How to succeed in a late-stage OS migration

Turning lateness to your advantage

If your company is late to upgrading its OS, you are not alone. More than 20 percent of US companies are yet to upgrade from the aging Windows XP. But there are ways you can turn tardiness to an advantage.

It is something you have to do

Most of the risks of remaining on an unsupported Windows XP system have been widely discussed in the public sphere, as business systems are vulnerable to viruses, malware and hacks. And Microsoft's extension of anti-malware support until July 2015 won't be enough to protect your systems.

XP exploits will likely begin to emerge en masse within the coming months. The millions of computers on which XP is still installed are simply too tempting a target. What's more, on an old OS your business won't have access to the latest apps or software, with all the attendant frustrations and productivity issues this implies.

If you're already coming late to migration you have no choice; you need to do it now. Don't compound the problem by waiting any longer. With the latest developments on automated systems, OS migration can be undertaken much more quickly than you think.

Plan carefully

Plan your migration strategy in advance, clearly setting out your objectives, costs and time goals. What are the risks? Will migration impact users, and how? It might sound obvious, but it's incredible how many companies I see that make their migration strategy up as they go along, especially those who have never undertaken a large-scale migration before. As a result, timescales and KPIs tend to drift.

As well as making your migration efforts more credible within the business, this form of planning will also be incredibly helpful to you as an IT professional. I guarantee, while doing your research, you'll learn something about the process that probably would have tripped you up later on.

Audit and rationalise

Understand which applications are required and how critical they are; how much are they actually used and what does each application cost the business? Understand if applications can be upgraded or repackaged or if a new, similar application can be found. Make sure you involve users in decisions to keep or 'rationalise-out' certain applications though.

IT teams can frequently underplay this stage of the migration process and underestimate the time, complexity and overall challenge involved in rationalising apps effectively, and the cost of getting it wrong. It's often best to call in outside help to undertake your application audit, whether in the form of consulting or automated application rationalisation tools.

Run basic hygiene tests on your infrastructure


Migration of an OS is no time to discover you have fundamental infrastructure issues, but this is just the way it has played out for many. In fact, an OS rollout can cause companies to take the first good, hard look at their systems for a while. However, finding these faults during the migration can cause the process to draw out, adding further expense.

Make sure you perform some basic sanitation issues up-front. Ensure you have applied all the most current updates to all systems. Also, ensure your system management infrastructure has minimal failure points so it doesn't become a bottleneck. It will need to have the capacity to provide deployment services and desktop management in parallel.

Automate, automate, automate!

Many companies manually ship disks and USBs to departments, and/or eat up time with numerous costly desk-side visits in order to upgrade individual computers. This annoys users, disrupts work, and pulls IT staff away from important duties.

Ensuring rollouts occur effectively and efficiently is the quickest way to be seen as an IT hero within your organisation.

Given the technology that is available, aim for 100% 'Zero Touch Windows Migration'. 1E, for example, is typically able to achieve 100% Zero-Touch on 90% of a computer estate during a migration, with very limited interaction required on the remaining 10%. OS rollout is almost completely automated across the network with minimal desk-side visits from the IT department.

Get users involved

Migration is not about OS, but about people. Your job is to give staff the tools that will allow them to do their job effectively.

Your migration should also be totally non-disruptive. Encourage user buy-in to the upgrade process by letting them schedule when automated upgrades occur, and ensure you are clear about the benefits it will bring and when it needs to be done by.

After migration, consider setting up an app store, or another way of allowing users to request applications and upgrades in a way that lets them feel in control of the process and timing.

Learn from others' mistakes

If you're undertaking an ultra-late stage migration, one thing is strongly in your favour; the ability to see the mistakes everyone else has made, and avoid them.

Whether problems with application mapping or device drivers, you'll see some very common problems out there, often experience by IT professionals who, perhaps understandably, will never have undertaken a large-scale migration before.

Scour the forums, talk to other IT professionals, and consult with experts. At this point in time the industry will have a broader view of the issues involved. Turn this to maximum advantage.

Think about the next migration

If you're migrating from XP, trust us, your next OS isn't going survive 13 years like XP did! The rate at which Windows releases a new OS is speeding up. Many companies hadn't even got onto Windows 7 or 8 when Windows 9 was announced.

Think about how you can implement more robust, efficient processes for the rollout of OSs and rationalisation of applications. As before, the best solution is to automate your migration processes as much as possible, putting in place systems that will make your next migration that much smoother.

Ambareesh Kulkarni is Vice President of Professional Services at 1E.