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Archive for December, 2012

XP – What’s The Rush?

As the end of 2012 approaches, I can’t help but wonder how many companies will be in panic mode this time next year.  You see, XP will no longer be supported as of April 8, 2014.  Right now, that sounds like an eternity, but that year and a bit will fly by faster than you think.  Although Microsoft puts out a great roadmap for XP migration (click here), I find that it’s geared for large businesses, not the small (under 20 users) businesses I deal with.  I also believe that small businesses see no reason to upgrade XP because they are unaware of its expiration date.  To help ease the transition between now and XPs final days, here are some steps to help prepare you:

1. Budget

Replacing several systems and applications can be expensive.  To avoid “sticker shock,” it is advisable that you budget for your migration in advance.  Keep in mind, the average desktop system is $600-$1000, depending on hardware.  Other factors to consider in your budget are IT resource costs and software.

2. Asset Management

Are you aware of what you currently have in-house?  Before considering moving off of XP, you will need to ensure that your current hardware will support Windows 7/8.  From my experience, most of the systems running XP will need to be replaced (stay tuned for a post on reusing your old tech).  Servers and server operating systems/applications should also be included in this inventory.  To avoid any speed bumps in your desktop deployment, make sure your servers are up-to-date and/or compatible.

3. Deployment and Migration

There is no in-place upgrade from XP to the newer operating systems.  This means all the data will need to be migrated manually to a new system, or replaced on an upgraded system.  Depending on the amount of data and files, and the age of the hardware, this could take several hours per system.

4. Scheduling a Qualified IT Professional

Let’s face it: companies are going to leave the XP migration until the last possible moment.  The problem with this is that because it will have been left so late, there may not be enough time to successfully transition to a new environment.  Even if you do have enough time to do this, the rates may be higher than 6 months before.  To avoid inflated prices, schedule a qualified IT Professional in advance.

5. Replacing or updating older applications

All of the applications currently in use on your XP systems will have to be validated for the new operating system.  If an application is now longer supported or available an alternative will have to be found and tested.  If replacing the application is not an option, then rewriting the code may be the answer and this will take time.

6. Testing

To ensure your systems will be compatible with the new applications and environment, it is highly recommended that you test everything before you move forward.  To do this properly, replicate your hardware and software requirements as closely as possible during your testing phase.

7. Cleaning up

Now that you have replaced all of your older systems, you can’t just throw them away.  Before donating or if necessary pitching your old equipment, the systems need to be wiped of any data to prevent anyone from recovering your company data.  This process can takes several hours per system but it is highly recommended and advised.

8. User Training

The gap between XP and Windows 7/8 is very significant.  To ensure the transition is successful, users may need to be taught how to use the new operating system and applications.  Click here for my Windows 8 “user” experience.

I hope this convinces you to look at your current systems and start planning to move from XP to a newer, more secure operating system.  If you have any questions about how to move forward contact your qualified IT Professional and they can help you develop a roadmap that will help you and your team transition from old to new technology.

These guidelines are based on a typical deployment for a small business that is transitioning from XP to Windows 7/8.  Please talk to your qualified IT Pro for a customized and successful shift from old tech to new tech.

Windows 8 – Still Not Convinced

Love the Lenovo.

Love the Lenovo.

If you read my previous blog post (click here), you know that my laptop died a few weeks ago.  I knew it was coming, and decided to make the jump the day it died ( I ordered the new system then my current system over-heated for the last time later that same day) and purchased a laptop with Windows 8.  My husband has been using it since the preview was available and he loves it.  Plus, I was at a Microsoft event the week prior and liked what I saw.  I knew I’d have to learn it at some point, so it seemed like a good time to dive in.

My new laptop arrived the following Tuesday night and I planned to set it up (transfer files, etc) the next day, since it was my scheduled “work at home day”.  I expected I would have the time to figure it out, get used to it, and play with it before I got started on any work.

By 9 am Wednesday morning, I had two client issues I had to deal with, and I still hadn’t transferred my files, or even had Office 2013 (which I am really liking) installed or configured.  Luckily, I had been working in the cloud during my non-laptop period, so I continued working, using web-based services on my new laptop until I could find the time to set it up for my workflow.  I assumed I would just be able to carry on, Windows is Windows, right?

Soon, I encountered a problem: not only was I trying to help my clients with their work, but I was trying to do so on a new operating system (which I was struggling with) without my standard “go-to” applications and I was becoming very frustrated.

Once I had my clients hiccups resolved I configured the system for my use.  I noticed some great new features in Windows 8 that I love, such as image mounting (awesome), and the fast boot-up time.  I can’t wait to jump-play with Hyper-V (I know that will be a huge plus for me).  And when I have some free time, I’ll play with Windows to Go.

Despite all the pluses, I am not sure I am really liking it yet.  As I mentioned before, I had to learn how to navigate Windows 8 on the fly.  Heck, I even had to Google how to restart it.  The interface formerly known as “Metro” is confusing, and I don’t understand why it’s on a non-touch device.  I find “searching” the requires more clicks/keystrokes.  Switching between “Metro” apps and the desktop is confusing and requires more clicks.  I am not even sure if Skype is open!  For a standard 9-5 Monday-Friday job, I am not sure I would recommend Windows 8.  My husband said I was being such a “user”, but if I am struggling, then I know my business clients will as well.

I’ll follow up in a few weeks with my feelings after a month of Windows 8.

Practicing What I Preach

Netbook

Awesome netbook, not a laptop.

If you know me or have seen me talk, you know that I love the cloud! I give entire talks about the cloud, how it can help you, and why you should use it.  I encourage small businesses and individuals to use it whenever possible.  It’s no surprise that I try to use the cloud as much as I can.  Here is my “real life” cloud story:

Last week, my laptop died.  It’s been giving me grief for the last few months and I knew it was coming, so I ordered a new laptop the morning of a couple weeks back.  That afternoon, my dying laptop overheated for the last time.  Of course, I had to wait a while for my new laptop to arrive (awesome black Friday sale).  I was without my own laptop for 4 days, and had to use my 4-year-old under-powered, slow, small netbook.  Although the netbook is not a full-fledged desktop, I wasn’t concerned about my work.  Since I use the cloud for just about everything, I could get through the weekend and early week, no problem.  And for the most part, I did.  I grabbed my little under-powered and non-Office-installed Acer netbook and promptly accessed my documents and mail, using a variety of services, including: Gmail (personal), Google Apps for Business (business account), Dropbox (additional storage), and Microsoft Live (personal).  My non-laptop experience highlighted three rolls of thunder in my cloud:

1. When I could pull what I needed from a various service to an application on my laptop seamlessly, it was fine.  But as soon as I had to start transferring files between various cloud services, things became a little cumbersome.  Going forward, I am going to settle on one cloud service to handle all of my data (email, documents, storage, etc.)

2.  My next big obstacle was Outlook, or should I say, the lack of.  As much as I love Google, I really don’t like their web-based mail experience.  I use Outlook for all of my mail, tasks, and scheduling.  Because of the amount of mail I have to manage, I found Google’s lack of folder structure overwhelming.  If I were to use Gmail, I would have to modify my email workflow severely.  By day two, I had to install Office on the netbook so I could have the basic functionality to work effectively.

3.  The third “roll of thunder” was not being able to access my financial application.  Okay, I always manage to find an excuse not to do paperwork, but I have to admit not being able to see my company financials bothered me.  I am considering moving my financials to a cloud-based service for this reason.  On a side note, when I went to bring my financial backup from cloud storage to my new laptop, the file was corrupted.

This experience didn’t change how I feel about the cloud, if anything, it validated my push to encourage others to use the cloud.  My cloud services allowed me to continue working, even if it was at a snail’s pace.  Luckily, I was able to retrieve all the data from my old drive and was up and running with all my programs and data within a few hours.  Now, if I could only figure out Windows 8…

Click here for blog post on my Windows 8 struggles

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