Those organizations willing to take a temporary hall pass on Windows 7 or Windows 8 to avoid the pain and complexity of an enterprise migration need to take note. With Microsoft's April 2014 deadline for ending Windows XP support fast approaching, IT shops need to get serious about orchestrating a well-crafted Windows migration strategy, paving the way to numerous user productivity and security enhancements.
An effective migration strategy can actually save companies big bucks. According to a report from International Data Corp., companies outlay $870 in annual installation costs for Windows XP per PC compared to $168 for a Windows 7 system. Moreover, the IT labor costs associated with managing an older Windows XP system can skyrocket to $766 per PC annually.¹ In a large enterprise, that's a significant savings that can be redeployed to other, business-critical IT projects.
Despite the obvious financial and productivity upsides, too many companies put off a Windows migration because it's intimidating and because a large-scale migration project has the potential to disrupt end-user productivity and cast a black-eye on IT. Symantec, with more than a decade of experience migrating more than 300 million desktops and laptops to the family of Windows operating systems, can simplify a seemingly difficult OS migration via a combination of technology and operational best practices. Symantec can also help companies leverage the migration to create fresh opportunities for a better managed IT environment, including the implementation of standard configurations and structured change management policies.
Symantec's best practice plan for a successful Windows migration encompasses four very distinct phases:
Assess. This initial stage is all about discovery, collecting real information about the hardware, software applications, and network to determine what might impact the project, what resources are necessary along with potential migration pain points. A hardware and software readiness assessment is critical to this stage to determine if machines are capable of running Windows 7 or Windows 8 or if they need to be replaced. It's also important to know what applications users are running and what data is critical to the business.
Communication is an essential part of the assessment phase to address user and executive concerns about a Windows upgrade. Users will be worried about losing their personal settings like bitmaps images of their kids or printer drivers, among other things. The C-level suite will be leery of productivity downtime and the costs associated with the upgrade. It's incumbent on IT to address their concerns through education and constant communications; that way, if something has to change, they are informed ahead of time, minimizing the impact.
Prepare and plan. This stage runs the gamut from getting a migration team fully ready for the hands-on work of creating standard hardware-independent images, migrating applications, capturing user settings and personality, and preserving data on the machines. (See Migration Deployment Tips sidebar) Once again, a well-thought communication plan is central to this phase, especially as it relates to setting clearly-defined and achievable goals and limiting the scope of the project to a Windows migration. The migration can also be a springboard for companies to pursue other efficiencies like consolidating software licenses and standardizing the environment.
Ready to migrate. There are generally three approaches to migration and companies need to determine which is best based on resources, time, cost, and other factors. Mass migration moves everyone at once to a common standard, which is quick and highly manageable, but costly. Batch migration calls for a small set of standard configurations to be maintained, and different groups are migrated in an iterative fashion, while a gradual approach ties migration to a hardware refresh schedule. Symantec recommends companies employ a mix of batch and gradual migration techniques.
From there, IT shops should conduct a risk-free migration to ensure fail safes are in place so users can remain productive during the change over along with performing pilot migrations to prove out their processes. Once everything is set, the migration goes into full swing with automation tools helping to capture personality settings, install the prepared applications, deploy the image, and restore personality settings.
Post-Migration Management. In the final phase, IT shops should measure and report on migration success, including identifying the total number of migrated systems, reporting on any problems encountered, collecting real-time usage data from on-demand applications, and addressing missing patches and license verification.
Symantec has a number of technology solutions that can facilitate and simplify the migration process. Altiris Deployment Solution 7.1 delivers end-to-end migration support, providing tools for zero-touch OS migrations and helping to reduce the costs associated with a major operating system transition. Built into the platform is the Symantec Ghost technology, which lets IT shops deploy hardware-independent images of a reference system to new and existing systems. In addition, Altiris Deployment Solution increases IT efficiency via the creation of automated, repeatable deployment tasks for functions like imaging, configurations, PC personality migration, software deployment, and scripted OS installations.
The Altiris Client Management Suite, which includes Deployment Solution, kicks things up a notch. In addition to the core functionality, it has features for pre- and post-migration reporting, software and hardware inventory, application usage, and policy-based software delivery. The software, designed to deliver heterogeneous PC lifecycle management, simplifies ongoing software maintenance by combining software packaging, software delivery, application virtualization, patch management, and application usage.
Symantec also maintains relationships with third-party providers for additional tools to ease the software migration process. For example, Arellia Application Control Solution helps analyze whether applications will run natively in the new OS environment, along with providing remediation capabilities. In addition, Application Control Solution can help address the complications related to eliminating user administration rights during an upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8. When administration rights are removed, users lose the ability to install drivers for things like printers, scanners, and other removable devices and general system management capabilities are greatly limited. However, Arellia allows for granular permissions to be granted to regular users, permitting the installation of approved drivers and some system functions, thus easing the management burden.
With the window for Windows XP support drawing to a close, companies have to get serious about OS migration. For a deep dive on migration best practices and a look at how Symantec technologies can take the sting out of enterprise OS transitions, tune into this webcast, "Don't eXPire: Simplify Your Windows Migration
Symantec's team of experts has 14-plus years of experience migrating over 300 million desktops. Here are three deployment tips for ensuring a successful migration:
- When creating hardware-independent images, include applications required for all computers in the base image while establishing setting and configurations standardized for multiple users. With Symantec technology, individual configurations and device drivers can be added via post image injections, which is a simpler process, demanding less image updates.
- When migrating applications, identify support status for Windows 7 or Windows 8 along with any compatibility challenges, repackaging or virtualization needs, and custom install requirements. The Arellia Application Control Solution third-party solution will automatically analyze applications to determine whether they will run natively as well as remediate applications.
- Make images of end user data and personality files and save them to a "safe" file folder. Symantec's in-place file preservation technology will restore the personality image to the new operating system.
¹ IDC Mitigating Risk: Why Sticking With Windows XP is a Bad Idea, Al Gillen, Nancy Selig, Randy Perry, May 2012