Enterprise Software

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.

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