Windows

Making the business case for Windows 7

If you'd like to move your users to Windows 7 sooner rather than later, you'll have to make the business case to management. Here are the most important factors to keep in mind when you do this.

With the release of Windows 7, many IT professionals find themselves in a common situation: You've tested the new operating system and discovered that it has many advantages over its predecessors, in terms of features, performance and stability. If your company is like most, you've stuck with Windows XP as your client operating system and it's served you well for many years. Or maybe yours is one of the smaller number of businesses that took the plunge and upgraded to Windows Vista.

Either way, if you'd like to move your users to Windows 7 sooner rather than later, you'll have to make the business case. How to best go about that depends on a number of factors, including which OS you're currently using. First we'll look at how to sell the idea of migrating from Windows XP, and then we'll look at reasons to upgrade from Windows Vista.

Make the case: Migrate from XP to Windows 7

Windows XP has been one of Microsoft's biggest success story. As of September 2009, it had over 70% of the market share for desktop operating systems. However, XP was released in 2001, and eight years is an eternity in the software industry. Service packs, like plastic surgery, can only do so much to hide the inevitable effects of aging. XP doesn't have the usability features or the level of security that you get from a more modern OS, and the older it gets, the less compatible it will be with new software applications.

No more mainstream support for XP

As part of the product lifecycle, Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows XP in early 2009. That means there will be no more service packs, design changes or new features. What you see now is what you get. When you point this out to managers, they may counter that XP extended support doesn't end until 2014. That's very true, but it only includes security updates and paid support. Hot fixes that aren't related to security require that you purchase a separate Extended Hotfix Support Agreement and pay per-fix fees.

XP die-hards miss out on new security and usability features

Meanwhile, even if you upgrade your servers, you'll be unable to use some of the new business-oriented Windows security and usability features such as DirectAccess and AppLocker, and you won't be able to protect systems and data with BitLocker drive encryption.

Windows XP was born prior to Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative, and although service packs have improved its security to some degree, it lacks many of the security improvements that were built into Windows Vista and Windows 7, such as User Account Control (UAC), protected mode for Internet Explorer, Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), mandatory integrity control for processes and service hardening. The TCP/IP stack in XP is less secure, and it doesn't have the enhanced wireless security features that are included in later operating systems.

Windows 7 improves on the security enhancements in Vista and adds its own, such as BitLocker to Go, enhanced auditing, AppLocker, and DirectAccess. You have more control over how security features behave, so you can, for example, match UAC behavior to the needs of your particular environment. Windows 7 also has built-in support for biometric devices, so your company can more easily reap the benefits of biometric authentication.

Migration is easier than you think

One objection you're likely to encounter is based on the lack of an in-place upgrade path from XP to Windows 7. The idea of having to "nuke and pave," wiping out XP installations and starting from scratch with a clean installation of Windows 7, has many organizations wary of the process. However, it's not nearly as scary as some tech publications have made it out to be. Microsoft provides the User State Migration Tool (USMT) that you can use to preserve desktop and application settings, user accounts and users' data files, and migrate them to the new Windows 7 installation.

There are, in fact, an assortment of free tools from Microsoft to help you in a migration and deployment of Windows 7, including the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK), Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM), and more.

Application compatibility is no longer (as much of) an issue

One of the biggest reasons companies chose not to upgrade to Vista had to do with application compatibility. They had old apps that wouldn't install or run on Vista, or that ran more slowly or unreliably on the new OS. Windows 7 addresses that problem with "XP Mode," which is actually a free download of the new Windows Virtual PC software for Windows 7, along with a preconfigured and already licensed Windows XP VM.

Using brand new integration technology, this latest version of Virtual PC allows you to run your old XP applications on XP, but they appear in your Windows 7 Start menu and on your Windows 7 desktop, fully integrated with your Windows 7 applications. This is not your father's virtual machine technology, and it pretty much blows away any worries over application compatibility that may have been obstacles to an OS upgrade in the past.

Make the case: Upgrade from Vista to Windows 7

If your company is already running Windows Vista on the desktop, is there any reason to switch to Windows 7? Many companies and individual users have found the Windows 7 RTM to be faster and more stable than Vista, even after two service packs. Microsoft designed Windows 7 with compatibility in mind, and even without using XP Mode, a significant number of older programs that didn't work on Vista will run on Windows 7.

Not only will Windows 7 run apps that Vista won't, it will also run on hardware that won't support Vista. Many individual have been able to run Windows 7 on low powered machines that ran Vista unacceptably slowly or not at all.

Finally, you'll still need Windows 7 if your company wants to take advantage of DirectAccess, AppLocker and BranchCache (a system for caching files stored on a central server to make them more accessible to branch offices).

What makes it all worth it?

In the end, the decision to upgrade rests on one question: How will Windows 7 improve productivity and positively impact your company's bottom line? Changes to the user interface, from reworked versions of traditional Windows programs such as Calculator, Paint and WordPad to new GUI features such as Snap, Peek and Shake, as well as taskbar jumplists, many more keyboard shortcuts, and a new way to navigate the file system with libraries, can help end users get their work done faster, more enjoyably and with less reliance on third party applications.

Better performance means less time waiting for the system to respond, resulting in more output in a given amount of time. Better reliability means less downtime due to problems and crashes, both increasing productivity and reducing administrative and tech support overhead.

An increasing percentage of business computers are laptops. For mobile users, Windows 7 offers a number of benefits, including longer battery life than Vista on the same machine.

Summary

More and more companies are looking at Windows 7 with an eye toward migrating from XP or Vista. For example, after thorough testing that resulted in positive recommendations for Windows 7 from 97% of testers, Intel has announced that it will begin replacing its Windows XP computers with Windows 7 in the first quarter of 2010. The company expects to save $11 million over the next three years, thanks to the upgrade.

The key to making the business case for switching to Windows 7 lies in:

  • Assessing how your users use their computers and showing how Windows 7 can make their day-to-day work easier
  • Illustrating how the increased productivity that comes with a better operating system can increase revenues
  • Demonstrating how the new OS can be more easily managed and thus make IT's job easier and reduce operating expenses
  • Showing how new OS reliability and security features can result in less downtime and save the company money

About

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

31 comments
Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

MS justify rip people off more. There is NOTHING in Win 7 that they cannot provide by either a major service pack upgrade (for those who want it). Heck, they could even write it to be fully compatible with Win XP and set it up to run all the existing XP software, but MS choose to do the exact opposite, and thus increase business costs unnecessarily by forcing costly hardware and software upgrades to use Win 7. Some of the businesses in my area are already spending money to have critical in house software converted to run on Linux or as browser accessed applications, so they can use Linux desktops and run the apps on servers, just to get away from forced Windows upgrades.

sy speedy
sy speedy

I THINK ITS DOWNRIGHT DISGUSTING THAT MICROSOFT FORCES PEOPLE TO CHANGE TO EITHER VISTA OR 7 BECAUSE THEY ARE STOPPING SUPPORT AND SEWRVICE PACKS.TERRIBLE

Gremeleon
Gremeleon

One important aspect not being mentioned with regard to XPMode and Virtual PC for Win 7 is that the system's CPU must support Virtual Machine Mode (Set in the BIOS). Not many CPU's in use have this capability! I was very disappointed to find this problem on my notebook...but I still wouldn't go back to XP!

raykumaramit
raykumaramit

The Author has not discussed cost involved in upgrading the Hardware which will have significant cost associated.

dave
dave

Perhaps this has been aired elswhere, but can someone tell me how to, easily, connect Windows 7 to SBS 2008. I am not talkng beta, I am not talking RC, I am talking RTM. Try it.

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

Vista is largely irrelevant as a point of comparison when trying to make the business case for Windows 7. Overall, Win7 is superior to Vista, but there is very little of Vista in businesses. It is hard to imagine any positive ROI for the cost of a Vista to Win7 upgrade. Win7 also brings its own annoyances in the areas of search, menu, quick launch, and Explorer, to name a few. So, the business case really has to focus on Win7 vs XP, and there the new kid on the block in not an automatic winner. Where is the ROI for the cost of upgrading? Furthermore, since XP+Office really flies when moved to newer hardware, maybe that is where limited funds should be spent.

damon.mac88
damon.mac88

Alright i get it why should home users or pc enthusiasts upgrade to windows seven but the fact remains if a business firm is doing just fine with windows xp is there a need for upgrade ? Im looking for some serious reasons for doing this, but i dont seem to get one ? Maybe you guys know a better reason. (**,)

gak
gak

I agree tha Windows 7 features can be provided as a service pack to XP or Vista, but even with Vista it would require LOTS of additional work. MS is moving APIs in order to, finally, get a system with a well defined kernel and is almost done. This and the new "libraries" system make deployment of 7 as a Vista SP questionable. New security enhancements like Shadow Storage expect that all programs are reinstalled, thus it is hard to package it as a SP to XP. If all you get when switching to Linux is freedom from MS updates (MS tax, right?), then it is not worth it. If the businesses you mention knew what they were doing, they would had switched to Linux long ago.

dwdino
dwdino

7 runs on the same or less hardware than XP. I have not changed a single app since moving to 7. Greater stability and more efficient UI improves ROI and productivity. Cost, that is up to the check writer.

TNT
TNT

You are right that XP Mode requires the right CPU support, which not all PC's have. But people are talking about it. I mentioned it in a thread a couple days ago right here on TechRepublic (http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=319437&messageID=3185933). There is no conspiracy. It's too bad your laptop doesn't support it, but your laptop is probably set up for energy savings rather than for power. I have an old Pentium D chip that supports it, so I think many people will be able to take advantage. But you're right that not everyone will.

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

Since Microsoft and Intel work so closely together, it is curious that Intel left VT out of so many of its most popular chips. In contrast, almost all AMD chips produced in recent years include VT. For a list of the Intel chips that do and do not have VT, take a look at the tables in a blog by Ed Bott. It is nice bit of research. The tables may need a little updating for Intel's new releases, but it's a good quick reference. http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=946

TNT
TNT

So there is really no cost to upgrade components, unless there is no driver for Win7 for some device in your PC. Since Win7 has better driver support than Vista, it's likely most all your old hardware will work too. And if it doesn't, it's probably so old you ought to replace it anyway.

rduncan
rduncan

...That would be a feasibility study, or Making the business case for new hardware, and it may not have any cost associated with it.

dave
dave

Oh, and my questions about this in MS Technet are being removed by the moderators so that the problem is not exposed.

jkameleon
jkameleon

New applications will be less and less backward compatible. And security fixex as well. It there's one thing M$ can't stand, it's a system which is "working just fine". It's a sin against the very concept of planned obsolesence, and M$ will do everything in its power to prevent it.

mlewis
mlewis

There's currently no compelling reason to upgrade an entire organization, but here are some things to consider: 1) Sooner or later there will be a killer app, or an upgrade to your current software that will require Windows 7. Eventually, the business case builds as you miss out on more and more improvements or new software. 2) Windows 7 will start sneaking into your organization. When I buy new laptop, why would I pay more to "downgrade", especially when I get better battery life from Windows 7. So my new laptop will be Windows 7. Eventually, there will be a tipping point where it just makes sense to convert the people left on XP to make support easier.

l_creech
l_creech

On laptops first. 1. 10-25% better battery life than Vista or XP 2. Better roaming/remote login support. And on everything - 3. Better security with less interference from UAC. 4. Better management of wireless networks. 5. More granular controls in with Group Policy and Power Shell when using Active Directory in 2008 and 2008R2 domains. 6. Better power management. 7. Way better application compatibility as compared to Vista. 8. Better multi-threading. 9. Better memory management. 10. Better crash management, yes they still happen; they just won't force a reboot in most cases. And now we have the Problem Steps Recorder so that customers/employees can record the steps that create problems hopefully making our jobs supporting them much easier. **edited for spelling.

Craig_B
Craig_B

Each IT Professional needs to evaluate their situation and make a business case to do the appropriate action (in this case either upgrade or not). I have been using Windows 7 for a couple of months and feel that it is very solid and just works. It is basically Vista R2, so I don?t feel you need to wait until SPx. The big features are: Security, the enhanced security is much better than XP and more usable than Vista. We are able to run Windows 7 on hardware that was running XP but could not run Vista, so Win 7 is more efficient with hardware resources. I have been running Win 7 x64 without any application or driver issues, again everything has just worked. Of course we use standard business apps, no funky home brewed stuff. In any case, test those things out and worse case is you can run them in XP mode. Ease of use, I love Jump Lists, Aero Peek, combined Task Bar/Quick Launch, Libraries/Favorites, the little shortcuts to access information and change screens on multi-monitor setups. I really feel that I get more done with Windows 7 than with Vista or XP. I recommend that you setup a test system and try things out for yourself, test your apps and see how everything works in your environment and then make a decision based on that.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

and had an existing WXP image, I'd use the XP image. I usually don't use a new Windows version until after the 'gotta have it now' crowd has done the post-release debugging. I've been known to wait until the first SP. If I were ordering new hardware after the first of the year, I'd order it with W7. This is in keeping with the theory that W7 is 'Vista SP2'. If I were re-imaging existing systems after the first of the year, I'd begin building W7 images for those systems that can run it. Keep the XP images just in case. But I wouldn't start installing W7 just to be installing W7, especially if you don't have any apps that require it.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

as it won't run on most of the hardware in the house, mostly due to the lack of drivers and the XP drivers won't work. He has several games that he plays on XP that won't run on Win 7 at all, a few more that run, but badly. His biggest complaint is Win 7 won't run the scanner or printer due to no suitable drivers as the XP ones don't work in Win 7. I also have local businesses that have tried Win 7 and aren't touching it due to problems with hardware drivers and incompatibility with critical applications. People's experiences with Win 7 are many and varied, a lot seems to revolve around how much MS have changed the command set and which drivers will or won't work due to the MS decisions on what to allow. They would all work if they'd stayed with the XP command set - they chose to change it, so they're at fault. The other aspect is why they didn't just treat the few actual improvements as simple upgrades of XP, why go through the major changes of the command set etc - and the onyl answer is purely for their pocket. Oh, one thing I forgot to mention, some people talk about improve battery life on laptops, has this been tested and proven on older laptops or is this just something applicable to the more modern ones. I ask, as it does sound much like a fault within the OS of Win XP that could be fixed with an update to have it run in the same way as Win 7.

pjboyles
pjboyles

Intel bundled virtualization in their vPro technology and then charged a premium for vPro. The business took a look and went "what benefits will I see in the next year?" The answer was none and they refused to pay for vPro. Fast forward 3~4 years and now we finally have a reason for vPro, the virtualization capability. So, in three years we'll have hardware (lease cycle).

dave
dave

Overnight, yes, that is since last night at 22:00 gmt, MS have made available an update for SBS2008 which fixes this problem. Well I suppose better late than never!

Gh0stMaker
Gh0stMaker

Finally someone gives less marketing and more technical reasons.

TNT
TNT

Security and ease of use are two great reasons, support is another. You no longer receive free support from Microsoft, and Microsoft is only issuing security updates for XP - not bug fixes, improvements or advances. It's kinda like buying a new car. Is it time to trade in the 9 year-old Buick? Depends how much driving you do. If its a grocery getter, why take on a car payment when the Buick works fine? If your a salesman who drives a thousand miles a week the case is more compelling. In your case upgrading to 7 may not be in your best interest now. I work for a college prep school so while we don't want to be bleeding edge technology-wise we do want to give the students the experience they will have in college or in the job market. All indications are that they will encounter Win7 in the job market. So next summer we plan to transition all our XP boxes to 7. Good luck with your decision and let us know what you decide, and why.

gak
gak

Windows 7 is special. After Vista, MS did its best to assure that 7 does not fail. Among other things, a huge 'gotta have it now' crowd was assembled to test it. Being part of that, I may assure you that we are done with the post-release debugging. So, you may think that, in Vista terms, Windows 7 had been actually released when it was available for public download and now it reached the SP1 stage.

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

I was trying to offer you a potential solution to the compatibility issue, not to debate the issue. Most helpful to all of us here would be a report from you as to whether XP Mode enabled continued use of the older games and hardware. I, for one, would like to know what did not work natively with Win7, but did work using XP Mode.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

you need extra hardware and software to run XP applications. Even the people who doe this say some applications won't run properly anyway. IF MS did NOT go to the trouble to make XP applications NOT work fully on Win 7, none of this extra stuff would be needed. And, there was no technical reason to create the incompatibility, it was purely commercial.

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

If your son's computer has a CPU with virtualization technology (VT), download and install Microsoft's Virtual PC and the XP Mode VHD file. Both are free. XP can be run either in a window or full-screen on top of Win7 and may solve the games and hardware compatibility problem for you.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

for XP. The one major exception being the compatibility one, there should be total application compatibility, but that would eat into MS potential profits, so it isn't there.

Gh0stMaker
Gh0stMaker

Experience tells the pro's in the field to wait until sp1. I do think Windows 7 is already far better than Vista that reminds me of the old ME fiasco.

Info Dave
Info Dave

Will somebody please take the kool-aid away from this young man.

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