want to build three images, for XP, Vista, and Win 7? Or even two, if you skipped Vista?

Business agility may also be affected. For example, organizations moving toward VDI that don't align this effort with a Win 7 upgrade will need to "restart" and begin creating Windows 7 virtual desktops from scratch, wasting time. Movement toward a 64-bit OS will be stalled as well, and you won't be able to adopt Windows Server 2008 R2 features that require Win 7, notably BranchCache, which is a great advance for organizations that haven't invested in WAN optimization appliances. In addition, the slicker, cleaner DirectAccess setup is a godsend for remote users. Not only will it reduce support calls, it makes it easier (and faster) to get into the office remotely. As we discuss in our full report, these and other factors must play into your migration calculations.

chart: How Would You Rate Windows 7?

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