August 29, 2007

The Big Upgrade

Microsoft Vista’s Flexibility Has Appeal but Hardware Requirements Could Be Tough on Wallets

Now that the marketing onslaught for Microsoft’s new Vista operating system is in full swing, companies that are considering an upgrade to Vista will most likely have to present a plan to their senior management. Many will rely on information from the aforementioned marketing campaign. Companies that have been part of the BETA testing program indicated a big improvement in security but recommended that companies should roll out the transition to Vista slowly for reasons that include Vista’s beefier system requirements.

Past Windows versions made control over desktop settings an all or nothing proposition, but Vista gives users more freedom by treating each configurable element differently, for example, users can be given permission to change their system clock time but be prohibited from loading information through USB drives. This flexibility should be very appealing to companies with smaller and more time pressed IT support staffs. So should the security improvements, including a myriad of fixes to the Microsoft Windows XP holes and bugs, and a new feature called Bit locker, which encrypts local files and makes it harder to access data on a lost or stolen laptop.

According to Microsoft’s estimates, companies currently standardized on Windows XP can reduce IT labor and support costs $35 per PC by moving to Vista and about $340 per PC by upgrading to all the Vista related infrastructure products, including firewalls and Active Directory. However it’s not very likely that all companies will be able to do either because of the new operating system’s hardware requirements. Microsoft advises enterprise customers to run Vista on computers with at least 40GB of storage, 1GB of memory and a 1HHz 32 or 64-bit processor – meaning many companies will have to buy brand new computers in order to support it.

Instead of a wholesale purchase of new computers at one time most companies are upgrading hardware during a normal technology refresh cycle. Microsoft recommends that those companies doing a phased in rollouts start with laptops first, since the security benefits will be felt the most by mobile users.

There is one other area that should be considered. Since the look and feel of Vista is different that means many will end up with one additional expense – training, as it will take at least one hour of training to teach people how to use Vista.