Top 5 Windows 7 features to save time and boost productivity

Since the introduction of Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) there’s been no shortage of praise for Microsoft’s newest operating system – soon to replace the much maligned Vista OS.

This positive reception notwithstanding, many organizations are still holding back on the shift to Windows 7 — and for a variety of reasons, according Compugen Inc., a Richmond Hill, Ont.-based IT infrastructure products and services company.

These include budget constraints, the bleak economic outlook, software recycle schedules, or just plain wariness about committing to a new operating system right now.

And this caution isn’t necessarily misplaced, the company says.

In fact organizations planning to upgrade to Windows 7 need to concentrate on their operational needs and bone up on the capabilities of the new OS, says Andrew Stewart, vice-president corporate services and marketing for Compugen.

“One sure way to cut cost and [prevent] disruption to operations is to plan ahead and get everyone on board,” said Stewart, whose company is also currently testing Windows 7.

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For Compugen a key pre-requisite for migration is satisfactorily answering these three questions:

  • Why do we need to change our operating system?
  • Who and what operations will be affected by the change?
  • Will existing software and hardware assets support the new OS?

“There are many fantastic improvements in Windows 7, that can boost productivity and ease of use for business users,” Stewart said.

He said Compugen currently has the new operating system on 12 stations and the response has been great. So plans are underway to roll the product out to another 120 users.   

Elliot Katz, senior product manager for Microsoft Canada says he’s happy about the positive feedback on Windows 7, which will be released on Oct. 22.

“But there is no reason to hurry and do a haphazard migration,”  he says.

“Businesses must not change their OS just for the sake of change. Plan migration carefully and determine how the rollout will be carried out.”

He urges firms to do an inventory of their applications, and determine which ones are — and will continue to be — supported, which ones to use and which to dump.  

“If you’re still using Windows XP, some of your applications may not be supported by the vendor after a certain period.”

One benefit Compugen got out from its Windows 7 rollout was an extension on the life of computers previously running Windows Vista.

“We found new life in some of our hardware systems that were groaning under the weight of Vista,” said Marty Grosh, director of enterprise services at Compugen.

“Vista was a bloated system, but with Windows 7 our machines are running effectively again. We might have to postpone replacing them for a while.”  

Here are Stewart and Grosh’s list of five favourite Windows 7 features:

Desktop Virtualization

Microsoft’s Application Virtualization (App-V) allows users to separate applications from the OS and access them when needed.

Users access corporate apps remotely. This capability is ideal for organizations with a large installed base because if gives IT teams better centralized management capabilities.

App-V is part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), which is available to Software Assurance volume license customers.

MS deployment toolkit

Microsoft is now readying the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010.

The solution accelerator will be tailored to the next releases of the Windows client and Server OS.

The toolkit automates deployment activity. “It makes transferring PC personality from one machine to another a breeze,” Grosh says.

For example, the toolkit helps administrators migrate a PC from one OS to another with all its drives, background images, printer and peripheral configurations intact.

“It can save an operator anywhere from four to six hours per desktop. For a company that has more than 100 PCs, that’s a lot of time savings,” Grosh said.

MED V – Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), a core component of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance enables deployment and management of Microsoft Virtual PC Windows desktops. MED-V builds on top of virtual PC to run two operating systems on one device, adding virtual image delivery, policy-based provisioning, and centralized management. This feature is ideal for testing and developing applications.

DART – Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DART) is a core component of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance. DART helps IT administrators recover PCs that have become unusable, rapidly diagnose probable causes of issues, and quickly repair unbootable or locked-out systems.

AGPM- Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM), a core component of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance, makes it easier for IT organizations to keep company-wide desktop configurations up to date, enabling greater control, less downtime, and reduced total cost of ownership.

“Rich desktop environments involve a lot of granularity, such as security and compliance issues. With AGPM, administrators can identify preferred settings and deploy universality rather than going from one machine to the next,” said Grosh.

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