Time to dump Windows XP and move to Windows 7?

Most organisations should be planning and testing Windows 7 this year, and most organisations should try to eliminate Windows XP by the end of 2012, according to research firm, Gartner.

Gartner analysts said organisations need to decide when to begin their migration to Windows 7, set a target date to have Windows XP out, and decide whether to deploy Windows 7 to all PCs, only to new PCs, or to a mix.

“In various Gartner polls and surveys, 80% of respondents report skipping Windows Vista. With Windows XP getting older and Windows 8 nowhere in sight, organisations need to be planning their migrations to Windows 7,” said Michael Silver, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

“Windows 7 has been getting positive reviews, and many clients report that they have plans to start their production deployments, but there are some that are still undecided about when to start and how quickly to do the migration.”

Gartner believes that organisations need to get Windows XP out before Microsoft ends support for it in April 2014, and if possible, they should eliminate it by the end of 2012 when new versions of many applications are not expected to support XP, and independent software vendors (ISVs) will increasingly eliminate XP support.

Once a target end date has been set, the approach to deployment must be decided. This could take place all at once, in a ‘forklift’ project, or over time, through attrition, as they replace their PC hardware.

“Organisations wanting to do as much of the migration as possible though PC refresh or attrition, should begin by deciding on a start date,” said Steve Kleynhans, research vice president at Gartner. “These organisations should take into account when their ISVs will provide sufficient Windows 7 support for their applications and when they will have enough time to test applications, build images and pilot Windows 7. This will give them their start date.”

Taking the attrition approach will immediately identify the time scale for the project. Organisations should consider their PC refresh rate and their target end date in order to determine how many PCs can be moved to Windows 7 by attrition. However, based on the typical PC refresh rate, many organisations will not be able to get Windows XP out by their target end date by moving to Windows 7 by attrition alone.

To determine the length of the migration when using the forklift approach, organisations need to work backward from their target end date to find the latest date they can begin the actual deployment, and continue working backward to understand the latest starting dates for piloting and testing. Most organisations need 12 to 18 months for planning, testing and piloting.

In both scenarios, the length of time for the actual migration should take into consideration the cost of supporting an environment with multiple versions of Windows, as well as the cost to deploy a new operating system to every user — which, for organisations without Software Assurance on Windows, would also include the cost of buying additional Windows upgrade licenses.

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