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5 Tips for Migrating from Windows XP and Surviving the 'XPocalypse'

A Contributed Article by Deepak Kumar, founder and CTO, Adaptiva

In April, Microsoft ended its support of Windows XP, no longer providing security patches publicly. This left people and companies vulnerable to cyber theft, privacy violations, and other online crimes. Yet in a recent survey conducted by systems management provider Adaptiva, 53 percent of respondents were still running Windows XP in their company, citing the time and cost of migrating as major obstacles.

Leading analyst firm Ovum estimates that it could take a company up to six months to upgrade 1,000 machines (from XP to Windows 7/8) manually, with some mid-size organizations taking two years to complete. A global organization can have tens or hundreds of thousands of computers spread across the planet, so manual migration is often times not an option.

Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) has almost 85 percent of the on-premises endpoint management market, and mid-to-large companies depend on it to automate operating system deployment (OSD). To that end, here are five tips for organizations performing OSD with SCCM to help make the migration from XP smoother.

  1. Optimize Your Task Sequences: Plan for debugging and troubleshooting when creating task sequences. Make use of logical phases - called groups in task sequences - so others can more easily monitor for success/failure, perform troubleshooting, and remediate. Plan ahead for debugging by saving log files to a network share, otherwise there will be no way to perform root cause analysis in the event of failure during the pre-OS phase.

  2. Ensure the Health of SCCM Clients: The success of each migration depends on a healthy Windows system with a properly functioning SCCM client. Administrators need to be sure all the clients are problem-free well in advance of migration. If problems are detected and corrected at the start of migration, large delays may occur, such as processing of backlogged system updates.

  3. Make Friends with the Network Team: Make the networking team part of the planning process. A good working relationship with the networking team will reduce political obstacles and accelerate troubleshooting.

  4. Use Hardlinking When Possible: In situations where it fits, hardlinking can reduce reliance on network transfers during migration by backing up a system's user settings and data (state) on the system being migrated. Minimizing network transfers reduces the chance of the network becoming a bottleneck. This is much simpler with unencrypted hard drives, but can work on encrypted drives in some situations.

  5. Set User Expectations Accurately: Leverage SCCM asset intelligence to ensure that users do not lose capabilities. If the migration would cause a user to lose a personal or otherwise non-business-critical application, then it is important to communicate that even though the change has no impact to the business. It is common to leave off some state data, such as a user's "My Pictures" directory. In these cases, it is critical to let the user know user as early as possible.

If a company does not yet have an SCCM infrastructure in place, SCCM add-ons can reduce project timelines and costs. Some technologies allow global deployment of PXE, SMP, and DP infrastructure without servers, saving companies millions of dollars. Add-ons can also make better use of existing WAN bandwidth, important when delivering 20GB+ operation system images. Every organization's needs are different, but with careful planning and application of best practices, they can all survive the XPocalypse.


 About the Author

Deepak Kumar founded Adaptiva in 2004. He is responsible for Adaptiva's strategic product direction, and leads the development organization. Deepak was the lead architect of Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003, and prior to that was a program manager with the Windows NT Networking team. He has received five patents and has written more than 50 publications, including a book on Windows programming. While at Microsoft, he also authored the Thinkweek paper for Bill Gates that became Project Greenwich, now known as Microsoft Office Communications Server / Lync. 



Published Monday, November 17, 2014 9:00 AM by David Marshall
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