Migrating to Windows 7: Are We There Yet?

A year after its launch on October 22, 2009, Windows 7 has surpassed Windows Vista in market share, 17% to 13%. But it still lags behind Windows XP, which commands 60% of the market, according to NetMarketShare.  

There are several reasons for this. Many companies skipped the widely criticised Windows Vista and therefore kept most of their PCs on the trusted Windows XP. But with the economic recovery seemingly taking hold and businesses having delayed major upgrades during the recession, some IT shops now have the cash to spend on new IT projects.
A Symantec whitepaper cutely entitled 7 Steps to Windows 7 predicts that Microsoft’s latest operating system will become the preferred business platform because of its productivity features, security enhancements and connectivity improvements.
Migrating to the operating system, however, does not come cheap and is not without risks, which might explain why Windows 7’s market share is still small. According to Gartner, a technology research group, the need to migrate from Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 2000 to Windows 7 in a tight time frame will create an extra budgetary and resource burden on companies from 2011 to 2012.
During that period, demand for highly qualified Windows 7 migration IT personnel will exceed supply, for example, leading to higher service rates. Most organisations will need to find extra funds or redirect budgets away from other IT projects to complete the Windows migration on time.
Most corporate IT departments also prefer to migrate PC operating systems via hardware attrition, notes Charles Smulders, managing vice president at Gartner. That means bringing in Windows 7 as companies replace hardware as part of the normal refresh cycle, which is a more expensive undertaking than simply changing the software in existing machines.
The problem is that PC hardware replacement cycles typically run at four to five years, and Microsoft will support Windows XP for just four more years. With most migrations not starting until the fourth quarter of 2010 at the earliest, says Smulders, “most organisations will not be able to migrate to Windows 7 through usual planned hardware refresh before support for Windows XP ends.”
Three options
If your company faces this dilemma, you have three alternative courses of action: accelerate replacement, upgrade installed PCs or undertake partial migration.
1.      Accelerate PC Replacement Plans. Assuming a company has 10,000 PCs that will be replaced, Gartner estimates that the migration cost per PC will be between US$1,205 and US$1,999, depending on how well-managed the environment is. While the overall cost to migrate is lower than other scenarios, the downside is that capital costs account for about 60% of the total replacement cost, so the capital budget will be larger than in the upgrade case.
2.      Upgrade Installed PCs. Using existing PCs will reduce the capital costs of migration, but will not reduce the associated labour costs. Assuming the same set-up – a 10,000 PC- environment, where all PCs are upgraded – the migration cost per computer will be between US$1,274 and US$2,069, depending on how well-managed the PC environment is, says Gartner. This assumes that 25% of the machines will need a hardware upgrade to run Windows 7.
While the capital costs are reduced in this case, upgrading an installed PC simply postpones the inevitable replacement for two to three years. Users will need to be migrated twice, rather than once, during a four-year period. 
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