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Best Practices for Managing the Move to Vista

December 20, 2007


Windows Vista has been called “a major forklift upgrade.” This article looks at best practices for Vista planning, migration, and ongoing management.
Is your company planning to migrate to Windows Vista? Many organizations say they are waiting until the first Service Pack is released. (SP 1 is currently in beta testing.) Technology and services provider CDW Inc. earlier this year conducted a survey of 761 IT decision-makers, asking if and when they plan to adopt Vista. More than 85% said they expect to adopt Vista, with 20% saying they’ll migrate by the end of this year.

Regardless of when you plan to make the move, it’s important to realize that, to ensure a successful migration, you need to start planning many months ahead of the actual migration. This is, after all, what one technologist has called “a major forklift upgrade.” And consider this advice from researcher Gartner:

“To deploy Windows Vista in 2008, a significant amount of preparation work must be done. Deployments don’t just happen overnight. It will take many organizations about 18 months from the time Windows Vista ships to test applications, get independent software vendors (ISVs) to support applications, build images and run pilots. Organizations that ignore Vista until 2008 will not be ready to deploy it until 2010.”

While previous articles have focused on the need for a Windows Vista migration strategy and on recent security issues pertaining to the new operating system, this article takes a closer look at best practices for Windows Vista planning, migration, and ongoing management.

Initial steps

Performing an operating system migration today has become easier thanks to capabilities contained within the operating systems themselves, such as the Windows Easy Transfer migration tool that comes with Vista. Even so, that doesn’t mean the operating environment provides a complete or integrated solution for migration.

Migration to Windows Vista requires significant pre-migration planning. As IDC researchers observed earlier this year:

“The initial planning should incorporate inventory discovery and assessment for the current environment. This information allows identification of PCs that fall short of the minimum system requirements and creation of a plan for upgrading or securely retiring these systems. Determination of whether migration will be carried out to new or existing hardware identifies whether users’ personality settings need to be captured.”

During the design phase, IDC continues, organizations “should use security tools to ensure an uncompromised migration footprint and should consider the applications and settings required in the base image, creation and testing of a base image suitable for individual corporate needs, performing system and data backups as an insurance policy prior to migration, and capturing users’ personality settings if required.”

Key steps involved in the premigration phase include:
  • Discovery of hardware and software assets in the current environment
  • Assessment of system hardware configurations -- Vista Capable or Vista Premium Ready
  • Assessment of system software compliance
  • Determination of licensing implications
  • Upgrade or retirement of systems that fail to meet minimum requirements
  • Identification of a group of machines to receive the new operating environment
  • Documentation of overall migration plan -- network infrastructure and details, deployment methodology and schedule, forecast bandwidth requirements
  • Capture and storage of PC user personalities (user data, application settings, and Windows configuration settings)
  • Design and creation of a base Vista image
  • Scan of premigration environment for security threats
  • Backup of systems and data as a premigration insurance policy
In this phase of the migration, IDC observes, “IT organizations are best served by taking an automated, process-based approach to determine the number of PCs in the IT environment, determine the hardware and software inventory of those PCs, identify PCs that need to be upgraded or retired, and identify and group PCs that meet the minimum hardware requirements.”

Performing the actual migration

By this phase, IT organizations should already have put into place the following practices:
  • Targeting of Vista-ready machines Prebuilt inventory filters based on the minimum specifications for Vista Capable and Vista Premium Ready systems can save significant time and effort in creating a dynamic group of machines that are Vista ready. When organizations are targeting machines for deployment, IT needs to ensure that the machines as well as the people within the group haven’t changed.
  • Rapid and reliable image distribution Vista images must be distributed in a way that doesn’t cause undue bandwidth constraints on the network but that allows for rapid and reliable automated distribution to the many PCs within the environment. IT organizations can lower costs by distributing the new operating environment using either a unicast or a multicast deployment approach.
  • End-user migration notification and support processes A notification process should be in place to alert end users that the migration is taking place and to advise end users of what to do if they experience any unusual issues following the migration.
  • Project schedule An overall project schedule should exist to ensure that migration activities are happening and that the rollout of the new operating environment is occurring as planned.

Easier than it sounds

While all the steps and processes involved with migration may seem daunting, it really isn’t that difficult. Not when you use a Symantec solution that automates every step of the process listed above. Automatic migration reduces the IT effort, time and overall cost of migration. Gartner estimates that IT will typically spend 4.2 hours deploying a PC manually, but only 1.28 hours using automated tools. Translate that into a cost savings, and Gartner estimates cost of each manual deployment as $298, while automatic is $81 per deployment.

Ongoing management of systems

According to IDC research, “IT organizations that don’t have consistent sets of tools, desktop configurations, and policies aimed at consistent administration of these configurations and tools should move toward post-migration best practices that center on standardized PC management.” That translates into:
  • Having an overall three- to four-year strategy for the desktop, and, as part of this strategy, deploying a standardized desktop that minimizes the number of different hardware and software configurations.
  • Managing these minimized hardware and software configurations from a central console. Additionally, the standardized configuration deployed should minimize an end user’s ability to change that configuration, thereby maintaining overall PC security, reliability, and application compatibility.
  • Proactively addressing PC security with antivirus, antispyware, and patching.
  • Having PC disposal policies and tools for securely wiping data from PCs that are being retired.

Symantec and Vista management

For its part, Symantec addresses these requirements by providing a solution set that addresses each part of a client’s lifecycle. To ensure that a client is truly secure, available, and compliant, it is important to factor in the appropriate processes and people throughout the client’s lifecycle.

This means having control and insight as to what is present in the environment through asset discovery and inventory, designing standard system configurations and application sets to be used throughout the organization, being able to deliver new software applications, configurations changes, and everyday helpdesk-related tasks, identifying missing patches and remediating any vulnerabilities that exist, and finally being able to quickly recover a complete system or its data in the event that a client device is rendered inoperable.

At the end of a client’s lifecycle, it is then necessary to ensure that it is securely retired and disposed of, or in some cases recycled and handed down for use by another department.

Symantec solutions work together to manage Windows systems throughout their lifecycles. Symantec provides solutions for premigration planning, migration, and post-migration ongoing management of Windows systems; a backup and recovery solution to store end-user data and protect complete Windows Vista systems; and a security solution to protect machines from infection before migration and after migration is complete.

For more information on migrating to Windows Vista, click on the links below.

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