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To XP or Not to XP!

To XP or Not to XP- that is the Question! Or is it really the question? (Sorry, Shakespeare!) The question more likely is when, not if, to move to Microsoft’s Windows XP Operating System. This is a dilemma facing many of the organizations we work with. We thought that a brief update on the status of Windows XP, with a look at some of the factors, both from a business perspective and a technology perspective might be helpful to those of you who are facing this question.

First, XP is a stable, reliable product. It has been out for nearly a year now and Service Pack 1 was recently released which resolved current reliability and security issues which showed up after the initial release, plus added several new enhancements. Convergent Solutions Group has worked with many customers on their XP rollouts, including one with 1500+ users, and our experience shows that with proper planning, testing, documentation, and rollout procedures, these upgrades have been successful and relatively painless. XP definitely works! We have also had several clients who chose to take the Windows 2000 upgrade route instead of jumping to XP. This is fine for the present, but for many of the reasons listed below, the move to XP still needs to be part of their future plans.

For those organizations deciding whether to upgrade from Windows 9x to Windows 2000 or directly to XP, the advantages offered by XP are worth the jump even if it means delaying your deployment by a month or two to revise and restructure your upgrade plans. First, there are management/administrative enhancements in XP that may save your users time and simplify IT tasks. Features like System Restore, Remote Assistance, Remote Desktop, and User State Migration Tool (described below) should save IT staff time and improve manageability compared to Windows 2000 or Windows 9x.

Second, XP has several advantages over Windows 2000 in the area of compatibility. Users and administrators can specify an application to run in either a Windows 2000 mode, a Windows NT 4.0 mode or a Windows 9x mode thus cutting down on the needs for application upgrades and other incompatibility issues. Also, Windows XP is the first client OS from Microsoft that contains basic native support for the .Net framework thus allowing for plans to use the enhancements that .Net will bring in the future (we’ll cover .Net capabilities in a future issue).

In addition, please keep in mind that Microsoft typically supports a desktop operating system for four years. Windows 2000 has been available since early 2000, which means that Microsoft will likely support Windows 2000 only through 2003. Since planning and implementation for a deployment normally takes some time, the window for leveraging a longer support period by choosing XP may be beneficial. For those organizations already using Windows 2000, it probably makes sense to plan on upgrading to XP before the end of 2003 for the same reason.

As you would suspect, there are also lots of good technical reasons for the switch to XP. Listed below are the top ten new technical features of XP as put together by the CSG Microsoft engineers.

This short analysis by no means contains all the information you need to develop your strategies. Please consider it an introduction only! We would be happy to discuss the benefits and ramifications of an XP rollout. Here are some websites which may be helpful.

Top 10 Technical Reasons for Moving to Windows XP

  1. Business-Level Reliability – Windows XP delivers a new level of stability, so you can focus on your work. For example, in most cases, if one program crashes, your computer will keep running.
  2. Remote Desktop – Remote Desktop allows you to create a virtual session and use your desktop computer from another computer running Windows 95 or later, giving you access to all of your data and applications even when you’re not in your office.
  3. Wireless 802.1x Networking Support – Wireless 802.1x Networking Support provides support for secured access, as well as performance improvements for wireless networks.
  4. Encrypting File System – Encrypting File System provides a high level of protection from hackers and data theft by transparently encrypting files with a randomly generated key. Multiple users can access an encrypted document.
  5. Remote Assistance – In addition to a comprehensive set of documentation, Windows XP includes Remote Assistance which allows you to have another user (IT help desk) who is also running Windows XP remotely control your computer to demonstrate a process or help solve a problem.
  6. System Restore – If something goes wrong with your computer, you can revert the system back to a previous state.
  7. Smart Card Support – Windows XP integrates smart card capabilities into the operating system including support for smart card login to terminal server sessions.
  8. Application Compatibility – Windows 95/98/Me/NT4.0 applications can be executed in compatibility mode, giving the program an opportunity to execute appropriately without a noticeable loss of performance.
  9. Device Driver Roll-back – Windows XP will maintain a copy of a previously installed driver, which can be reinstalled if problems occur, without impacting system functionality.
  10. User State Migration Tool – Migrating user data and settings has always been tiresome. This tool simplifies the exercise of maintaining user data throughout the upgrade process from previous Windows versions.