What You Need To Know When Considering Windows Vista Options

It’s official! Windows Vista will hit the shelves in early 2007.

You’ve probably already heard plenty of details about this new version of Windows. As with past Windows releases, the question for small- and medium-size businesses isn’t if they’ll upgrade, it’s when.

Here are some things to think about as you consider your upgrade options.

What You Get with Windows Vista
Windows Vista includes a multitude of new features, and this list isn’t meant to be exhaustive. These are some of the items that should be high on your business’s priority list:

Improved Security: Vista includes Microsoft Defender (antispyware) and Internet Explorer 7 (which includes a phishing filter and antispoofing technology), as well as Microsoft Windows Firewall technology—all essential for maintaining your technology infrastructure.

Improved Software Setup and Maintenance: Vista enables you to create and store “images,” which are system software configurations that can be easily replicated on new PCs. That means the average time to set up a new PC will be reduced, and upgrading software on existing PCs will be a snap. Add those together and you get a reduction in IT costs.

Instant Search: Search is the name of the game for document-heavy companies. This function should make it easier for you and your employees to find files and documents in a data-intensive environment.

Windows Aero: The new graphical user interface is fast and looks very slick.

Here’s a fair warning on Windows Aero: In order to use this feature, you will need to make sure that your computing hardware is “Vista Premium Ready,” as opposed to “Vista Capable.”

The difference between the two will be most striking in the graphical interface: Vista on a Vista Capable machine will look more like Windows 2000, but the hardware requirements for it will be significantly less than for Vista Premium Ready. Chances are that equipment you have purchased in the last two years will be Vista Capable. It’s also likely that very little of your current equipment is going to be Vista Premium Ready unless you’ve already been buying higher-end gear.

Microsoft will offer business-class versions of Vista, giving you the choice of which mode you want to operate in. Be sure to match the hardware, software version, and mode to the features you want in your Vista upgrade.

Different Windows Vista Versions
Microsoft will be marketing multiple versions of Windows Vista: two versions for home use, a business and an enterprise version, and an “ultimate” edition. Most small and medium businesses are likely to opt for the business version. It’s not clear yet whether the business version will come in Vista Capable or Vista Premium Ready packaging. This is important because Vista Capable hardware does not require a DVD drive, but Vista Premium Ready does.
When to Get Windows Vista

Don’t be confused by the fact that Office 2007 is going to be coming out at just about the same time as Vista. The two releases are unrelated: You can upgrade to Office 2007 in your current environment—you don’t need to move to Vista to use the newest version of Office.

Before you take the Vista plunge, think about these three issues:

First, if you’re running an older or unsupported version of Windows, we highly recommend that you think about upgrading as soon as possible.

Second, understand how your current software will operate in a Vista environment. Microsoft has tools available to assist you here, and it’s important to use them to test all your applications and ensure that they can run in Vista before you make your move.

This puts a real premium on not only knowing what applications your business runs on a “authorized” basis, but also what software some of your users may have loaded on their own in order to perform day-to-day tasks. Depending on the nature of your business, this practice may be more common than you think.

Third, and probably most important, you need to understand your hardware environment and your plans for upgrading your hardware infrastructure. We’ve already mentioned the issue regarding DVD drives, but you also need to examine processor speed, memory, hard drive space and graphics cards in light of any plans you have to move to Vista.

Most equipment purchased in the past couple years should be able to support Vista in the Vista Capable mode.

Your Bottom Line
While every small and medium business starts in a different place, here’s our recommendation as to how you approach the Vista-upgrade issue:

Don’t buy Vista the day it becomes available, but don’t wait more than a year to get started.

Time your decision to be in line with any hardware purchasing pattern you’ve already established.

Decide now how important Vista Premium Ready features are to your business, and make any incremental hardware purchase decisions consistent with either these or the Vista Capable requirements.

Analyze some of the new hardware/chip features that provide improved performance and reduce IT costs and match that plan up with whatever conclusion you’ve reached on Vista.

Give yourself a good six months to determine software compatibility with Vista before you begin the migration.

If this sounds confusing or you just plain need help, give us a call. As a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, our staff is trained to provide you with the guidance you need to evaluate Windows Vista in your organization.