Friday, June 25, 2010

When and How to Upgrade to Windows 7

It has taken Microsoft 9 years, but a good, stable, usable replacement to Windows XP is finally here.

Should you upgrade from Windows XP (or Vista if you went that route) to Windows 7? Actually, Microsoft has already made that decision for you. Sometime within the next two years, Microsoft will End of Life (EOL) Windows XP. That means they won’t be issuing any more fixes, technical support and most importantly, security patches. It also means that the vendors of the applications that you use to run your business will also be ending support for their Windows XP versions. New features, fixes and technical support will no longer be available.

The Gartner Group and other industry analysts are recommending that you plan to be off of Windows XP by the end of 2012.

There are a few different approaches you can take to make the switch.

Option 1 – Buy all new PCs with Windows 7 pre-installed. You’ll be off of XP on 7 and you’ll have all new hardware to boot. It’s a good approach. The downside is that you’ll have to buy all your new hardware which can be expensive. Using a leasing company will enable you to finance the purchase over 2, 3 or 5 years.

Option 2 – Replace your old PCs, upgrade your newer ones. Chances are some of the PCs that you’re purchased in the past few years will run Windows 7 just fine. If that’s the case, the best approach is to buy new PCs with Windows 7 pre-installed to replace the older ones as they need to be retired (a good guideline is to retire your desktop PC after 4 or 5 years). Once all the older ones are replaced, purchase upgrade licenses for the remainder and upgrade them in place. This will take a bit longer than the first approach but it will cost less.

Which ever approach you take, you’ll need to be completely on Windows 7 by the end of 2012. That give you 2 and 1/2 years to make it happen. Figure out which approach you’re taking and spread the upgrade out into 5 sections of 6 months each. Every 6 months replace or upgrade the next 20% of your desktops. Don’t wait until late next year to get started or you’ll be looking at a large upgrade all at once.

And, whatever you do, don’t just expect Windows 7 to work perfectly right out of the box. Test all your applications first. More on that next month.