Delaying Windows 7 upgrade could be ‘costly’

Not everyone is interested in upgrading to Windows 7 — at least not right away.

Computerworld ‘s survey respondents who said they have no plans to upgrade reported that they just don’t see enough benefit, particularly in these tough economic times , to warrant the cost of migration.

For Carl Weddle, director of IT at Quality Trailer Products, Windows 7 isn’t even on the radar. “We were clawing our way out of a hole until a few months ago,” he says, referring to the recession. Even in better times, he adds, “I tend to stay on the back end of the technology curve because it’s cheaper there.”

But procrastinating could be costly in the long run.

Microsoft says it will end support for Windows XP with Service Pack 3 on April 8, 2014. (Organizations still using SP2 will lose support in 2012). People who wait too long — or whose migration projects get too far behind schedule — may get stuck paying for custom support, under which getting critical security fixes can run upwards of $200,000 per year.

Microsoft has slipped support dates before, and some organizations are staying on the sidelines to see if that happens again. “We’ll wait and see if Microsoft talks about extending that,” says Norbert Cointepoix, director of IT at Axium Health Care Pharmacy Inc. And Sean Seay, corporate director of infrastructure at health care provider network Premier Health Partners, isn’t in a rush to upgrade his firm’s 10,000-plus Windows XP computers. “We hope Microsoft extends” XP support, he says.

Even some of the largest enterprises may be sitting on the sidelines.

As principal at Alexander Risk, a London-based security consultancy that works with large banks, Geoffrey Leeming says his banking customers generally have a wait-and-see attitude. If previous upgrades are anything to go by, he says, upgrading to Windows 7 will happen only “when Microsoft absolutely refuses to support XP anymore.”

But don’t count on Microsoft sliding the end of support date this time. Gartner analyst Michael Silver says Microsoft may have learned to stand firm on end-of-tech-life issues. “Every time they delay end of support, companies delay plans to get off the old OS,” he says. He suggests that organizations get started, noting that by 2014 XP will be more than 12 years old.

Even IT organizations that are planning to upgrade may have to accelerate their plans. In many businesses, refresh cycles for PCs have been extended due to the recession — and a substantial percentage of existing equipment is too old to run Windows 7.

At Premium Health, for example, some machines are seven years old. “We’re trying to get to a five-year refresh cycle,” Seay says. And at Axium, the desktop replacement cycle is close to six years. “A lot of our existing hardware wouldn’t be worth trying to upgrade,” Cointepoix says. To meet the 2014 deadline, he says, he’ll have to purchase hardware at a faster rate.

IT organizations have other reasons to delay. Some 65 per cent of survey respondents said they’ll wait for Windows 7 Service Pack 1 before proceeding. If SP1 arrives this summer, as Silver predicts, it shouldn’t hold up most deployment plans, which are slated to begin in late 2010 or 2011.

Vince Biddlecombe has another reason to wait: Office 2010 , due to arrive this summer. Biddlecombe, chief technology officer at logistics service provider Transplace in Frisco, Texas, says he’ll be doing a wholesale replacement of about 500 desktops along with his Windows 7 migration — but not until Office 2010 ships.

“It doesn’t seem like a good idea to roll out a whole new bunch of desktops and then turn around and have to do an Office 2010 upgrade,” he says. He expects Office 2010 to arrive in June or July and will start rolling out new Windows 7 desktops sometime after that.

While waiting for Office 2010 before deploying Windows 7 kills two birds with one stone, it also makes upgrades a more complicated undertaking, says Silver. And that could stretch out time frames for completing Windows 7 upgrades a bit further for some organizations.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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