Canadian container maker faces mobility issues with Vista rollout

You probably can’t blame some of the workers at Busch Systems International Inc, a recycling container manufacturer based in Barrie, Ont., for feeling a bit in the dumps lately.

The company’s recent Microsoft Vista roll out seemed to be coming along pretty fine until Busch’s remote employees attempted to log onto their desktops using their mobile devices.

They were promptly barred by the new operating system (OS).

Office-bound personnel working on non-Vista machines who wanted to use printers connected to Vista-enabled PCs, also found they couldn’t “share” the printers.

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“Apart from retrieving e-mail, our remote workers have no access to apps on their Vista desktops through the Small Business Server and printer networking in the office hampered,” said Marty Pepper, operations manager for Busch, which has around 60 employees in four offices in the Barrie area.

Don’t get him wrong though. Remote log-in may be “a bit of an issue” but Pepper and many of the company’s workers like Vista.

Busch has about nine machines on Vista during this early stage of the deployment, but there are plans to eventually install the software throughout the organization, once the issues are sorted out.

Pepper said he contacted Microsoft Canada about the problem but was initially told that Microsoft had no solution at the moment.

He said Microsoft also suggested that Busch might need to use an alternative connection such as a virtual private network (VPN) – a secure communications tunnel dedicated to a specific network but accessed through public Internet.

The operations manager said Microsoft has not contacted him about the problem since then.

When this reporter asked a Microsoft representative about the networking and remote log in difficulties that Busch workers were having, he said Microsoft is following up with the container company and their partner directly to resolve the problem.

“Microsoft is getting in touch with Busch for more information. However, there should be nothing preventing users from accessing Vista computers remotely through Small Business Server,” according to Elliot Katz, senior product manager, for Microsoft Canada.

He said Microsoft had not experienced this issue with other customers or partners.

Printer sharing issues similar to those experienced by Busch employees, have also been resolved with the release of Vista Service Pack 1, Katz added.

Busch Systems previously had their computers on Windows XP but they decided to migrate to Vista when the new OS was released.

Pepper particularly favours the Search functionality and enhanced security features in Vista.

The advanced keyword search features and referencing abilities of Vista enable users find files faster than they would have on XP, he said.

“I no longer have to search through folders or dig into root directories to find the files I want,” Pepper said. “Now I simply type in the keyword for the file I am searching.”

He also said XP had some security shortcomings. For example, the older OS did not have a built-in USB lock. This allowed users to connect various devices to their computers but also would have provided hackers easy access to computer files.

XP did not have a native spyware alert feature. Pepper said Busch had to purchase a separate product to get this protection.

He also thinks Vista’s visuals are cool. “I like the animation they’re very attractive to the eye. It makes work seem easier.”

Security features such as the Bit blocker which provides full disk drive encryption to protect data are among those welcomed by early adopters of Vista, said Katz.

The system’s ability to automate file back-up is another favourite, according the Microsoft Canada executive said. “Many users like the Shadow Copy feature which enables them to preserve various versions of a single document.”

While some users might be annoyed by Vista’s stringent User Account Control (UAC) security setup, it could be an ideal feature for office PCs, said Michelle Warren, senior research analyst for Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont.

When activated the UAC requires people to run Vista in standard user mode and releases pop-up prompts that warns users when they attempt to install a program. The feature can prevent downloading of unauthorized programs.

However, Warren said most Vista sales will likely come from new computer sales in the consumer market where the OS will come pre-installed.

“Corporate users will have a choice and a lot of businesses are likely to decide to hold off migration,” said Warren.

Organizations holding on to XP see it as a still useful OS and are likely worried of interoperability issues, the analyst said.

Many users are still having device and application compatibility problems with Service Pack 1, said Katz of Microsoft.

“This shouldn’t be a surprise because Vista is a very new OS. It takes some time for developers of products in the market to sort out interoperability.”

Katz has the following advice for businesses considering a Vista migration:

Test Vista
Try out the OS before a flat out adoption. Consider putting Vista on a limited number computers and see how it handles day-to-day operations and integration with existing software and applications.

Check existing device drivers
Find out which existing equipment can run Vista or contact your vendors to find out if they have Vista compatible drivers.

Look for vendors that support Vista
At some point you may have to obtain new devices drives or completely replace some hardware. Shop around for vendors that offer Vista support.

Check video/audio cards and USB ports
Will your video and audio cards work with Vista? Katz said the new OS has had some problems with ATI and Nvidia. Also, while most PC might still have 1.1 USB drives, Vista requires a 2.0 USB drive.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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