Browser

Browser update and migration checklist

Supporting different and outdated Web browsers is one of the most crippling aspects of system administration. IT pro Rick Vanover provides the steps required to migrate to a new browser.

In case you haven’t heard, organizations need to get off Internet Explorer (IE) 6. Even Microsoft is advocating that the time has come to equate IE 6 as a nine-year-old carton of milk. The unfortunate fact is that IE 6 is a broadly supported browser on Internet sites on the Web. While I can go to Windows Update just as blindly as the next person and update the browser, there are a number of background steps that need to occur for organizations that have applications with browser version requirements.

The best technical decision for IE is to standardize on the most current version. IE 8 is currently out, while IE 9 is still in test drive mode. There also should be serious consideration to having an alternative browser available as part of a standard system build. There are some caveats to this practice such as user experience confusion, mixing the non-supported browser to sites supported by the other browser, and difficulty in managing updates. The benefit to officially offering an alternative browser to systems you support is to limit the number of alternate browsers that end up being installed. If an official alternate browser was to be offered to systems you support, this should be Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.

To migrate off of IE 6, here is a list of tasks to prepare clients to move to a newer browser:

  1. Pilot users on IE 8:
  2. The best way to get a feel for what is needed for the client computing environment is to have a pilot set of users. Solicit feedback and ensure that all of the core business functions are represented and working as expected in the pilot group.
  3. Critical external Web applications:
  4. Identify each external Web site that is used; in most situations newer versions of IE should be an easy move upward.

  5. Set an update policy for IE:
  6. This can be through Group Policy, local configurations, System Center or other tools. You can also look at setting a local policy to prohibit version updates once IE 9 becomes available as I show in this post on prohibiting IE 8 upgrades.
  7. Critical internal Web applications:
  8. This is where it gets complicated. For any in-house Web applications, there may be IE version requirements for the versions in use. If any applications require IE 6, promptly get to the bottom of the upgrade path. If an application update is not an option, there are still options to get the client browser environment updated (explained below).

  9. User training: It is worth providing resources to the users you support on how favorites now work with IE 8. This can be as informal as peer-to-peer information exchanges or as structured as a lunch and learn type of event.

If IE 6 is still required…

There may be situations where IE 6 is still required for a legacy application that is still in use, even in an archive-only capacity. In this situation, we may need to consider another way to access the application in IE 6 yet keep the client environment consistently using modern browsers. The most common strategy is to allow local logon permission (presumably via remote desktop) to the Web server for IE 6 to be used to directly access the application. Another strategy is to create a Windows terminal server that has IE 6 installed and allow multiple user connections through terminal server licensing or a presentation engine such as Citrix XenApp.

There are many ways to get off of IE 6, but the common theme is that the time is now. If you haven't had a chance to get your client computing environment off of IE 6, share your obstacles below. Chances are someone has been there before.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

16 comments
alistair.k
alistair.k

We are a reasonably current Microsoft shop. We have Vista, WS2008, IE8, MSO2007, etc. We deal day to day with local government, NGOs, national government, and guess what, they are mostly WS2003, XP, IE6, MSO2000 or MSO2003. So even though we ditched our rancid milk years ago I am still stuck trying to maintain compatibility because the majority of our partners can't access systems which don't support IE6. We are not in an unusual position. Someone has to shift these other guys off IE6. Problem is they are on IE6 because they have bespoke legacy systems which use the "non standard" extensions and features in IE6 which MS dropped in IE7 so they need to spend huge coin to upgrade those bespoke systems... In the current economic climate there is no way that is going to happen.

john barker
john barker

i cant understand not runing ie 8 it must be realy old computers or people dont know anything about how to update you be suprise how many people just know how to turn them on and that it i knew quite a few my self i have frinds that never update till i do it for them john barker

rgmcree
rgmcree

Why move to Firefox? Is is sooooo slow!!

jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527

We have experienced this quite painfully, as we still have a number of legacy web apps that require both IE6 and a very old versin of Java (1.3.1_08). In the end, the solution we found was to use ThinApp from VMware to isolate a virtualized version of IE6, with the particular Java versions embedded. We can then deliver this in the form of a web shortcut, to the users' desktops. Only the most savvy users (which we have none of) can tell the difference in the browser between 6 and 8, as the shortcut gets them right into the web application. For the price (about 3000 for 50 users), it was an easy fix.

Lost Cause?
Lost Cause?

If I am using an older computer that is running Windows 2000 and I am running IE6, will Firefox 3.6 run on this machine? I guess that I hadn't thought about it before. I know that IE8 is out for this situation.

blarman
blarman

1. Install Firefox 2. During Install, Import bookmarks from IE. 3. Install IETab extension. You're done.

jdaughtry
jdaughtry

Critical internal Web applications need to be evaluated first, and the path to satisfy their needs identified BEFORE putting anything in front of the users.

b4real
b4real

Have you tried providing some form of virtualized access to IE6? That may be the best meet in the middle solution client-side.

b4real
b4real

I know that I work with applications that will not work on IE 7 or higher. This burns at me, for sure. What is more difficult is when some system is automatically updated, it makes it that much harder to re-establish access to the older web-based application.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Pleased to make your acquaintance. How far into Alabama are you? I was there, once, as a young man, during and shortly after the Freedom Rides. The heat and humidity were oppressive; the folk of both kinds, more so. How far into the digital, how far into the folk, and how far into yourself are you?

b4real
b4real

I prefer Opera, actually. BUT, amongst the alternative browsers, FF has the broadest support. Safari is pretty high, but if you HAD to make a decision, I'd lean Chrome or FF.

b4real
b4real

Brilliant. I hadn't known if that would work for IE, but that is good news.

b4real
b4real

Not many enterprises can avoid IE. Best bet is dual browser support.

ehula
ehula

The original IE Tab addon is no longer supported on v3.6 and ahead. I haven't had any problems with its successor IE Tab 2. I even use Firefox+IE Tab 2 to access Microsoft Dynamics CRM... and it runs faster than IE! :)

b4real
b4real

But more a springboard to get each of us started in the final steps to update browsers.