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Windows XP D-Day: Is your business ready?

This article was originally published on Technology.Info.
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With support for Windows XP set to finally end in April next year. This means the clock is ticking for those enterprises that are yet to migrate employees still using the legacy operating system. With our reliance on desktops and laptops to get our job done lessening all the time, and as desktop operating systems morph to closer resemble their mobile brethren this is perhaps the last time when there will be a need for a mass migration such as this. This is why getting this migration right is an essential foundation for your IT provision for years to come.

By being prepared, businesses can make the most of this looming deadline and meet the challenges posed by big switchovers. An enterprise desktop migration has two major phases; planning and execution.

Firstly, businesses need to ensure that there is a clear communication of migration progression. A desktop migration project affects users after all, and they need to be aware of the migration and how it will impact their day to day work, and when. It is important when upgrading certain applications, such as Microsoft Office 2003 to Office 2010, that employees are trained in order to reduce productivity loss. Businesses must also consider upgrading 32-bit to 64-bit desktops, as Gartner forecasts that by 2014, more than 75 per cent of PCs deployed will be 64-bit and so by considering 64-bit, businesses are future-proofing their environment.

It is also important to define a migration process for the user. The migration process needs to address the complexities of a full desktop refresh, which can include steps to verify data locations, saving the existing user desktop settings and specify which data will be migrated.

Next, create a detailed and achievable project plan. As the migration will typically touch every employee, they are by nature very visible, and therefore everyone will see delays. However, by creating and managing a plan, businesses are able to avoid delays and hold people accountable to deliver accordingly. The plan should be detailed enough so that delays can be addressed quickly and efficiently.

Organisations need to ensure that they have an efficient, not necessarily expensive, migration team. It is a good idea for businesses to take advantage of the people who do migrations, conversions, packaging and testing for a living. The application-specific knowledge and corporate engineers and architects should be internal, but most of the other team members can be sourced from third parties.

A migration to Windows 7 or beyond won’t work if businesses don’t understand the existing application landscape and how much effort it will take. The level of effort is determined by the number of applications that require migrating, their testing, the timeframe for application remediation, the size of the packing team and what testing is going to be required. As a result, an inventory of all enterprise applications and existing hardware needs to be collected as early as possible.

Finally, businesses need to prioritise core functions and the applications needed to carry these out. By using specialist assessment tools organisations can understand what applications are being used, by which users and how often. For applications used less frequency, organisations need to find out how essential they are to the business, looking into how the business depends on it and its regulatory compliance needs. Then they can sequence them based on priority.

By planning ahead, businesses can ensure a smooth transition with zero disruptions and prepare for any future migrations to avoid any future panic. A phased approach will help focus a business’ migration efforts on the business unit in question, and when using a user centric approach, individual users, groups of users or types of users can be selectively migrated at their own speed.

We’re unlikely to ever witness a mass migration to the scale of what is happening ahead of the end of Windows XP support. The IT landscape is becoming more fragmented by the day as users stop relying on their desktops as before. As the workforce becomes more mobile and employees turning to smartphones and tablets as acceptable work tools capable of sophisticated tasks, an operating system update is unlikely to have an impact similar to this ever again.

This is why, businesses will need to look beyond the desktop and start to take a for holistic, user centric view. This is a great opportunity to incorporate managing users’ mobile devices, tying into the desktop refresh. With the impact of consumerisation and BYOD, and the challenge is to find the right balance for the end-user when looking towards the future.

Do you have a migration challenge, and need help migrating to Windows 7 more quickly and at a lower cost? Then register for IP EXPO 2013 and visit Appsense on stand C64