If you’re straddling the fence, 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 to Windows 7 sooner rather than later.
Microsoft’s enterprise desktop operating system has a long-term pattern of OS upgrades: Windows 7 is the long-term successor to Windows XP, just as XP was the clear successor to NT 4.0.
Each of these was the golden child of the Microsoft machine, blessed with prime market positioning, lack of extreme overhauls and sporting a high level of polish. As the latest entrant, 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. Most shops are moving from XP to 7 today.
Migrating to Windows 7 earlier gives 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 addresses this very well. It offers better performance than Vista and has lower minimum requirements, allowing it be used in the Netbook realm that was previously reserved for Windows XP.
Windows 7 runs nicely on both Vista-era equipment and much of the XP-era equipment – and also takes good advantage of new hardware – 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, while moving from Vista to 7 makes this technology user friendly enough so that it can remain enabled without the bulk of users demanding that it be removed.
4) 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 already very big deal. This will be even more true 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 traditional, 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.
5) XP Mode
XP Mode is one of the really standout features that sets Windows 7 apart from its predecessors. Previous Windows versions 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 the extra subsystems needed to handle legacy systems. With Windows XP having been such a dominant player like no Windows platform 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.
6) Branch Cache
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 their small, remote offices.
Branch Cache’s ability to seamlessly store previously accessed CIFS and web resources out to a branch office can, for some businesses, mean that extra equipment and costlier 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.
7) Direct Access
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 a 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. This means that both the machine and the user can properly authenticate even when work working remotely.
Summary: Evolution vs. Revolution
At the end of the day, 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. If Vista was revolutionary, think of Windows 7 as evolutionary.