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Industry voice: Eight steps to ensure your business is successful with a late-stage OS migration

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As you may be aware, some 20% of organisations have yet to migrate from Windows XP. You might even be one of those firms, and you may have finally come round to realising that upgrading is a necessity.

However, upgrading an entire organisation's computers isn't easy at the best of times, let alone when you've left things late – but fortunately we've got some great advice for you in this article. Here are eight key considerations that any business partaking of a late-stage OS migration should bear in mind.

1. Realise this is something you have to do

Most of the risks of remaining on an unsupported Windows XP system have been widely discussed in the public sphere, as business systems are vulnerable to viruses, malware and hacks. And Microsoft's extension of anti-malware support until July 2015 won't be enough to protect your systems.

XP exploits will likely begin to emerge en masse in the coming months. The millions of computers on which XP is still installed are simply too tempting a target. What's more, on an old OS your business won't have access to the latest apps or software, with all the attendant frustrations and productivity issues this implies.

If you're already coming late to migration you have no choice; you need to do it right now. Don't compound the problem by waiting any longer. With the latest developments on automated systems, OS migration can be undertaken much more quickly than you think.

2. Plan carefully

Plan your migration strategy in advance, clearly setting out your objectives, costs and time goals. What are the risks? Will migration impact users, and how? It might sound obvious, but it's incredible how many companies just make their migration strategy up as they go along, especially those who have never undertaken a large-scale migration before. As a result, timescales and KPIs tend to drift.

As well as making your migration efforts more credible within the business, this form of planning will also be incredibly helpful to you as an IT professional. I guarantee, while doing your research, you'll learn something about the process that probably would have tripped you up later on.

3. Audit and rationalise your application estate up-front

Understand which applications are required and how critical they are; how much are they actually used and what does each application cost the business? Understand if applications can be upgraded or repackaged or if a new, similar application can be found. Make sure you involve users in decisions to keep or 'rationalise-out' certain applications, though.

IT teams can frequently underplay this stage of the migration process and underestimate the time, complexity and overall challenge involved in rationalising apps effectively, and the cost of getting it wrong. It's often best to call in outside help to undertake your application audit, whether in the form of consulting or automated application rationalisation tools.

4. Run basic hygiene tests on your infrastructure

Migration of an OS is no time to discover you have fundamental infrastructure issues, but this is just the way it has played out for many. In fact, an OS rollout can cause companies to take the first good, hard look at their systems for a while. However, finding these faults during the migration can cause the process to be drawn out, adding further expense.

Make sure you perform some basic sanitation issues up-front. Ensure you have applied all the most current updates to all systems. Also, ensure your system management infrastructure has minimal failure points so it doesn't become a bottleneck. It will need to have the capacity to provide deployment services and desktop management in parallel.

5. Automate, automate, automate!

Many companies manually ship disks and USB drives to departments, and/or eat up time with numerous costly desk-side visits in order to upgrade individual computers. This annoys users, disrupts work, and pulls IT staff away from important duties.

Ensuring rollouts occur effectively and efficiently is the quickest way to be seen as an IT hero within your organisation.

Given the technology that is available, aim for 100% 'Zero Touch Windows Migration'. My company 1E, for example, is typically able to achieve 100% Zero-Touch on 90% of a computer estate during a migration, with very limited interaction required on the remaining 10%. OS rollout is almost completely automated across the network with minimal desk-side visits from the IT department.

6. Ensure users are involved and educated

Migration is not about OS, but about people. Your job is to give staff the tools that will allow them to do their job effectively.

Your migration should also be totally non-disruptive. Encourage user buy-in to the upgrade process by letting them schedule when automated upgrades occur, and ensure you are clear about the benefits it will bring and when it needs to be done by.

After migration, consider setting up an app store, or another way of allowing users to request applications and upgrades in a way that lets them feel in control of the process and timing.

7. Learn from the mistakes of others

If you're undertaking an ultra-late-stage migration, one thing is strongly in your favour – the ability to see the mistakes everyone else has made, and avoid them.

Whether there are issues with application mapping or device drivers, you'll see some very common problems out there, often experienced by IT professionals who, perhaps understandably, will never have undertaken a large-scale migration before.

Scour the forums, talk to other IT professionals, and consult with experts. At this point in time the industry will have a broader view of the issues involved. Use this to maximum advantage.

8. Use the time to start thinking about the next migration

If you're migrating from XP, then trust us, your next OS isn't going to survive 13 years like XP did! The rate at which Microsoft releases a new OS is speeding up. Many companies hadn't even got onto Windows 7 or 8 when Windows 9 was announced.

Think about how you can implement more robust, efficient processes for the rollout of operating systems and rationalisation of applications. As before, the best solution is to automate your migration processes as much as possible, putting in place systems that will make your next migration that much smoother.

  • Ambareesh Kulkarni is Vice President of Professional Services at 1E. He has over 22 years of proven ability to establish, manage and run profitable professional services organisations in enterprise software companies.


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