Turning OS migration into opportunities

By Paul Kastner*
Tuesday, 16 November, 2010

Migrating to a new operating system (OS) can be a mammoth task for organisations - from hardware compatibility checks, system requirement planning, backup of important data, down to the actual execution to hundreds or thousands of systems across an organisation and its remote offices. However, migration is inevitable as operating systems go out of date and end of life - all organisations will eventually have to cross the migration bridge. For example, many organisations are currently moving or considering a move to the latest operating system, Windows 7. Market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that by the end of 2010, up to 177 million units of Windows 7 will have been sold and 19% of the global IT workforce will be on Windows 7.

The migration headache does not necessarily end once the new OS has been installed. Even when data has been migrated successfully, there is still no guarantee that applications settings, especially installed programs and applications, would behave just as they did in the pre-migration environment. Much time will have to be spent in monitoring the entire migration process, as well as the troubleshooting afterwards. Picture this on a larger scale involving hundreds or even thousands of computers, and we can appreciate just how critical is the migration decision to an organisation.

Managing expectations and capturing opportunities

Essentially, there are three key areas to focus on when beginning a migration project. Being prepared to address each area will help to ensure greater success in migration planning and communications.

Firstly, the management executives, such as CIOs and CFOs, will want to know if a migration needs to happen immediately or can be done later, the cost of the migration and how end users’ productivity can be protected. Secondly, the IT managers, who are usually leading the project, will be concerned on keeping the migration efficient, cost-effective and sustainable. And finally, the end users will usually want a seamless migration where their day-to-day work will not be impacted and the data is kept intact and within easy reach.

Whether going for mass migration, batch migration or gradual migration, this could be the perfect time to clear out leftover stopgaps, rethink user environments and system workarounds, simplify endpoint administration and address inefficiencies from earlier implementations. Organisations can reap the benefits of migration by using it as an opportunity to automate manual processes, improve standardisation, compliance and security.

For example, migration to a new OS is a good time to reconsider and improve the processes and inefficiencies in an organisation for the better. It is the perfect time to wipe the slate clean with on-demand, user-based provisioning combined with standard configurations and structured change management procedure. This will help to lock in the long-term rewards of a manageable, sustainable environment.

Organisations should also take the opportunity to standardise their IT environment to make systems more supportable and resilient. Standardisation reduces complexity, improves manageability and control of the IT environment, and drives down operational costs.
In addition, migration is also a good time to establish policies to comply with industry and regulatory best practices. The comprehensive assessment of the IT environment during a migration can be used to identify compliance gaps and requirements to strengthen IT governance.

Easing the pain of migration

Few organisations have the time and personnel for a step-by-step manual migration, and it is impossible to migrate thousands or even hundreds of computers manually. Much of the pain of migration can be eased with an automated solution.

An automated system management platform can bundle up the image just once and send it out to many machines as part of an automated process with minimal attendance and prudent network bandwidth utilisation.

In addition, to ensure a risk-free migration, organisations should back up their data before the migration starts. The lack of proper backup and recovery protection for desktops and laptops leaves organisations at risk of losing critical business data and hurting productivity during the migration. This will also provide a long-term protection for any future system failures, human errors or disasters.

Another important consideration in migration planning is post-migration management - the migration project creates all the pieces needed to build full management capabilities into the infrastructure. The automation helps secure and manage IT resources long after the migration is complete and handle on-demand delivery for less frequently used applications.

Having good systems management practices can reduce subsequent maintenance costs. Multiply this by the number of PCs in an organisation and it is clear how much well-managed PCs can save an organisation. Automated migration solutions enable effective management of client systems throughout their entire life cycle. Examples of such capable migration solutions include Symantec’s Altiris Deployment Solution and the Altiris Client Management Suite - both are integrated life cycle management solution for client, server, mobile and other IT assets.

*By Paul Kastner, Director, Endpoint Management Solutions, Asia Pacific and Japan, Symantec

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