Sneak Preview: How to Survive a Windows Vista Migration (and Thrive Afterward)

Windows IT Pro editors talk to three IT pros who could help calm your Vista migration fears

Last month, my colleague, associate editor Caroline Marwitz, and I spent an informative 50 minutes talking with two network engineers and one network architect about how they managed a three-pronged migration of 700 users from Windows XP to Windows Vista, Microsoft Office 2000 to Office 2007, and--perhaps most daunting of all--Lotus Notes 6.x to Exchange Server 2007 and Outlook 2007.

The full interview will go live the last week in June on (look in the July issue section on the home page). But since so many of our readers are keenly interested in Vista, we thought we'd give you a preview of the interview, to put it on your radar. (We'll reveal the names of the intrepid IT pros in the actual article.) Stay tuned!

Q: What factors drove the move to Vista?

A1: One of the biggest reasons was that we wanted to have a unified platform between two \[merged\] companies. One side was on XP for a while. The other side had a lot of old hardware and ran Windows 2000 Professional for eight years. A lot of us \[in IT\] had been using Vista \[already\], and we saw that it offered many benefits from the Group Policy standpoint. Finally, XP was going to be sunsetted in a couple years.

A2: Half of the company needed to be migrated to a new email platform, and the other half was undergoing a domain migration as well as a PC refresh cycle. We didn’t want to have to revisit our desktop base a year or two down the road for another upgrade. It also seemed to make sense from a supportability perspective to have the majority of the clients on the same OS.

Q: Did you use third-party migration tools?

A1: We didn’t really rely on outside tools. In our case, most of the machines were bare-metal builds. Microsoft utilities such as User State Migration Tool and the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit were very helpful. Our company had used Preboot Execution Environment with Remote Installation Services to deploy PCs in the past, so upgrading to the new Windows Deployment Services (WDS) to push out our Vista Windows Imaging Format images wasn’t a huge stretch for our desktop team.

Q: What migration strategies worked for you?

A1: We were under a deadline to upgrade a large number of offices in a short time span. When we arrived at each office, everything had to be sequenced just right. We did things like scheduling employees for a day of offsite training while we upgraded their systems, migrated their email, and moved any local files to their new systems so that they’d be fully functional the next business day. We could always do more testing, piloting, and research before the migration, time permitting. And automated software inventories are always good, but nothing beats sitting down with the end users and actually determining how they use their systems.

A2: You need good documentation and good software and hardware inventory before you start the migration. And I think IT departments need to have the skill set to adapt on the fly and make changes to their project.


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