A suite deal?

How will Windows Vista and Office 2007 change the way SMBs do business?

Windows Vista aims to manage data, information and knowledge more effectively and provide a more advanced interface along with improved usability. For example, Vista will feature much-touted design improvements, including Windows Aero (which adds advanced visual cues) and live taskbar thumbnails (which preview the content of a window when the mouse runs over it). Yet, it also promises to ratchet up security and drive huge improvements in administration capabilities while reducing deployment and support costs.

Vista offers hundreds of new features, many centering on security. For example, through BitLocker Drive Encryption, Windows Vista Enterprise can store encryption keys and passwords on a dedicated Trusted Platform Module chip rather than easy to access (and hack) software files. If an employee loses a notebook computer, the hardware is lost but the data is not.

Another significant Windows Vista feature is company-wide PC management. It allows administrators to set group policies for an expanded array of functions and services, including Internet settings, power management and password protection. It also increases control over removable storage devices like keychain flash memory drives and iPods, either of which can drop malware onto systems or pull sensitive data off them.

Perhaps the most significant change is the improved collaboration and connectivity. Windows Meeting Space enables face-to-face, small group collaboration for groups of up to 10 users, on or off the corporate network.

Additionally, Windows Meeting Space allows people to distribute documents and jointly edit them in a secure environment. Presentations can be projected to other Windows Vista PCs. Improved network tools simplify creating, configuring and troubleshooting network connections, including wireless networks.

Plan the Attack

Developing an IT plan and an upgrade path for Vista is essential. According to a CDW Microsoft Vista Tracking Poll, 86 per cent of organizations plan to adopt Vista and 20 percent within the next six months. However, the 761 IT decision makers surveyed also reported that only 26 per cent have developed a rough plan for implementing Vista and 51 per cent said that at least half of their organizations’ hardware would require an upgrade to run the new operating system.

There are performance issues to weigh, cost issues to consider and an array of practical matters to face. Businesses must choose between purchasing Vista-ready PCs and upgrading to the new operating system later on or integrating new Vista PCs with the operating system (OS) pre-installed into their existing computing environment.

Windows Vista Summary

IT executives must weigh the advantages of a new and more robust operating system against the difficulties of upgrading PCs across an enterprise and maintaining a stable computing environment. Depending on an organization’s refresh cycle and its budget and computing requirements, the migration to Vista can range from simple to remarkably complex.

A thorough upfront analysis can also help identify how the operating system affects various applications and what impact it has on compatibility and security. In some cases, upgrades or patches may be required. Many industry analysts recommend a thorough analysis of applications, management processes and hardware in order to understand all the implications of moving to a new OS.

2007 Microsoft Office system
Some people are calling it Office 2007, but the correct name for the new Office suite is “2007 Microsoft Office system.” It is billed as the most significant release of Office in the last decade and aims to help people work the way they want to work in today’s business world.

The 2007 Microsoft Office system is exactly that, a system, comprised of the typical office suite user applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook (and many less-recognizable ones like Access, Communicator, Groove, InfoPath, OneNote, Project, Publisher and Visio) as well as a group of behind-the-scenes server tools that work together to help build on the productivity of users.

The most noticeable changes in the new applications are the intuitive interface with new menus and toolbars, a new XML file format and features that will allow businesses to complete tasks more quickly.

The new XML based file format for Excel, Word and PowerPoint allows for better and easier integration of business information into your Office documents. XML, being an industry standard, offers a more open file format so users can assemble documents from various existing data sources and then be able to reuse the content and share it with other business applications. A bonus is that this new file format is also smaller, as it uses ZIP compression. While only 2007 Microsoft Office System users will be able to take advantage of the new file format, the software will also read and write the previous generation file formats.

The 2007 Office system is designed to increase individual impact, make collaboration easier and allow businesses to streamline business processes and content management. Some new features will allow businesses to take on more tasks themselves rather than buying additional software or outsourcing. For example, Office Quick Styles provide a template of professional-looking styles, which users can apply to their documents, reducing the need to outsource to creative design houses.

Like Windows Vista or any new application, especially with the changes to the office suite user interface, short-term productivity of your employees may be impacted, but in the long run new and advanced features will likely drive productivity.

Like most Microsoft products, the current generations of each work best together, but you are able to run the 2007 Office suite on Windows XP and you can run older versions of the Office suite on Windows Vista.

Which to choose?

Both new products from Microsoft, 2007 Office suite and Windows Vista, represent an incredible investment from Microsoft on new features and benefits that will help businesses be more productive. Like any new IT implementation productivity gains must be balanced with the costs of acquisition and user training to fully take advantage of its benefits.

Daniel Reio is manager, product marketing, at CDW Canada Inc.

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