Windows optimize

Believe it or not, you CAN make a business case for Windows Vista

Windows Vista is everyone's favorite whipping boy. But there are reasons to deploy Windows Vista other than to just get Aero Glass on your workstations. With an objective look at Vista matched to the needs of your organization, believe it or not, you can make a business case for Windows Vista.

Microsoft has long been a target for vitriol, hatred, and jealousy, but rarely have you seen as much schadenfruede from people as has been evident since the launch of Windows Vista. Granted, Microsoft oversold the revolutionary nature of Vista, going so far as to comparing it to the launch of Windows 95. However, rather than accolades that (rightly or wrongly) accompanied the launch of Windows 95, Microsoft was greeted with the groans that (rightly) occurred with the delivery of Windows ME.

IT leaders are faced with a quandry. Microsoft has postponed Windows XP's death sentence until the end of June. Windows 7 is supposed to come out next year, but we all know how Microsoft is about ship dates. Microsoft has finally shipped SP 1 for Vista, and the first service pack is usually when business decides to make the move to a new OS. The problem is Windows Vista's popularity and reputation rate right down there with the President and Congress. Is there a case to be made for Windows Vista in a business setting or are you better off sticking with XP and waiting for Windows 7? The answer is... Yes.

Setting the ground rules

If you ever took a class in Economics, you're familiar with the assumptions that go along with whatever economic theory the proponent is trying to forward. "Assume there's no inflation, no unemployment, and no taxes..." Well, sure under such a rosy scenario almost any theory works.

But for the purposes of this discussion, we have to make a few assumptions as well. Plus we have to make a few stipulations.

First, granted there's really no argument to be made about doing a forklift upgrade of an entire organization to Windows Vista. Has it been done? Sure. Has it been justified? Of course. However, I'm not going to make that argument here. Windows Vista requires too much hardware to run on most equipment that's more than 2 years old. I wouldn't want to go near Windows Vista Business with anything less than 2GB of RAM, a strong video card, and a dual-core CPU. So, I'm not going to try to talk about upgrading your entire organization to Vista.

Second, let's assume that training isn't a major issue. Training new users is always a hurdle when OS versions rev. This isn't a new problem with Windows Vista. As users buy new computers at home with new OS versions, they become familiar with the change and want to use the same OS at work. We saw all of this with the migration from Windows 9x to XP. Plus, even though Microsoft modified the Vista interface and rearranged some things, it's not a severe change. We'll assume that users can figure out the new OS and won't need too much hand holding which would raise costs.

Third, let's assume there's no cost differential between deploying a new PC with XP vs. deploying one running Vista. You've gotten Vista or XP 'free' with the purchase of your computer. Either that or you're a Software Assurance customer and the cost of desktop operating systems and upgrades are included in your License.

Finally, let's make the final obvious stipulation that we're talking about Windows Vista Business and/or Windows Vista Enterprise. Ultimate may include all of features of Vista Business, but it's missing some that are included in Enterprise, plus it includes Home features we're not interested in. Deploying Vista Home Premium in a business would be as foolish as deploying XP Home in a business, so we won't go there. Windows Vista Basic should be a complete non-starter for anyone in any circumstance.

Playing Devil's Advocate

With the assumptions out of the way, we can play a little bit of Devil's Advocate about making the move to Vista. How do we justify the decision to deploy Vista? We know not to trust Microsoft, OEMs, or anyone with a vested interest in our upgrade. Plus, we know that we should take the opinions of the naysayers (many of whom also have a vested interested in people NOT moving to Vista) with a grain of salt as well.

So how do we decide? Easy - match the features specific to Windows Vista Business or Enterprise to our business needs. It may sound obvious, but not necessarily with all of the surrounding negative noise.

What are some of the major features for business in Vista? Here are 5 of the biggest improvements in Windows Vista Business that can have an impact for your organization:

  1. Improved backup capabilities - Microsoft has included a backup utility for Windows since Windows 3.1, but this is the first one that's really effective for business. With it, you can automatically configure Windows to backup data to servers either with Complete PC Backup or Automatic File Backup. Microsoft has also taken the Shadow Copy feature from Windows Server 2003 and included it in Vista so you can quickly recover data that users accidentally destroy on their systems.
  2. Search - By integrating Windows Desktop Search in Vista, it's easier to find data and commands on a Vista system. It's even more efficient if your organization is running Office 2007.
  3. Enhanced connectivity - Microsoft has done several things to make Vista work better in a network. First, Vista natively supports IPv6, where it's an add-on for Windows XP. Plus, Microsoft has rewritten the TCP/IP stack found in Vista and Windows Server 2008. That, along with changes to SMB in Vista and Server 2008 allow them to transfer files much quickly over a network than the same equipment running XP and Server 2003.
  4. Bitlocker -Microsoft has included encryption in Windows since EFS debuted in Windows 2000. Bitlocker takes encryption on Windows a step further. EFS was kind of tacked onto Windows XP and Windows 2000 where Bitlocker is integrated into the OS and can encrypt an entire volume. It also runs before Windows even starts, making it a lot harder to crack.
  5. Additional Virtual Machine licenses - Theoretically, every time you create or run a virtual machine on your workstation, you're supposed to have a Windows license for each session. If you download Virtual PC 2007 and run it on your Windows Vista workstation, you're granted the rights to run a total of 4 more virtual Windows Vista sessions w/o buying additional licenses. Because Software Assurance grants you the right to downgrade to previous versions of Windows, you could run 4 entirely different versions of Windows on your Vista PC w/o spending another dime.

The last two features listed above are exclusive to Windows Vista Enterprise and Software Assurance customers. An added advantage of running Windows Vista Enterprise through Software Assurance is that you can deploy the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack. This add-on rounds out a lot of the benefits of Windows Vista in a server based environment. Some of the things included in it are:

  • Microsoft Application Virtualization - This allows you to create virtual applications that can be stored centrally on a server but run on any Vista workstation, saving the time and trouble of deploying full applications out to end users.
  • Microsoft Asset Inventory Service - Something borrowed from MOM and SMS. You can inventory software running on your Vista workstations using this feature.
  • Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management - Vista adds many more Group Policy options than Windows XP allowing you even more granular control. The Group Policy Managment feature allows you roll back, version, and monitor group policy changes and effects on Vista workstations.
  • Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset - helps you recover workstations that get infected with spyware that Defender misses. It can also help recover systems that get hit with viruses in some case.

As you can see a much stronger argument can be made for Vista Enterprise rather than plain Vista Business. However, for the added security of timed backups and Shadow Copy as well as the performance enhancements when running in a Windows Server 2008 environment, you can still make the case to use Vista Business.

So what's the best case that can be made for Vista?

The best case scenario for making the move to Vista comes in conjunction with a move to Windows Server 2008. You get the added benefit of the underlying performance enhancements between the OSes and more granular control from Group Policy above and beyond the basic feature enhancements listed above. Vista, especially Vista Enterprise, makes sense with those organizations that are deploying new PCs, and that have need for the added security and data protection that Vista offers.

Users with day to day basic responsibilities may not benefit from Complete PC Backup or Bitlocker. And they may not notice the added speed when you deploy your Windows Server 2008 servers. However, if you have users with sensitive data and/or data that you can't afford to lose, then you can make the argument that Windows Vista Business or Enterprise make sense.

Bottom line for IT leaders

Clearly, under the right circumstances, a case can be made for making the move to Windows Vista. Moving to Windows Vista may not represent as much of an opportunity for businesses as the move from Windows 9x to Windows XP, but for some businesses, there may be reason to make the jump.

Don't trust the Microsoft Marketing Machine and have Windows Vista shoved down your throat. But at the same time, you shouldn't trust all of the gloom and doom of the anti-Vista crowd. Vista isn't as good as Microsoft thinks, but it's also not as bad as 'they' say it is.

Trust your own judgment when it comes to moving your users to Windows Vista. If the new features are a match for your organization, make the move as you deploy new workstations with enough power to handle it. If you decide to sit Vista out for now, don't rule it out entirely for the future. Check to see how Microsoft is progressing with Windows 7. You should also reconsider your decision when you make the move to Windows Server 2008 because the two OSes work so well together. Otherwise, stick with what's working for you currently. When you take an objective look at the features and benefits of Vista and compare them to your organization's needs, you'll wind up with the right decision.

25 comments
nerdybails
nerdybails

The fact Bitlocker isn't in Vista Business and only Enterprise blows my mind. But for anyone who has compared Vista Business to enterprise it is VERY hard to justify the extra spending on a next to nothing upgrade, Enterpries is highway robbery for alot of people.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I have heard that over and over again, and yet MS denies this as a vicious rumour, which was discussed in a conversation with the Vista owners forum. They say that despite rumours, Win7 will have at LEAST the standard 3-year (from 2007) development cycle, so the EARLY realease due to how crappy Vista is supposed to be, was a rumour. apparently Vista has had a higher adoption rate than XP did in the same time frame and over 100,000 business conversions already. Befor einstalling SP1, I thought Vista was the cats meow, but it has been terrible since teh SP was added. I have done a million tweaks and changes, so its a BIT better now, at least it doesn't hang every 10 minutes like when I first installed the SP. I certainly wish I had set a rollback point right before the update though, I'd ditch 'now' for 'then' in a heartbeat.

TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827

I work for a large company. > 100K employees worldwide and let me tell you, http and https outbound is it for internet connectivity. You need special accounts to enter the DMZ to be able to VPN out, ssh out, etc. Vista can't activate/validate if it can't phone home. Yes, yes, MS offers the ability to provide and internal key server. Just what IT wants, another machine to take care of. Now, how about ripping all those holes in the firewalls on the intranet so that the 20 or so large campuses can "validate"? What's opening a few ports going to hurt in 300 regional offices worldwide? What about the, literally, thousands of lab machines across all the labs? They are absolutely NOT allowed on the corporate network. It will be XP for a LONG time, with more and more pre-installed Monta Vista Linux machines slowly taking their place because IT can, has and will forevermore block the "Critical Security Update that is WGA". This doesn't exist for Vista, it comes pre-baked in. Being a large corporation, I would assume that MS will eventually give in and make a corporate WGA/Phone Home/Constant Validate free version. Until then, even if it was better (nobody in IT who has evaluated it gave it a thumb s up) than XP/Linux/Solaris, it requires a huge security breach just to run. TripleII

jdclyde
jdclyde

because you have to get a higher priced system to get the same performance out of Vista. When you buy any tool, you look at the job that needs to be done, and then buy the tool that does that job. 2gigs of ram so the receptionist can do email and word processing? Blows the Vista boat out of the water because there is no justification for that.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

out an assumption. Other software applications that you use. From Inhouse CRUD apps to your enterprise anti - virus suite. The other big problem is if you are going to put a case like this before the beancounters. It's very easy to put some numbers on the costs, seriously difficult to put some on the benefits. To me Vista was never aimed at the business market. I like it, I use it at work and at home, but you have to be in a rare niche for it to make sense as an upgrade in and of itself.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

In the Decision Central blog http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/decisioncentral/?p=101 I made the argument that under the right circumstances, Windows Vista can actually be a pretty good move. Although it may seem like Aero Glass is the only real advantage Vista has over XP, there are plenty of others. You just have to look deeper, and maybe cough up the extra money to get a Software Assurance license to get Windows Vista Enterprise. From a sheer objective standpoint, can't deploying Vista on new machines make a little bit of sense as opposed to continuing to run Windows XP?

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

I was *wondering* how long it would take for someone to mention marketing and Microsoft bias. I'm surprised it took that long. Clearly, you've never read anything else I've written or you'd know I'm not in Microsoft's pocket. Beyond that, I also clearly stated that I was making a Devil's Advocate argument for Vista. It's easy to just knee-jerk pile on to the OS. That was an objective look at the features of the OS, and looked at objectively, it's possible to make the case. Let me help with that plank in your eye...

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

I agree - it's surprising that Microsoft would limit such an obvious feature from Vista Business, but clearly it's driven by the motivation of trying to wring more dollars from people by getting them to go the Software Assurance route.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

I think Microsoft probably shot itself in the foot talking about Windows 7 so soon. Vista's gaining traction almost entirely because it's being forced down people's throats with new purchases. As I posited in the post, there are a few business advantages to Vista, but only under the right circumstances. By talking about Windows 7 in comparison to Vista's bad press, businesses are going to try to wait out Vista until 7 sits. Microsoft has a horrible track record with new versions of Windows going back as long as you want to go. I would be shocked if Windows 7 actually ships in 2009 like they're suggesting. I'd expect 2010 or even as late as early 2011.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

And was that not the EXACT same argument for XP? XP had a horrendous HCL when it first came out, but that was set aside as now almost EVERYONE runs a gig and a decent processor, GPU etc. YOu can buy a $700.00 box that runs Vista no problem, want Aero you'll need to up the RAM a bit but RAM is cheap anyway. Even for a recptionist, the improved indexing, searching and file menu access in Vista makes life easier, her work will be more eficient and thus the cost is easily recovered.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Microsoft has long garnered the benefit of OEMs that introduce more powerful equipment at lower prices. Prices drop or at least power increases while prices maintain the same. So, when you go to roll out new equipment chance are anyway it will be powerful enough to run Vista and you will have spent the same as you did two years ago for a machine that would have no hope of running Vista. Plus, let's not forget that when rolling out new equipment, often times IT uses the trickle down method. The new beast goes to someone up the food chain who needs or wants the power and the receptionist winds up with old handmedowns.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

You're right. Clearly one has to assume that all of your business applications are supported in Windows Vista. Of course, that's not a problem if you're running all Microsoft stuff anyway, right? You wouldn't dare run anything else, would you?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"It's very easy to put some numbers on the costs, seriously difficult to put some on the benefits." That same problem exists regardless of migrating to Vista, OS X, Linux, or waiting for Windows 7. I do agree completely that compatibility with existing apps should be considered.

Bibliophage
Bibliophage

I'm in the IT business. I'll be honest. I run Linux, and I truly despise Vista. However, I'm not that fond of XP either - my main 'recovery' workstation runs Windows 2000, not XP. What do I tell customers? "Buy XP Professional, and use it until it drops.". There are a few assumptions that I go by that you may not be keeping in mind. 1) Memory size limitations. 32 bit Microsoft OS's are mostly limited to 3 GB of ram (Including Vista). 32 bit itself is limited to 4 GB (on any OS) without extra nasty hacks. Vista won't run worth a damn on anything under 1 GB (and they were selling machines with 512 megs with Vista Home), and wants at _least_ 2 GB to run 'properly'. Add to that some memory hogs such as Act!, Quickbooks 2007, and a web browser (not just IE), and you've just thrown that 2GB out the window. So you try more - sorry, you can't get it. Solution? Get an operating system that's not quite so piggish (and make sure of what other programs you want to run). XP? - it ran so-so on 128, okay on 256, and well on 512. Runs great with 2GB. 2000 ran so-so on 64, well on 128, and great on 256 (with the programs at the time) - and still runs really well on 2GB. 2) "Office 2007" and "Server 2008". You've just made a fatal assumption for most SMB's. They aren't going to run those programs at least until things die. I have customers still using Office 97, and one using Office 95 because he prefers Schedule Plus's multiple user ability - which Microsoft eliminated in Outlook 97 to try to sell Exchange servers. Office 2007 is not an upgrade - it's an entirely new product, with zero real backwards compatibility. You might as well look at OpenOffice.org, Lotus Symphony, or any of the other 'free' packages than convert to Office 2007 - you'll be JUST as compatible with the older versions (more, perhaps). At a quick glance, I'm seeing $375 for a copy of Office 2007 Professional - For a company doing basic spreadsheet and word processing, that's not a supportable argument for forty people as an 'upgrade' to work better with Vista. - $375 buys a decent computer to run all of the basics they already own - without Vista. So, the choice would be "40 new computers, or 10 computers that can run Vista and 10 copies of Office". My assumption? "Office 2000 or Office XP 2002/2003" 3) Counterintuitive interface. I was just complained at by a bookkeeper (not a customer) today whose husband bought a new PC with Vista - both of them are having a hard time, because in her words, "nothing is in the same place". Even between 95 and XP, you still had most of your settings in the same place - Control Panel. 4) "Renting" the operating system (Software Assurance - plus how they've 'modified' their licenses). What Microsoft has been attempting to do is tell people that they aren't _buying_ an operating system, or piece of software. They're only renting it, and should pay for the operating system, server system, and every piece of software - every three years, whether or not you upgrade anything. Solution? I don't know. If Microsoft wants to stay 'on top', they need to flush Vista, and rush 'Windows 7', with an XP 'look and feel', with the security features and so forth. Even dropping reverse compatibility for some old applications would be more acceptable to most people than Vista has been. ME would have been acceptable if it wasn't a full installation - if they'd sold the System Restore and driver updates as a "Windows 98 Enhanced Applications" pack for $40, they'd have sold tons. (USB support built in, extra driver support, great!)

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

...is the operative phrase. I can see Vista making sense for a 'techy' company (game developers, for instance)...where everyone will get the best-of-the-best in equipment anyway, and they want to test their stuff out on the new platform while maintaining a presence in legacy systems. I could also see it making sense in a highly regulated industry; where the PC backups/file restoration features could make the difference between getting fined/losing a lawsuit or winning/avoiding penalties: with the caveat that those firms make up the difference in hardware costs by not having to purchase whatever tools they currently use, or reduce staff time to attend to this. Other than that, though, for right now, I just can't see overriding cause to roll it out to other lines of business; especially when considering that a lot of applications currently in use are still not compatible. Specifically, the ERP system I was using at my previous employer (LAWSON) didn't like Vista. I've heard from associates at other firms using competing ERP systems that they have experienced similar issues. So, do you rollout a new OS, which will necessitate an ERP update of some kind (and even minor updates are disasters waiting to happen), or do you maintain the status quo, and relish the comfort that comes with known stability? Even in boom economic times, that is a tough sell. In lean times, when even a day of downtime could kill a SMB, that isn't much of a decision at all.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

As you said, they have a bad reputation with this same thing happening for each OS tehy release. When XP came out, we had endless discussions here about how it was insane for a business to switch from Win2K unless a new company looking for new hardware, even thn do so at your own risk. The consensus was to stick with Win2K until Vista (then code named: Longhorn) was released. Now, we see the exact same thing with regards to Vista. Everyone says Vista is S*it and tha XP with Sp3 is the best OS ever.Followed by "don't change now, wait for Windows 7." So when Windows 7 comes out and is a piece of crap, by them Vista wil be at SP2 or 3 and teh same will be said again. Don't buy Win7, stick with Vista until Win8 comes out next year. What people fail to recognize is that, out of the gate, Vista is FAR better than XP was, the hardware requirements are not all that bad compared ot the difference needed for Win2K to XP upgrades and the compatibilty mode is actually quite finctional for running older progs. Either I am gettign old or people just forget too easily and the XP fanboys sing a loud song tha everyone else likes to parrot now without even considering the changes. For a consumer society, this would not even stir me at all, but seeing as many of these 'decision makers and recommender' are actually using a backwards bias to retard company growth, it is annoying. Then again, I think enployers put too much trust in IT departments to make decisions sometimes. Without a proper case of ROI and TCO these wannabe business managers are just making unqualified decisions based on fanboy rantings. okay, I'm done, sorry for the vent, John. (exhales looooong sigh)

Bibliophage
Bibliophage

The biggest 'failure' in the various file search products is that they aren't _networked_. If a receptionist is storing business files on her machine, she's not doing her job properly. If it's on the server, it's not indexed properly. This is also my biggest complaint about Google Desktop - make it run on the server, THEN let people search it from their desktops - without having everyone have to tell their desktops to index the server drives.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

whenever someone needed a new PC, I'd get the new one, and start the rotation method of top rep gets mine, and so on down the line. The one that killed me was when I couldn't play the new games on my desktop. As I was also into web design, graphics and print publishing, it was always easy to make a case for a new PC with high end GPU. In early 2K I was running top end NVidea FX cards on a dual processor box. Ghost Recon never looked better!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

It's not a problem if you are running Microsoft all the way. ROFL, thanks for that, I'm just off to get my ribs bound up, cracked them laughing at that one.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

It's not just the Cost of moving to X it'd moving from Y.

jmcguire
jmcguire

What are the challenges with converting from XP to VISTA in a large organization (20 sites 80k users administered by site and centrally) Costs Logistics Resources things not supported driver issues What does it actually take to run VISTA Ultimate (I see the requirements just dont believe it after reviewing some other peoples comments) Has anyone tried to use the fast user in an enterprise avail on VISTA Ultimate and what are thoughts pos and negative

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

You're right. But it's not just the end user complaining that whatever the current version of Windows is that it's lousy. Microsoft does too. "Oh... you don't want Windows 95... the OS you REALLY want is Windows 98. You don't want Windows 98... you REALLY want Windows 2000. What are you doing running that ugly thing. You REALLY want Windows XP." Ad nauseum. Naturally Microsoft wants to keep taking people's money, but you'd think you'd find another way to do it other than trashing your own products. Even recently, there was a video floating around where someone asked Bill Gates what his biggest blunder was and he chuckled and said "Wait until we ship the next version of Windows." Geez...