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Eight steps to ensure your business is successful with a late-stage OS migration

Windows XP
Quite a number of organisations are still running Windows XP
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As you may be aware, some 20% of organisations have yet to migrate from Windows XP. You might even be one of those firms, and you may have finally come round to realising that upgrading is a necessity.

However, upgrading an entire organisation's computers isn't easy at the best of times, let alone when you've left things late – but fortunately we've got some great advice for you in this article. Here are eight key considerations that any business partaking of a late-stage OS migration should bear in mind.

1. Realise this 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 in 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 right 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.

2. 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 just 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.

3. Audit and rationalise your application estate up-front

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.

4. 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 be drawn 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.

5. Automate, automate, automate!

Many companies manually ship disks and USB drives 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.