In this article, the last in our series on Windows 7 migration, we look further at the practical steps you'll need to take once you've decided to upgrade and kicked off the process.
More on applications
We've already discussed how to track down software incompatibilities — but what do you do once you've identified those potentially troublesome apps?
In a lot of cases all you'll need is a new driver or, possibly, a patch to make the application work. Easy enough to incorporate into your deployment, perhaps, but there's no guarantee it will work every time. Also, it's not uncommon to discover that the only solution is a chargeable upgrade. If you've decided to go for 64-bit Windows 7 and want to take full advantage of what it has to offer, then the need for an application upgrade is all the more likely.
Migration presents you with the opportunity to bring everyone into line, running the same application versions across the whole organisation. This does add to the up-front costs, but not hugely — check your licensing agreements, as you may be able to upgrade for free or at a discount — and can deliver maintenance and support savings in the long run.
This isn't an uncommon approach. Indeed, in a recent Symantec survey of over 1,300 organisations that had migrated to Windows 7, just over 70 percent had opted to replace incompatible apps rather than expend time and money trying to make them work. Over half had also chosen to deploy XP Mode virtualisation on the desktop to cope with exceptions, while a similar number used the migration to tighten up on authentication and security measures.
The browser question
While on the subject of applications, consider the web browser you're going to deploy. Internet Explorer 8 (IE) is what Microsoft would have you use, but it can't always cope with applications that rely on older, IE6-specific, technologies. Some of these issues can be addressed by activating IE8's 'compatibility mode' (you can arrange to do this by default), but others may be more intractable, so it's important to include web apps fairly early on in your application testing schedule.
One way around this issue is to allow users to run IE6 in XP Mode alongside IE8 on the desktop. However, IE6 is nearly a decade old and can't be patched to take advantage of the latest fast-moving web technologies, so XP Mode deployment should only be used as a last resort. IE9 isn't that far off either, plus there are other browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, that you might want to consider including in your desktop rollout, either instead of or alongside the Microsoft product.
Another small issue is the absence of a number applications that were bundled with previous versions of Windows (including both XP and Vista) but dropped from the Windows 7 release. These include Windows Mail, Messenger and Address Book, plus Photo Gallery and Movie Maker.
Many users can get by without these apps and may not even notice they've gone — indeed, their absence may be a blessing in disguise. If necessary, you can get them back by installing Windows Live Essentials: latest Live Essentials 2011 release not only lets you add these missing applications, but also includes Silverlight and Outlook connectors for Hotmail and social networking sites.
If you want users to have the apps you should...