RESCUECOM Advises Businesses on Windows Vista Upgrades in Processor.com Article

Processor.com Quotes RESCUECOM in Article Regarding Windows Vista Issues

PROCESSOR.COM
December 7, 2007:


Vista Voyage

Embarking On A Vista Upgrade Requires Patience, Planning, Testing

Not only are wide-scale data center changes not accommodating for the faint of heart, but they're not exactly friendly even to managers of steel resolve. As such, in the year since Microsoft's Windows Vista ( www.microsoft.com) hit the market, uptake into enterprises has been merely a gradual process.

However, as more time passes, small and midsized enterprises are increasingly under the gun to get onboard with the new Windows operating system. Although many users might hesitate to leave the familiar grounds of Windows XP, Vista offers increased security, management, and other features that can benefit organizations. Those benefits will eventually push most enterprises into adoption, which in turn will spark the need for a solid upgrade plan.

Benefits Abound

According to Josh Kaplan, marketing director at RESCUECOM (rescuecom.com), Vista features that would appeal to the SME market fall into three areas: security, management, and user interface. "On the security side, there is a host of new security initiatives, some of which are built-in anti-malware tools, digital content protection, and network access protection," Kaplan says.

Whereas previous Windows operating systems gave most users access to sensitive administrative functions, in turn making those environments susceptible to malware, Vista employs the new User Account Control, or UAC, feature, which monitors potential administrative changes.

"When a user attempts a task that would require administrative access, like installing software, they are prompted to give consent--or, depending on how they have configured UAC, even to enter administrative credentials to perform the task," says Laural Gentry, product manager with CA (ca.com). "Then, access is elevated to complete only the task for which it was given consent."

Also new is BitLocker Drive Encryption, which Gentry explains will safeguard data even if a user's system is lost, stolen, inadequately decommissioned, or accessed by an unauthorized user. The entire Windows volume is encrypted by Vista, and that volume's integrity is checked when the system boots, helping to prevent unauthorized access.

Vista also brings a wide range of manageability enhancements, including several hundred new group policy settings that managers can use to configure desktop environments. "These policies can be used by administrators to further reduce the security threat surface area of the desktop operating system, compared to Windows XP," explains Gary Darbyshire, director of enterprise infrastructure at Avanade (www.avanade.com).

Plan For Action

Considering that Vista's first service pack won't be released until early next year, current Vista users are considered early adopters, even now. The transition to Vista will be easier once SP1 does arrive, but SMEs must still perform thorough evaluations before embarking on the upgrade. According to Darbyshire, this pre-Vista evaluation should entail a five-step process.

The first step is what he calls "application rationalization." Companies must analyze all of their business-critical applications in terms of Vista compatibility (including whether they can be installed and if they're stable) and in terms of compatibility with the Vista security configuration they choose, Darbyshire says. Another step is determining hardware compatibility, which verifies whether existing hardware meets Vista requirements.

"Once this is done, an organization can create a plan to, one, upgrade specific hardware elements or, two, replace the hardware," Darbyshire says. "Avanade suggests an organization look at existing hardware depreciation schedules and plan a hardware refresh and Vista upgrade that is aligned with it for improved desktop life cycle management."

The hardware evaluation phase can be a very time-consuming process, but it must be accomplished to avoid surprises when Vista arrives. "Unless the SME has an automated way to collect information about the existing memory, its configuration in the box, and whether there are slots available for the upgrade, this is a very labor-intensive process," says Chris Tamblyn, CEO of matrix42 (www.matrix42.com).

Also key to the pre-Vista upgrade process is an evaluation of the current support organization. Darbyshire says that Vista implementation is likely to spark an increase in support calls, so enterprises should examine their existing skills, processes, and SLAs (service-level agreements) so they can plan for appropriate Vista support.

The two remaining elements that managers should address, Darbyshire says, are training, in which evaluations are performed to determine how much training is necessary to get users up-to-speed with Vista, and the overall desktop life cycle, a process that aligns with the organization's hardware depreciation cycle and business objectives.

CA's Gentry notes that it's also important to determine well in advance which Vista edition will be used because this can impact a wide range of preparation details.

Deployment Day

When the Vista preparation is complete, the level of difficulty for the actual upgrade depends on whether a company is replacing existing machines or upgrading existing machines. In either case, Kaplan says, user data must be backed up to a network location and then restored to the upgraded machines.

According to Gentry, tools are available that can automate the tedious process of transferring user data and settings to upgraded machines. "If a number of different tools are used, the process decided upon should be integrated and automated as much as possible," Gentry says. "Automation decreases errors and the time it will take to accomplish a successful deployment."

In the case of a larger installation base, creating a proof of concept can help SMEs avoid potential pitfalls when performing the upgrade across the entire organization. Tamblyn says this proof of concept should determine how to distribute the operating system and applications--for instance, if imaging is used, images will need to be created for varied systems. Also included in the proof of concept is a pilot, in which Vista is rolled out to subset systems in a production test, and rollback planning, just in case.

After the actual upgrade, experts recommend communicating heavily with the user base to receive feedback and provide necessary assistance and training. For example, satisfaction surveys can be distributed and compiled to determine areas of weakness that support personnel can focus on to improve user satisfaction.

by Christian Perry

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