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New view on Vista

New view on Vista
Opinion

New view on Vista 1

IT | John Tate | 24 Sep 2009

John Tate compares the Microsoft upgrade path  to a cloud solution.

October sees the full release  of Windows 7 – Microsoft’s new desktop operating system. This is a very interesting time for Microsoft  as last release, Vista, has gained very limited traction in the business sector. Home users who have purchased new machines recently are likely to have had them delivered with VISTA and in the main use what they have been given. However businesses have largely stayed with XP or earlier operating systems. Windows 7 is built on many of the components of VISTA and so the IT industry is waiting with great interest to see if Windows 7 takes off on the corporate space.

There were a number of reasons why businesses have not adopted VISTA. Firstly, the hardware requirements are more onerous than XP which means organisations need to replace their desktop/laptop hardware to use this new operating system. Many do not want to make this investment. Secondly, a lot of software applications that run on XP and earlier versions of Windows do not run 100 per cent correctly or at all on VISTA. This has put the brakes on many VISTA transition projects.

Windows 7 has addressed many of the performance issues associated with VISTA. However application compatibility issues still exist. Organisations testing Windows 7 find they have the same compatibility issues as they found with VISTA, and some new problems resulting from the additional built-in features.

Both VISTA and Windows 7 offer a significant number of new features which can benefit an organisation but if some of your core applications will not run on this you will find  it difficult to make the move.

Microsoft does offer an XP compatibility mode for users running Windows 7 which can help. However this technology is limited. An example of the critics’ comments on this can be seen on http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/04/windows_xp_mode_release_candidate/comments/

I run a commercial business called ChangeBASE which has developed a tool to report on and fix application compatibility issues – so you would expect me to focus on this point. However if you look at the blog postings on the technical websites you will see many millions of entries on this subject.

So what are the options for a charity? You can stay where you are. However, XP support is being phased out between now and 2014 and will become increasingly expensive to maintain. You can upgrade to Windows 7 now or when your next desktop/laptop refresh is due.

The big alternative is to look at whether you could migrate over the next four years or so to a ‘cloud’ or web-based environment. Technically this would mean you would replace your ‘thick clients’ with web browser-only devices and would need all your software to run with a web interface. Your software could be loaded on third-party or ‘hosted’ servers. The advantage of this is that you could access your software from any web browser and the cost of buying and maintaining ‘thin client’ devices will be much reduced. Disadvantages include the fact you can only use web-based applications when online and you have to make sure your software and data are secure. Unfortunately at the moment a lot of key charity applications (e.g. fundraising and accounts software) do not run fully on a web browser. However software vendors are continuing to invest in this and it  may be by 2014 that enough software works in this way to make this technology a real possibility. Google  is pushing very hard to support  this. It continues to develop Google Apps as an alternative to desktop software and has announced that it is launching an alternative operating system to Windows next year – called Crome.

Microsoft will be pushing incredibly hard to get businesses  to adopt Windows 7 as opposed  to adopting thin client technology.  If it loses its dominant position with its desktop operating systems many of its other products such as Office will be under real threat.

Charities need to think very carefully about their desktop strategy in the coming years in light of this.  If you are going to go to Windows 7 or a cloud platform check very carefully your current software applications work on the new platform before making the move.

On a less dry note the Guardian announced last month its list of the Top 100 tech media companies. This makes wonderful reading. With sites like moo/plasticlogic/seatwave.com this highlights how much new and exciting work is going in webland. Visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/tech-media-invest-100/top-100 for more details and links to some great news sites/ideas


Joyce Mary Bunting
treasurer
Esperanto-Asocio de Britio
2 Oct 2009

timely warning!

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