OPINION: Windows XP - the longest goodbye

Terry Chapman, architect at Microsoft NZ, discusses how and what Kiwi businesses can move to from Windows XP in the first article of a series.

Chances are that you may have heard that April 2014 marks the retirement party for our long-toothed operating system friend Microsoft Windows XP. She has served us well over the years and for most organisations, a 13 year return on investment on a software product is not something to be scoffed at.

Love it or hate it, XP is still undeniably one the most successful desktop operating systems ever released - 400 million users in its heyday can't be wrong.

The worry of potential zero day exploits and limited supportability when Windows XP reaches end of support in April 2014 is waking you up at night in a cold sweat and has finally sparked your organisation to start that long overdue Windows migration project; now what?

Most customers that we talk to, that haven’t already moved to Windows 7 or Windows 8, are in one of two positions – they have an existing Windows deployment project that is just taking too long, or they are thinking about how to get underway. We will look at both of these situations by starting with how to set up a successful Windows deployment project. If your organisation is already underway, think of these articles as a health check and potential accelerator for your own project.

The first question that Microsoft is always asked is ‘Should I deploy Windows 7 or move straight to Windows 8 (or now, Windows 8.1)?’ The answer, like any good consultant will tell you, is ‘It depends'

If you are at the start of your migration journey then there are a number of really compelling reasons to move straight to Windows 8.1 (user experience, mobility enhancements, boot up and login speed, saving yourself the repeat effort to move from Windows 7 to 8.1, to name but a few).

If your organisation is already part way through deploying Windows 7 then you need to decide whether the shift to Windows 8.1 will impact your project momentum of finishing the bulk of your migration before XP end of support. For these organisations, the change mid-project can slow down the deployment while design, build and infrastructure dependency changes between the operating system versions are accommodated.

Our guidance in this latter situation is to continue on with the current Windows 7 deployment and start planning for Windows 8.1, targeting key usage scenarios that would benefit most from the change.

So what does the Microsoft recommended approach to deploying Windows look like? Microsoft Consulting Services deploys client operating systems through a standardised approach that has been refined over time with many customer deployments across the globe.

There are five main streams of work that you should undertake 1. Workforce analysis and design 2. Application strategy and remediation 3. Image creation 4. User experience personalisation, and 5. Infrastructure preparation.

We will cover each of these deployment streams in more detail, including some areas which are commonly problematic, over the coming couple of weeks.

Next week; migrating off Windows XP – balancing doing it right vs. doing it ‘right now’.

Terry Chapman works for Microsoft New Zealand as an Architect in the Microsoft Consulting Services practice. Over the coming weeks Terry will cover some of the most common questions and challenges that Microsoft comes across while talking to NZ organisations about moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1.

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