Make the move

If you’re wondering whether to move your business from XP to Microsoft’s latest incarnation, Windows Vista, read on as we discuss what factors to consider and how to make the move...

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By  Cleona Godinho Published  March 2, 2007

|~||~||~|Microsoft’s much-anticipated Windows Vista OS has finally hit retails stores in the region this month. You’ve probably heard a fair bit about the new OS, but do you know enough to determine if you should move your business to it? Also, how does the Vista roll-out process work? And what types of support are available? The first key question to ask is this: how does Vista differ from previous versions of Windows with regards to its business credentials? To help us answer this we met-up with Yousuf Bismilla, a technological solutions professional at Microsoft Gulf. According to Bismilla, the key difference is security. “Vista was developed with security in mind, so before developers even started writing one piece of code they had to attend a number of security workshops,” says Bismilla. “Furthermore our previous Windows versions, although these were secure, by design they were left open and the customer decided how secure they wanted to make it.” Bismilla goes on to say, “We have included a lot of security tools and measures to make it easier for our customers to manage it; especially for SMBs since they don’t have IT departments to do this for them. For instance, Vista now includes Windows Defender and the Vista firewall, which has greatly improved over the firewall in Windows XP.” On the networking and collaboration side, Vista includes a new feature called Meeting Space, which lets you set-up peer-to-peer virtual meetings over wireless networks. There's also a new Mobility Center - an app which lets you configure all your mobile devices, including checking battery life of your laptop, setting-up a projector for a presentation and more. Additionally, there’s the Sync Centre, which lets you easily sync mobile devices such as PDAs and mobile phones. To upgrade or not So why should you upgrade to Vista? In addition to claiming that Vista is the most secure OS it has developed, Microsoft reckons it will make your employees more productive because of Vista’s new search features, improved interface and ‘single-point’ apps such as Sync Centre and the Mobility Centre. It also claims that Vista will reduce your PC management costs but the Windows Middle East team has yet to see any data that would convince us of this. Microsoft obviously wants you to move your business to Vista now, however in truth there is no urgent need to do this. Moreover, some analysts argue that both home users and businesses should wait until SP1 comes out in light of the recent Vista security issues highlighted online. For instance, Microsoft recently sent out a security advisory regarding a flaw in its malware protection engine that helps several Microsoft security products - including Windows Defender - guard against online threats. According to the advisory, the flaw could let an outsider ‘take complete control’ of a victim’s computer. Since then Microsoft has released a patch to fix the security hole, however some analysts such as say this is just one of the many security issues out there. Looking slightly further ahead still, Windows XP will be available until 2009, while extended support for this platform will be available until 2014. In short then, you have time to consider your decision. What to consider If and when you do decide to move to Windows Vista there are four key factors that you should bear in mind before taking the plunge. The first and most important is the ability of your business’s workstations to run Vista. The minimum requirements are as follows: • 800MHz 32-bit (x86) or 64 bit (x64) CPU • 512Mbytes of RAM • SVGA (800x600) GPU • 20Gbyte hard drive with 15Gbytes of free space • CD-ROM drive. Note: the above specs apply to all versions of Vista including Business and Ultimate. If your workstations meet these requirements, Microsoft’s calls these ‘Vista capable’ PCs. To qualify for the Vista ‘Premium’ Ready designation however, a PC must have: •1GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) CPU • 1Gbyte of RAM • Support for DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver, at least 128Mbytes of graphics memory, Pixel Shader 2.0 and 32-bits per pixel support • 40Gbyte hard drive with 15Gbytes of free space • DVD-ROM drive • Audio output capability • Internet connectivity. To find out whether you current XP workstations can handle Vista, we recommend downloading the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor, available at www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready. This tool will scan your computer and create an easy-to-understand report of all known system, device and program capability issues. Secondly, it’s crucial to understand how your current software will operate in a Vista environment. Microsoft has a nifty tool available to assist you with this called the Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.0 (ACT). This is available at www.microsoft.com/technet/desktopdeployment/appcompat/toolkit.mspx. ACT helps firms test business and third-party applications to see whether these will run well in Vista. This will not only help you find out what applications your business runs on a ‘authorised’ basis, but also what software some of your users may have loaded onto their own PCs and whether this will run on Vista. Which version? Last but not least, you need to consider which version of Vista you want your business to migrate to. Microsoft recommends Vista Home Ultimate and Vista Business for small and medium businesses. Vista Home Ultimate is the most costly edition of Windows Vista, however it combines the mobility and business functions of Vista Business with the entertainment features of Vista Home Premium. Ultimate also offers Windows Meeting Space, Windows SideShow, the ability to join a domain and support for Group Policy. Moreover, and this is a key inclusion, it includes BitLocker(BL) - a hardware encryption feature that provides a 128-bit encryption key to prevent others from obtaining data from your hard drive if it’s stolen. This then makes Ultimate a very good choice for SOHO set-ups and SMBs with a number of mobile professionals in their workforce. One must note that your PC’s motherboard must include an integrated Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2 chip or USB2.0 key as without it BitLocker won’t be able to protect your data. Vista Business According to Microsoft, Vista Business is the first OS created to specifically meet the needs of small and medium businesses. It supports the new glass-like Aero interface and includes several management features, including Fax and Scan, wireless network provisioning, system-image-based backup and recovery and Group Policy support. In keeping with its business focus, this version lacks many digital media features. Also, unlike the Ultimate edition it doesn’t feature BitLocker drive encryption. A noteworthy inclusion in Vista Business is Small Business Resources - a how-to guide for PC maintenance and troubleshooting that should prove very valuable to bosses stuck with IT responsibilities. Making the move The first way in which a business can move to Vista is by buying retail-box versions of the OS. If your firm has 10-15 PCs with XP Professional onboard, you can upgrade to either Vista Ultimate or Business. The upgrade versions of Ultimate and Business cost US $272 and US $204 respectively. In case you want to replace your legacy machines or increase your number of current desktops, Microsoft reckons the best option is to acquire new machines pre-loaded with Windows Vista. It claims that this is the most cost-effective way of obtaining the product, as prices for OEM versions range from US $89 to around $180 (depending on the OS version). Microsoft also offers what it calls Open License, which is a volume licensing program for small to mid-sized firms that have fewer than 250 desktop PCs. This requires you to have a minimum of five Microsoft licenses but not necessarily for Windows.( You could have one license for Windows, one for a server, two licenses for Office 2007). In short, the cost of Open licensing sits between OEM and retail boxes.It offers other advantages however, such as the rights to create a standard image and deploy it on multiple machines, and rights to transfer licenses from one machine to another, as well as the ability to track and manage licenses. To be eligible for around-the-clock Vista support you’ll need to sign a Premium-level Microsoft support contract on a yearly basis. The contract also includes technical training, workshops and health checks on systems performed by Microsoft consultants. Businesses who are keen to look into such a contract can contact Microsoft’s Middle East support line on +9714 3917700, which is open from 9am to 6pm daily. Microsoft also offers ‘self support’ for small businesses at wwwmicrosoft.com/smallbusiness/support/technical-overview.aspx. This site includes Windows Vista troubleshooting steps, solutions to common issues and how-to guides for SMBs. ||**||

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