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How to Plan a Smooth Enterprise PC Migration

Thomas Koll, CEO of Laplink Software, a Bellevue, Wash.-based provider of software for PC migration, remote access, file transfer and synchronization offers some tips on a smooth PC migration.

An estimated 65 percent of businesses still run on Windows XP. With Windows 8 right around the corner, solution providers can rev up for an increase in PC migration requests by using a few automated tools that will protect and provide uninterrupted access to all applications and data. Thomas Koll, CEO of Laplink Software, a Bellevue, Wash.-based provider of software for PC migration, remote access, file transfer and synchronization offers some tips.

Windows 7 is here; Windows 8 isn’t too far behind. With the excitement and anticipation accompanying each new major Microsoft release comes the often time-consuming, expensive and complex transition of PC migration to the new systems. The process is somewhat more complex for IT administrators in business, education and public service enterprise environments than for consumers and home offices not only because of the sheer number of migrations, but also given the issue of remote users in field and home offices in North America and sometimes abroad.

[Related: What the Enterprise Can Expect from the Microsoft Surface Tablet ]

An estimated 65 percent of businesses still run on Windows XP. Rather than pulling out hair over the prospect of migrating office and line-of-business applications to the new OS, solution providers on behalf of their customers can choose from among a few automated tools to ease the burden while ensuring the safety of, and uninterrupted access to all applications and data.

A smooth enterprise PC migration is not as easy as 1-2-3, specifically preparation, set up, and post-migration “clean-up.” After determining which applications and data to keep and conducting a thorough analysis of application compatibility integrators and/or IT must also determine if a full backup of “everything” before migrating organizations to a new system is warranted before the actual migration of data, settings and applications is performed.

Without automated migration tools, often-cited figures peg IT-enacted Windows 7 migration costs -- not including preparation, analysis, imaging and clean up -- totaling between $300 to $2,000 per upgraded computer, with additional burdens of additional productivity losses in the form of downtime and sapped user morale.

By automating the migration process, resellers can help businesses leverage the most comprehensive migration packages to dramatically lower time, labor, storage and PC shipping costs, in the process freeing internal IT staff to perform other responsibilities. Some of these tools move applications and their related configuration settings to a new operating system without required reinstallation or reconfiguration.

They also can perform PC refreshes and break-fix recovery scenarios with migrations running automatically across a network, USB or Ethernet cable, or via external media or storage. Such systems can migrate some or all users of enterprise computers and preserve file ownership and access control and other information.

An important consideration in enterprise PC migration is the existence of both domain and non-domain users in an environment. Tools addressing joint migration requirements reduce related expenses, as do those which can effect the process from an old hard drive or even the image of an old hard drive, treating it as an actual workstation.

Departmental or functional differences in PC configurations require a more flexible approach. In order to allow “zero-touch” or “light-touch” migrations, resellers should pick those tools that allow an easy customization via a rule or policy manager. Following a “policy manager” approach, IT administrators can quickly and easily define migration rules such as inclusion or exclusion of applications, data storage locations, user administration and others resulting in sizably less user data, settings and applications being “left behind.”

Policy manager-focused solutions can also be integrated with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or used in standalone mode to complement image deployment. IT administrators or integrators can also use these tools to perform in-place upgrades to Windows 7 from Windows XP.

An important consideration in determining the relative cost of manual as compared to automated enterprise PC migration relates to the cost of post-migration support. Users that obtain from resellers the most flexible and comprehensive migration tools that transfer all unique data and applications require less support and generally enjoy greater post-migration satisfaction. Their intuitive characteristics facilitate system reconfiguration, reducing downtime and enabling users to more quickly return to full output.

Enterprise environments, whether at universities, governments, hospitals, manufacturers, technology companies, you name it, include both IT- and user-managed PCs. The latter, due in large part to the growing popularity of Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) without enabling migration tools can be an IT nightmare with respect to time, money and user satisfaction. Some companies where only 20 percent of PCs are user-managed can cost as much to migrate as the other 80 percent of computers.

Migration costs also increase dramatically for remote or foreign users whose PCs resellers and integrators cannot reach easily unless the automated tools are used to allow user to self-migrate according to the corporate rules. By using this approach, reseller and integrators can extend their reach to the user communities serving a bigger population of users.

Enterprise migration tools, such as those featuring the referenced policy manager capabilities, help organizations control much of the migration process from a central method, defining and enforcing migration policies that specify what applications and data will be transferred. They also customize the amount of available end user interaction prior to the migration. Such management and control are key elements in ensuring smooth enterprise PC migration in an otherwise chaotic, not to mention, very costly process from both a dollar and productivity perspective.

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