Migrate Already! Why You Should Migrate to Windows 7 If You’re Still Waffling
Maybe your organization migrated to Windows Vista. Maybe you're still running Windows XP. Maybe -- like many organizations -- you've got a mix of both, and you're wondering if Windows 7 will be worth your time.
The answer is Yes: It is definitely worth your time. In fact, it's time to stop waffling and get back to the days when we looked forward to a new release of Windows and couldn't wait to start planning its deployment. Windows 7 is here, it's ready, and it's offering you and your users a fantastic computing experience. Here are seven reasons to start moving to Windows 7 right away.
7: Plays Better with Hardware
One huge fear in moving to Windows Vista was based on hardware compatibility -- both in terms of performance and in terms of driver availability. Windows 7 does not reinvent the wheel here. Instead, it uses the same drivers that Windows Vista did -- and because manufacturers have had a number of years to release drivers, almost all modern hardware is supported. Windows 7 is also less demanding on that hardware, so even some older machines that had trouble running Windows Vista may do just fine with Windows 7. In short, the hardware-related arguments that may have kept you on XP and away from Windows Vista don't apply anymore.
6: It's Supported
Don't forget that Windows XP has pretty much moved beyond its support lifecycle. Microsoft has extended long-term support a couple of times, but that operating system's time has come to an end. Microsoft can't continue to maintain Windows XP as a secure, stable, viable platform indefinitely. Windows XP debuted in 2001, and technology has continued its inexorable move forward since that time. It follows that hardware manufacturers are less likely to offer Windows XP drivers, while software developers are focused on taking advantage of new features only available in Windows Vista or Windows 7.
What if you just made the move to Windows Vista? If your purchase included Software Assurance, Windows 7 won't cost you much more, and it's an incremental visual change for users -- meaning they won't feel like you've pulled the rug out from under them. Even if you don't have Software Assurance, upgrade pricing can make it worth your while for the better performance and new features that Windows 7 offers.
5: Includes Windows XP
Sure, Windows XP is gradually going away -- but what if you still have applications that absolutely depend on it? In those cases, it's "Windows 7 XP Mode" to the rescue. Yes, it's really just an embedded copy of Microsoft Virtual PC with a complete copy of Windows XP included -- but that's really amazing. If you need Windows XP you can have it, because Windows 7 comes with it. It's the perfect way to keep those legacy applications running, while helping users transition to Windows 7.
4: Less Annoying
Windows Vista got bad press for its sometimes-overzealous User Account Control (UAC) prompts. Windows 7 continues to use UAC to help protect your system from the abuses of unnecessary administrative privileges, but the new UAC is much less intrusive, much more intelligent, and much more likely to be left on in most organizations. UAC was another "reason" many organizations cited for avoiding Windows Vista, but that argument doesn't hold water with Windows 7. Oh, and for fans of Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" commercials -- the Macs' privilege-protection system is remarkably similar to the Windows 7 UAC.
3: BranchCache and DirectAccess
More and more companies are dealing with geographically distributed users, both in branch offices and home offices, as well as on the road. Many organizations have spent untold dollars connecting these distributed users to centralized IT resources. BranchCache and DirectAccess, two new features supported in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, are designed to make these distributed scenarios easier.
Once set up, DirectAccess provides a fast and easy way for remote users to securely access office IT resources anywhere. It does this without the use of cumbersome Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which typically require specialized support from Internet Service Providers and access points. Ever try to get a VPN going through the airport Wi-Fi? If you have, you'll love DirectAccess. With it, Windows 7 can establish a connection to the office before the user even logs on, providing users with the same computing experience on the road that they have in the office.
BranchCache is designed to provide faster and easier access to centralized resources from within branch offices. It's literally a cache, allowing users in branches to retrieve information once, then caching that information for future access. It's designed to lower wide area network utilization and speed up access to resources, and it works with both HTTP-based content and Server Message Block traffic (used for file and print sharing).
2: More Control
Windows 7 comes jam-packed with all the latest Group Policy improvements, many of which are accessible once you've moved your domain controllers to Windows Server 2008 R2. You'll enjoy more fine-grained and vastly expanded breadth of control, and new options for customizing Group Policy deployment and application. You can use this new control to increase the security in your environment, improve the usability of your computers and more.
Best of all, Windows 7 includes Windows PowerShell 2.0 by default. If you haven't started using Windows PowerShell, do so now. The best new feature in version 2.0 is the ability to sit at your desk and run commands on multiple remote computers in parallel -- a stunningly powerful administrative model that, frankly, is worth the price of admission to Windows 7 all by itself. Sure, Windows PowerShell 2.0 will be available for Windows Vista and even Windows XP, but it's built right into Windows 7. I like to think of Windows 7 as a giant deployment package for Windows PowerShell 2.0.
1: Earn a 'Win!'
Finally, perhaps the best reason to start moving to Windows 7 is to give your users some love. Everyone loves a shiny new OS (and Aero Glass is nothing if not shiny), and in these days of cutbacks and downturns, a new Windows on the desktop can show users that the company is still looking ahead, moving ahead and planning ahead. Users will appreciate having a new "toy," and that appreciation makes the job of every IT staffer just a bit easier.
Don Jones, a co-founder of ConcentratedTech.com, where he writes regular technical content for IT professionals, and is a columnist for TechNet Magazine.