Should businesses upgrade to Vista?

Summary:IT managers need to consider whether Microsoft's new Vista operating system is worth installing — and if it is, when the roll-out should begin.

Better security and integrated search options are the main reasons given by Microsoft for the upgrade to Vista. Of the security features, the most obvious is a new version of Internet Explorer that includes improvements to help prevent successful phishing attacks. It also includes the new Windows Defender anti-spyware tool. Both of these components will be attractive to smaller businesses because such companies are less likely to have purchased dedicated security software to tackle these problems than bigger firms.

Likewise, the new integrated search tool should help users find documents that they or their colleagues have created. Although alternative search tools are freely available on the web, having one integrated into the operating system means one less chore for whoever installs new PCs. Again, because of the probable lack of IT resources, such features are of particular interest to smaller businesses.

Hardware issues
On the other hand, Microsoft says that PCs need at least 15GB of disk space just to install the Vista operating system, which rules out the upgrade for most notebooks and many of the desktop PCs in use today. Early adopters could also face problems getting hold of suitable drivers for peripherals such as network interface cards.

Business users may need to reach a decision on the Windows Aero display mode offered by Vista. This 3D user interface may offer some productivity gains — for example, by providing transparent screen gadgets and attractive 3D animations. But Aero requires a high-specification video card, so it’s unlikely to be an option for most corporate desktop systems, which typically have basic graphics adapters. Users may also feel they need some training before getting to grips with Aero. Fortunately there's an alternative to Aero that doesn't need either sophisticated hardware or user training.

Software compatibility 
Our evaluation of Vista showed that the biggest hurdle to adoption is likely to be software compatibility. Although the Vista kernel is largely unchanged from the XP one, Microsoft has added Kernel Patch Protection (KPP) to the Vista kernel for 64-bit systems. KPP is a significant update, which changes the operating system’s internal workings. Although designed to help improve security, it is likely to be incompatible with some third-party software products, so suppliers are likely to need a long time to test and certify that their offerings are safe to use with Vista. In the meantime, if you upgrade your systems to the new OS, you may no longer receive support for some applications and peripheral devices, even if they appear to work adequately.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Reviews

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