Want to Reduce Desktop Costs? (Part 1 or 3)

Is the cost of ownership of your Microsoft client systems rising? Are you looking for ways to reduce the costs associated with deploying Windows and managing it thereafter?

There are two solutions available to help combat these costs. In this 3 part post I’ll cover these two solutions, provide links to the relevant resources to help dive more deeply into the solutions. This first post covers deploying an actual client and the issues that need to be addressed there, then in the subsequent posts will cover virtualization options.

When thinking about what client that can help bring down desktop costs while still being familiar to the majority of the clients in your organization, Windows 7 is the version that you should be deploying. So let’s ignore the fact this is the latest version of Windows we have shipped for a moment and look at a few of the technologies included that are there to make post deployment management easier.

  • The inclusion of Windows PowerShell allows for easy remote administration, from your machine you can manage a client remotely, run scripts and view information as if you were at the client machine.
  • Next up, there is Problem Steps Recorder, when clients call up for help some problems are just difficult to fathom based on the information the client is providing. With PSR, the client can now record the steps they followed that lead to that issue. The output is a file, with screenshots that documents what was pressed and what was returned on the screen.
  • One more before we go back to the deployment story, BitLocker has been improved in Windows 7, BitLocker was in Vista, , but the Windows 7 improvement is BitLocker to Go. Now you can encrypt those USB storage devices that end user use to move information around. This can reduce the security issues that can arise if PII or other sensitive data goes missing on one of these devices.

Granted Windows 7 has many more features that are designed to help reduce costs, many of them talked about in the overview webcast, but this post is about deployment.

Since Windows XP, through Windows Vista and now into Windows 7 a lot of work has gone into deployment technologies. This investment and the best practices for configuration and deployment of Windows 7 is going to help rationalize your desktop operating systems and reduce your costs. Microsoft has a lot of resources that can help with this, but it’s often hard to wade through every item to figure out what is useful.

The first step to getting a handle on you client costs is to work out what you have and what you need. Before doing any rationalization in your environment, it pays to understand what is there. The tool of choice for both Microsoft engineers and Microsoft partners is the the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Solution Accelerator, this tool that can help you identity what is in your environment, to speed you up using the tool, the webcast Infrastructure Optimisation with MAP looks at how to use  to make it easier for you to assess your current IT infrastructure and determine the right Microsoft technologies for your IT needs.

As this post covers actual client deployment, what investments in deployment of Windows 7 has Microsoft made? Two webcasts Windows 7 Deployment Enhancements and Windows 7 Planning and Deployment Tools will help you understand the enhancement for planning and deployment of this new client operating system. These two webcasts will cover all the technologies, from Virtual Hard Disk Image Management and Deployment, Dynamic Driver Provisioning through the use of the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) and up to Windows Deployment Services (WDS) and image deployment. To compliment WDS there is a IPD guide for Windows Deployment Services that provides a clear and concise workflow of the decisions and tasks required in the infrastructure planning process for WDS.

Of course the above is all fine and dandy if you are just ignoring the fact the client may already have an OS installed and would like to keep their existing files. If you are currently on Windows Vista  and the hardware is not going to be replace, the upgrade steps are straight forward. But what if you are changing Hardware or worse moving from XP?

Let’s take scenario 1 as a few users running Windows Vista or Windows XP, moving to new machines. This also is relatively straightforward. The first step is to migrate the users files using one of the methods described in previous link. Once saved, the new machine can deployed using the deployment methods mentioned above and the user files restored back to the machine.

What about scenario 2 which is a few hundred users moving from Windows Vista or Windows XP to new machines and you don’t have the resources to do them one at a time with the Windows Easy Transfer Wizard? The answer to mass migration is the User State Migration Tool. The guide just mentioned goes into the details, the basics are:-

  1. Make the changes to the config XML files.
  2. Run ScanState on the clients.
  3. Run LoadState on the new clients. The control USMT provides is very granular and quicker than running Windows Easy Transfer Wizard individually.

If you don’t fancy the guide, then this video Walkthrough demonstrates how to do this.

Finally, Scenario 3. clients running Windows XP that have applications that may not run on Windows Vista or Windows 7. How do you migrate these users? Well there are a number of options open to you. First thing is to look at the applications, the simplest remediation is to get upgraded versions, if that is not possible then the Application Compatibility Tool kit can help show you how to make some, not all, but some applications work on Windows 7. Finally if none of the above work, then virtualization is the answer. I’ll cover virtualization in the later posts, but for now what I will cover is XP Mode for Windows 7. Basically Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 uses virtualization technology such as Windows Virtual PC to provide a Virtual Windows XP environment for Windows 7 applications directly from a Windows 7 PC.

What this article has tried to cover is the Deployment story as a step towards reducing your client costs. There is lots of information, this article has tried to consolidate it down to some key links to help you understand the deployment options.

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