What’s your reason for not upgrading to Windows 7? Many IT managers wait for the first service pack before deploying an OS upgrade; others update the operating system as part of a hardware refresh. Here are some advantages to upgrading.
If you have been watching Microsoft’s enterprise desktop operating systems over the past two decades then you are aware that there is a pattern emerging and that pattern places Windows 7 as the long term successor to Windows XP and that XP was the clear successor to NT 4.0. Each of these were the golden child of the Microsoft machine, blessed with prime market positioning, lack of extreme overhauls and sporting a high level of polish. As such, whether you are seeking the latest and greatest or just looking for the best desktop OS investment, Windows 7 meets your needs. Windows 7 is here to stay and adoption rates are already very high.
Once you accept that Windows 7 is coming to your environment sometime over the next several years then the question truly becomes: “What are you waiting for?” The sooner that you get Windows 7 in place, the sooner you can make the transition and the sooner you can start reaping the benefits of the latest technologies and nearly a decade of development since Windows XP originally released – and let’s face it, most shops are moving from XP to 7 today. You will achieve your greatest benefits from Windows 7 the sooner that you put it in place giving your users maximum time to adapt to it and giving you more time to take advantage of its features.
One of the biggest complaints of users who switched to Vista from XP was a lack of performance. Windows 7 addressed this very well and is more performant than Vista and has lower minimum requirements allowing it be used in the Netbook realm that had been previously reserved for Windows XP up through the Vista era. Windows 7 runs nicely on Vista-era equipment and much of the XP-era equipment while taking good advantage of new hardware as well making it a good option for in-place software upgrades.
Having a Windows operating system that actually outperforms its predecessor on the same hardware is a major feat. Traditionally an OS was only expected to be comparable or faster when used on hardware current to its release. Unlike any other Windows upgrade, Windows 7 can be deployed onto existing hardware without needing hardware upgrades and you will still see small performance gains. This alone removes one of the traditional obstacles to in-place operating system upgrades.
Security is always of concern and Windows 7 comes with a slew of security enhancements. The best one results in an improved user experience as well – the update of User Account Control (UAC.) This update makes UAC, the bane of Windows Vista, into the security tool that it was always meant to be. UAC is now easy to use and control but still powerful enough to protect you in critical ways. Moving from XP to 7 provides a very important security update from a technology side while moving from Vista to 7 makes this technology user friendly enough that it can remain enabled without the bulk of users demanding that it be removed.
Solid State Drive Support
With solid state drives rapidly dropping in price and growing in popularity, having specific support for them in Windows 7 is a very big deal today but especially over the next few years as solid state drives move from the realm of power user equipment to mainstream user equipment. Solid state drives work best when the drivers handling them are aware that they are solid state. SSDs should not be treated like tradition, spindle-based hard drives for maximum performance and reliability benefits.
Windows 7’s solid state enhancements like TRIM and removal of spindle drive tools like Superfetch and ReadyBoost give SSDs better performance and longer lifespan on Windows 7 then on previous Windows iterations. These features may not seem like a big deal today but over the lifespan of Windows 7, as SSDs become more and more of an expected desktop component for the average office worker these SSD-specific features will play a bigger and bigger role.
XP Mode is one of those really stand-out features that sets Windows 7 apart from its predecessors. Previous Windows version have struggled in handling legacy applications. Windows 7’s new approach of including a Windows XP operating system as a complete virtual machine handles this issue in a graceful way. Now legacy apps are more reliable and the Windows 7 system is not encumbered with extra subsystems needed to handle legacy systems. With Windows XP having been such a dominant player like no Windows platform had been before, this approach is brilliant and a shrewd move on Microsoft’s part. XP Mode delivers a level of confidence that existing apps will continue to work on Windows 7 – even apps that no longer see active development and are not being tested against the newest Microsoft operating systems. Once again, Windows 7 provides more than its predecessor in an area where we would not expect to see this – backwards compatibility. Windows 7 is dramatically more compatible with Windows XP software than Vista is.
Enterprise customers can leverage Branch Cache, Microsoft’s new WAN optimization technology targeted at supporting branch offices within a larger, enterprise environment. Branch Cache can be a significant feature for the many companies who struggle with providing storage resources out to small, remote offices. Branch Cache’s ability to seamlessly store previously accessed CIFS and web resources out at a branch office can, for some businesses, mean that extra equipment and larger Internet connections need not be purchased which can result in substantial cost savings and branch office productivity gains. Branch Cache will also reduce loads on central storage systems allowing file server dollars to be stretched a little farther too.
Previous versions of Windows have had VPN products included with them but Direct Access takes the idea of “always connected mobility” to a new level. Direct Access adds seamless VPN to Windows which gives users a unified experience between remote and “in office” computing modes. No longer do users need to manage their VPN experience – as long as they are online they are connected to the office. Direct Access leverages IPv6 and IPSec for simple, efficient and extremely secure remote computing. Direct Access is designed to work with Microsoft’s existing authentication systems allowing it to be used for normal, everyday computing without breaking communications with Active Directory so that both the machine and the user can properly authenticate – even when working remotely.
At the end of the day, however, what makes Windows 7 compelling isn’t any significant feature. In fact, it is the lack of major features that makes Windows 7 so important. Like XP, its spiritual predecessor, Windows 7 tweaks a working formula. Vista introduced the new kernel, the new interface, UAC and other features. Introducing change is painful. Windows 7 takes what works and makes it better. Windows 7 is the long term, strategic desktop decision because it is a polished system that introduces small, incremental updates and relies on established features to drive its overarching value. Think of 7 as the evolutionary whereas Vista was revolutionary.