With Windows 8 coming to market this year, it is time to begin preparing your customers to upgrade.
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Even though many organizations traditionally wait until the release of the first service pack before upgrading to a new version of Windows, it’s not too early to start talking about the benefits of a Windows 8 upgrade: how it can cut costs, boost productivity and solve business problems. Simply running through a list of the new Windows 8 features won’t be enough, although you may want to highlight the new Windows 8 Refresh feature.
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You can help convince your clients to update by reminding them that support for Windows XP will officially end in April 2014. That might seem like a long way off, but Microsoft won’t release Windows 8 until the third or fourth quarter of 2012, which leaves just more than a year on the Windows XP support countdown.
Windows 8 upgrade savings
While the end of XP support may be scary, customers are more likely to upgrade when presented with cost savings for support through standardization. Many organizations use one operating system on desktops and laptops, another operating system on tablets, and possibly several others on smartphones.
Windows 8 will run on X86/X64 and Windows RT (the tablet edition of Windows 8) will run on ARM devices. While Windows 8 will run on desktops and laptops, Windows RT will look and act similarly on tablets, smartphones and possibly other devices. The advantage to standardizing around Windows 8 and Windows RT is that your customers will be able to support the similar operating systems.
Obviously there will be some differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT. Probably the biggest hurdle from a management standpoint is that Windows RT cannot be domain joined, which means IT can’t apply Group Policies to Windows RT tablets from Active Directory. This will create opportunities for VARs because organizations will need consultants to show them the best way to secure and manage Windows devices that are not domain joined. For example, IT can secure (and, to an extent, manage) Windows RT devices through ActiveSync and VPN health policies.
Windows 8 features reduce headaches
When it comes to selling your customers on adopting Windows 8 and Windows RT, the best approach is to discuss overall cost savings. The Windows 8 Refresh feature, which can reinstall Windows while leaving applications and operating system settings intact, can lower maintenance costs. It also saves time and headaches when Windows develops a severe problem. In the past, rebuilding may not have been a big deal if you had a deployment image available, but for many organizations, reinstalling Windows manually is a time-consuming (and all too frequent) process.
Windows 8 Refresh is based on the Windows Systems Image Manager service. When you refresh a PC, the process replaces the kernel files with new copies of the operating system files. When the refresh completes, Windows links to any existing, previously installed Metro apps, which avoids the hassle of manually reinstalling them all.
In the preview release of Windows 8, the Refresh feature isn’t perfect. It preserves some customizations that users commonly make but resets others to their default values. It remains to be seen just how good of a job the Refresh feature will do in real-world crash situations once Windows 8 is complete, but if the early preview releases are any indication, then it should save help desk technicians a lot of time, lowering support costs in the process.
About the expert
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a six-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services, file systems and storage. Posey has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, he has written for TechTarget, Microsoft, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit his website at www.brienposey.com.