This incremental approach means that IT has to be able to manage and support both its earlier (usually XP) systems and its Vista systems simultaneously. (Managing and supporting multiple versions is also necessary for the recommended enterprise deployment approach, which requires staging an OS upgrade over several years in batches, notes Michael Silver, a Gartner research vice president.)
At YMCA Milwaukee, that meant adding support staff and beefing up install scripts, Fritzke says, but "the cost difference was minimal," he notes. One reason that user support costs didn't rise much with Vista, Fritzke notes, was that the universe of affected PCs is small, about 130 of the 650 PCs in use. At the YMCA, Vista is used mainly in laptops, mostly because of its improved ability to rejoin wireless networks automatically, and laptop users tend to be more knowledgeable. In fact, employees who adopted Vista on their home computers pushed Fritzke to bring Vista into the office so they'd have only one OS interface to use.
At first, Fritzke "downgraded" new laptops' Vista installations to XP, but stopped doing so because the generic XP installations didn't run as well as the OEM-tuned Vista installations — and there were, of course, no tuned XP installation discs from the OEMs for these new Vista-oriented laptops.
Fritzke did run into a surprising issue with Vista's BitLocker disk-encryption technology. Users turned this feature on to protect data if their laptops were lost or stolen, but when they left the YMCA's employment, IT discovered it couldn't read the backed-up files from their laptops. BitLocker requires that the data be opened on the actual computer where it was encrypted, even with administrator privileges. Fritzke's team now uses an awkward workaround: If they need access to a former employees' files, they take back that employee's laptop from its current owner, copy the files to it, decrypt them with BitLocker, and then give back the laptop when done. Fritzke is hoping that Microsoft or a third party will provide a way for IT to open these files when backed up, so he can end this workaround.
Long term, Fritzke also expects the switch to Vista to not require additional support costs. The reason, though, is unrelated to Vista: He is shifting the rest of the YMCA's PCs to a thin-client model, with apps served up to Linux desktop clients via Microsoft Windows 2003 Server (and soon Windows 2008 Server) using Citrix's thin-client tools. The goal is to have all desktops using thin clients and only laptops using Vista.
Kemet ties its upgrade to a hardware refresh
At capacitor manufacturer Kemet, Global Infrastructure Manager Jeff Padgett began planning his Vista upgrade 18 months ago, several months before the first version was available to businesses.
The reason: the company was upgrading the 5,600 desktop PCs and 2,000 laptops used in the 22 countries where it has facilities. And Padgett wanted to combine the OS and hardware upgrade into one IT migration plan, not treat them as separate projects. (To be safe and to keep on schedule, he did install XP on new systems deployed in the first year of the hardware refresh, knowing that they would all support Vista when he was ready to bring it on board, which he plans to do this spring.)
Padgett used the refresh effort as an opportunity to consider a shift to a different platform — Mac or Linux — but decided the compatibility issues were too great and there would be no savings even from the less expensive Linux platform after training and application support costs were factored in.