Vista deployment secrets

Vista adoption may be slow, but numerous IT shops have taken the plunge. Find out why they did and how they’ve made the shift

Vista adoption in business (and at this writing more than 75,000 people have signed InfoWorld's petition asking Microsoft to keep Windows XP available indefinitely). Nonetheless, thousands of businesses worldwide have already adopted Vista.

Some have made the move because they see real benefit to changes in the OS, especially for deployment management and security protection. Others see Vista as inevitable and would rather switch sooner than later. In either case, early adopters offer lessons on how to get the most from Vista and how to deploy with minimal disruption.

Such insight can only help the vast majority of businesses that are holding off on Vista. "The market has been slower to adopt Vista than lots of folks expected," notes Jeff Dimock, vice president of Microsoft solutions at the IT consultancy Dimension Data Americas. Gartner has advised its clients to wait until early 2009, to give Microsoft time to issue a couple of service packs and for third-party providers to update their applications and drivers, notes Michael Silver, a research vice president.

Both Dimock and Silver recommend that IT shops avoid installing Vista onto existing PCs unless they are less than a year old and instead pair a Vista upgrade with a hardware refresh. "We encourage customers to integrate these two cycles," Dimock says. The reasons are to confine the user and IT disruption and to avoid the performance and compatibility issues that older hardware can have with Vista.

When the time is right to move to Vista, Dimock expects IT organizations will like the tighter security, despite the fact it requires a change in both user behavior (to acknowledge the User Account Control warnings when installing potentially harmful applications) and an update in applications (to run in user mode rather than administrator mode). "It's a lot more robust security model, but it does come at a price," he says.

Dimock also sees the adoption of Vista as a handy excuse to clean out old apps from the IT portfolio, as many will no longer be fully compatible. "It is an ideal time to do that," he says.

For IT, perhaps the other big advantage is Vista's ability to create a unified installation image that selectively loads the needed drivers and applications onto users' computers -- saving IT from having to manage lots of install images as with XP or to rely on the PC-model-specific OEM installations whose "bloatware" then needs to be removed from each system.

YMCA's incremental strategy keeps Vista costs low

The local YMCA in Milwaukee is taking what analysts consider the most common approach to deploying Vista in business: one PC at a time as new users come on board or individual PCs are replaced. "We didn't want to make all the investment at once," explained IT director David Fritzke. At first he considered upgrading the existing computers' memory from their average of 512MB to the 2GB that Vista needs, but ultimately he couldn't justify investing in older computers that would need to be replaced in a year or two anyhow.

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