I read an interesting article recently from Microsoft on the 5 most common problems companies experience when adopting Windows Vista and how they can overcome these issues. The points mentioned are great because they are 'real-world' examples. So, without any further mention, here they are...
- Hardware compatibility. Windows Vista requires pretty robust hardware to run properly, especially if you want to take advantage of the advanced visual effects of the Windows Aero™ interface. While the stated minimum requirements are reasonable (512MB RAM), in practice most users find that a PC running Windows Vista needs about 2GB RAM, and a pretty capable video card. In addition, ensuring your hardware has the right drivers may require assistance from your hardware supplier.
The Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor can help you here (http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=756502) or, if you are evaluating multiple systems, the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment (WVHA) Tool (http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=756502http). In most cases, it is probably prudent to plan to adopt Windows Vista with a hardware refresh. Identify the user groups who will benefit from Windows Vista most (typically mobile users and knowledge workers), target these groups for new hardware from the available budget, and plan to migrate these groups in waves. Then as hardware budget frees up and older PCs reach retirement, migrate the balance of the organisation that does not have as critical a need. Windows Vista can coexist with Windows XP, joining Windows Server domains and accepting Group Policy control for configuration and management. As more systems are upgraded, and Windows XP is eventually phased out, legacy Windows XP Group Policy settings can be removed from Active Directory directory service.
- Business and 3rd Party Applications. Application compatibility is one of those really tough challenges when migrating to a new operating system. While most applications written for Windows XP should work fine with Windows Vista, there are often a number of business-critical applications that need an update to function properly. At first blush, this can appear as a blocker to Windows Vista adoption, but several techniques that early-adopters have employed offer some key pointers on how to get around this hurdle to proceed with the deployment.
The first step is to create a comprehensive inventory of the application portfolio, and the status of each application. Microsoft developed the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) to aid this effort. With this tool, you can: Analyse your portfolio of applications, web sites, and computers, Evaluate the impact of Windows Vista on these applications and web sites, Prioritise application compatibility efforts, Deploy automated mitigations to known compatibility issues.
First, contact your ISV to find out when they plan a Windows Vista-compatible version. The Application Compatibility Toolkit also allows you to send and receive up-to-date compatibility information from the Application Compatibility Exchange, a web service that draws information from Microsoft, ISVs, and the ACT community. An approach that organizations have successfully used to address the challenge of application compatibility is to create a virtualised instance of a compatible operating system (i.e. Windows 2000 or Windows XP) hosted on a Windows Vista PC using Microsoft® Virtual PC 2007.
- In-house developed applications. For line-of-business applications created by the in-house development team, lead times and resources may prevent compatible versions from being available when Windows Vista is deployed. The challenge is similar to the issue above, but since the resolution is dependent on internal resources, resolving this issue requires a different approach.
The most important step is to bring the in-house development team in on early Windows Vista deployment planning. This team needs to build version updating into their project plans, and given development timelines, this needs to begin as soon as possible. Again, the Application Compatibility Toolkit is the place to begin. In addition to identifying the in-house applications and websites that do not work, have minor issues, or have no issues, ACT 5.0 provides new tools for developers to test setup packages, Web sites, and Web applications with Windows Internet Explorer 7 and identify issues when running as
standard users in Windows Vista.
- User Account Control. We’ve all heard about certain challenges with the new security feature of Windows Vista, User Account Control (UAC), which is designed to prevent malicious software from
infiltrating a user’s PC by requiring all users run in standard user mode. The UAC is a powerful new security feature that will ultimately help IT Pros better control the PC environment. The challenge for IT Pros is that many legacy applications have processes that require administrator privileges, assuming their programs could access and modify any file, registry key, or operating system setting. To avoid disruption and ensure applications work smoothly, some intervention is required to configure these applications to operate in standard user mode.
There are two aspects to avoiding problems with the User Account Control feature—educating end users on how to respond to UAC prompts and ensuring that applications are configured to run in standard user mode. Windows Vista enables these legacy applications to run in standard user accounts through the help of file system and registry namespace virtualisation. When configuring legacy applications, Microsoft recommends that global application installers that expect to run with administrative rights create a separate directory to store their application’s executable files and auxiliary data, and create a key for their application settings. A more detailed description of this process is available at TechNet Magazine: Inside Windows Vista User Account Control (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/technetmag/issues/2007/06/UAC/)
- End user preparation. We know it’s inevitable—when you change the PC environment end-users are working in, there will be a rash of help desk calls and confusion among the less tech-savvy in your organization. Tasks that used to be familiar are now done differently and not always the way the end-users expect. In most cases, the changes are trivial, but for some users the learning curve seems steep.
Perhaps the best way to prevent disruption, reduce help desk calls and accelerate the path the productivity is to communicate early and often how common tasks will be performed in the new environment. Ensure that end-user training is part of the project plan, and serve up chunks of content in digestible pieces. A resource that can be valuable in this process is the Enterprise Learning Framework (http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=75656). The Enterprise Learning Framework (ELF) is a tool that helps corporations develop a training and communication plan for employees during Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system deployment. The ELF identifies the most relevant learning topics on Windows Online Help and Office Online for different stages of deployment and different types