Along with the release of Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS, IT administrators who struggle to keep control of devices on their business networks will no doubt wonder if their organizations are ready for the software.
While this is an exciting and revolutionary time for IT, it is important to evaluate whether or not to bring Windows 8 into the business environment and how it could impact the organization overall.
Here are four guidelines to keep in mind when evaluating Windows 8 for your business.
1. Decide where Windows 8 will go
It’s important to know where Windows 8 will fit into the business environment. For many organizations the learning curve for Windows 8 on their existing or new desktop/laptops will be too dramatic and steep to justify the investment of time and money. However, for that same organization, who are looking to expand, or even start a tablet strategy, Windows 8 may be just the thing they have been waiting for. While iOS and Android devices certainly have a stronger consumer and developer following, the one thing that Windows has is enterprise mindshare.
Windows 8 was primarily designed for touch interfaces — perfect for the tablet world. More relevant to this conversation, Windows 8 was designed with enterprise IT managers in mind. Organizations that have invested heavily in IT management tools for the Windows environment may find that Windows 8 tablets are significantly easier to manage, maintain, and train users on.
2. Ensure management systems are compatible
This seems like a simple step, but too many times folks get excited for a new product or update and just download/install it without checking compatibility. While Microsoft’s marketing engine may lead us to believe that the transition to the new platform will be seamless, in reality there may be more to upgrade than that.
As one of the initial steps, IT has to make sure management systems are compatible with Windows 8. Having a new OS to manage is hard enough, but if you can’t manage it with the tools you are already familiar with, this could make the transition even more difficult.
That being said, many efficiencies have been built into management systems that are already in place to try to keep costs down. If a new device or OS rollout requires a major overhaul or worse — a new management system — it could be a deal breaker for IT. In my past life as a consultant, I spent much of my time helping customers transition from one operating system to another. What made it complex was that I expected software from the same company to have zero compatibility issues, but often found that was not the case. So you have to ask, will the upgrade to Windows 8 really be seamless and will programs and devices really be compatible?
Maybe, but maybe not. Still, it’s a chance worth taking if your entire IT department is Microsoft dependent.
3. Test all your applications
When Windows 7 was released many vendors claimed full app compatibility. However, many organization later found out that “full” support actually meant “we will support you when you call and tell us that the product doesn’t work.” Test Windows 8 yourself where necessary and push your software vendor for updates. Additionally, make sure that you test all of your business (and personal) applications on Windows 8.
I was an early adopter of Windows 7 when it was released and found that many applications with or without Windows 7 official support “just worked,” but as it turned out my most critical application — the company’s VPN software — was not supported and even worse, would not be supported until many months later. Clearly, this was a huge problem and forced me back to Windows XP. Rolling one user back is time consuming, but rolling all your users back is a show-stopper.
4. Staff and prep your help desk
Your users will no doubt be ringing the help desk in an effort to get upgraded and use it the software right, so make sure your IT department is well prepared for the upsurge in calls. Windows 8 is a fundamentally different user experience than any pervious Windows operating system. In fact, it’s been compared to the difference between Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. Personally, I love the new interface (on a touch enabled laptop-like tablet), but many will struggle to adopt without costly new hardware and training.
Michael Mills is the director of technology at AppSense and leads product strategy for the company’s data products portfolio. Michael has served in many capacities at the company, from sales engineer to U.S. technical director. Previously, Michael worked as the VP of Practice Development and Professional Services at RKON Technologies, one of Citrix Systems’ largest Midwest resellers.
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