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No more time for hesitation on Windows 7 migration

Forget about that 12/21/12 Mayan calendar thing. If you’re planning to make the move to Windows 7 but haven’t made any actual moves, the scariest date in your future is 4/8/14. OK, maybe it’s a bit much to compare the speculated end of days to the date Microsoft will cease to support your current operating system. But being ill-prepared for either date is bound to cause some chaos.

The unhyperbolized truth is this: If you haven’t started a Windows 7 migration, you’re already late. This was the message imparted by Gartner Inc. analyst Michael A. Silver during a recent live webinar. Early on in his talk, he pointed out that your problem isn’t just Microsoft being a big, bad stickler for deadlines. Other vendors will make your life difficult too. Last year — that is, three years before the dreaded deadline — Silver started getting phone calls from clients bemoaning that new apps couldn’t run on XP.

And it’s only going to get worse. Silver said it’s expected that 60% of important independent software vendors will have a new release that isn’t supported on Windows XP. In other words, there’s a good chance that your business is going to request an application and you’re not going to have the infrastructure to run it.

Another thing to bear in mind is cost. If you miss the Windows 7 deadline, there’s always custom support, right? Sure, but at $200,000 to $500,000 the first year and $500,000 to $1 million the second, it’s anything but budget-friendly.

If you’re wondering where you stand among your peers, a quick straw poll of 100 participants in the webinar showed that 16% hadn’t started, 49% had completed inventory and were about to start or had started testing, 6% were finished with application testing, 7% were in pilot phase, and 22% were in production deployment. Broader polling shows that 55% of companies are finished or nearly finished, 25% are just getting started, and less than 10% have yet to begin.

So, if you like system support, viable applications and a happy business, you’d best get cracking. Silver suggests allowing three to nine months for app testing and remediation, and at least three months for piloting. And while the atmosphere may be rushed, don’t go in without a solid plan. It’s also crucial that you utilize your human resources wisely — and humanely. Marathon Windows 7 migration sessions on nights and weekends will only lead to IT staff fatigue and possible mistakes, so be sure to give your team breaks. On the same note, break up responsibility: The project manager and the technical lead should not be one and the same. Also know that there could come a point where you need to bring in third-party help, so budget for it and don’t wait until the last second to use it.

So, where are you? What has your experience been? Any advice for the 10% still on the bench? Let me know in the comments.

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Karen - there date may be a year earlier than you think.... Word we are getting from our hardware partner (HP) is that new chips sets coming out in the summer won't run XP... And, there's talk that some of the new disk drive technology (more widely available due to the tsunami issues in Japan) will suffer under XP... Anyone else hearing the same sorts of things?
Linux works great. Also, since Windows 8 will soon be out, does 7 migration even make sense at this point? localized cloud computing and BYOD is soon becoming the new reality of IT, Windows doesn't have a clear role in that marketplace. In that Windows 7 is ion many respects what was promised in Windows 95, frankly I don't see the motivation to migrate.