In-Depth

Making the Move to Windows 8

When it comes time to migrate to Windows 8, you'll have many choices. Pick the right one to suit your organization's needs.

Most business moving to Windows are eager to deploy devices that give their employees the convenience of a tablet with the productivity of a PC. Others are developing apps to help improve specific business processes. Nevertheless, there are many different scenarios and many different business purposes for migrating.

Many organizations are also interested in taking advantage of the improvements made to the fundamentals, such as better security and faster performance. Others are looking at how Windows 8 can improve productivity for mobile workers.

While IT decision makers are looking at Windows 8 for different reasons -- from tablets and apps to supporting mobile workers -- all are considering their migration plans. One of the strong points of Windows 8 is its high compatibility with Windows 7. This will ease adoption of Windows 8 devices in Windows 7 environments.

So what's your OS adoption path? That's an important question you should consider as you manage end-user mobility, cloud-based technologies, proliferation of devices and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) scenarios. You'll have to consider your own unique adoption path. One factor is abundantly clear: current technology trends call for more agile OS-adoption approaches. Here are some considerations that will help you determine the best Windows deployment path for your organization, depending on the version of Windows you're using right now.

Windows 7 deployment in progress
If your organization is already in the process of rolling out Windows 7, you should continue to do so. You should also migrate off any instances of Windows XP as soon as possible. That OS is slated for end of support on April 8, 2014.

You can take advantage of the high compatibility between Windows 8 and Windows 7. Identify employees and user groups that can benefit the most from the capabilities of Windows 8, and deploy Windows 8 for those people first. You can even deploy Windows 8 alongside Windows 7 for these users. There are a number of key scenarios where a vast majority of businesses will get immediate benefits from Windows 8 adoption:

  • Exploring the Windows 8 development platform to develop and pilot Windows 8 apps.
  • Using Windows 8 on tablets and other devices to enable mobility and support scenarios where people rely on tablet solutions.
  • Preparing to support Windows 8 BYOD scenarios in the workplace.

Of course, there are other Windows 8 capabilities that can provide companies with other suitable scenarios to start adopting Windows 8 side-by-side with Windows 7, including Windows To Go, DirectAccess, security advancements, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) improvements and so on.

Windows 7 deployment complete
Organizations with Windows 7 fully in place are in the best position to start taking immediate advantage of the benefits of Windows 8. High compatibility between Windows 8 and Windows 7 minimizes the amount of app testing and remediation required.

Most customers' current Windows 7 apps and hardware will work with Windows 8. As a result, it's easier for organizations to focus on evaluating and choosing Windows 8 scenarios that best fit their business needs. Your organization might want to consider evaluating Windows 8 today for a side-by-side adoption with Windows 7 for key business scenarios.

Windows XP and early-stage Windows 7 migrations
If you haven't already, now is the time to begin migrating away from Windows XP. Organizations still running Windows XP in April 2014 face the risk of running unsupported software. Further, most new hardware options probably won't support the Windows XP OS.

Getting your company's applications ready for moving from Windows XP can take a substantial amount of time. Therefore, it's a good idea to start the effort immediately, if you haven't already. To help accelerate the process—and to help you decide on the most relevant deployment path—it's important for you to first gather an inventory of your existing apps. Rationalize your application portfolio so you can focus on testing the subset of apps critical for your business or most important to the highest percentage of users within your organization.

By focusing on testing only critical apps, you can reduce the time needed to test your apps with Windows 7 and Windows 8. Additionally, you should also determine which parts of your organization and which groups of business users will benefit most from specific Windows 8 capabilities. That way, you can also determine which users can stick with Windows 7 for the time being.

You'll need to take an individual approach to your OS migration due to the specific needs of your environment and your business. For some, moving the whole company to Windows 8 will be the best choice. For others, it might be best to first migrate to Windows 7. For some, the best situation might be deploying Windows 8 side-by-side with Windows7 for key scenarios, such as Windows 8 tablets for mobile users and Windows 7 for traditional in-place users. Enabled by a high level of compatibility between Windows 7 and Windows 8, this deployment option gives you the highest level of OS flexibility for your organizational requirements.

Your overall approach will depend on your company's individual situation. You'll need to take into account the size of your company, the number of existing apps currently in use and many other factors. Therefore, it's important that you give yourself sufficient agility in your adoption path by streamlining your app testing. As with any new technology, you should also plan on how you'll educate your employees once your migration begins in earnest and once it's complete.

Again, if you're still running Windows XP, you should focus on an accelerated departure from that OS, with the goal of avoiding running an unsupported OS. Now is a suitable time to move to an environment with Windows 8 deployed side-by-side with Windows 7.

Windows Vista
Organizations using any of the various iterations of Windows Vista should consider developing and piloting new Windows 8 apps today. It's also advisable for organizations based primarily on the Windows Vista OS to begin planning a full migration to Windows 8. While Windows Vista will be fully supported until 2017, Windows 8 will give your organization significant mobility, security and productivity benefits.

These recommendations should help kick-start your Windows 8 planning. In the meantime, please feel free to read more about Windows deployment tools and guidance, as well as the enterprise-grade capabilities and benefits of Windows 8.

About the Author

Stella Chernyak is a senior director of product marketing in the Windows Commercial team, in charge of marketing Windows client solutions to enterprise customers. Chernyak joined the Windows team in 1999, working on the Windows 2000 and Windows XP launch campaigns.

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