By Brian McMurtry, Senior Systems Administrator

Windows 7 logo Unless you’ve voluntarily banned yourself from all advertising in the last few weeks, you’re probably at least mildly aware that Microsoft is releasing another iteration of its desktop operating system, generically named Windows 7.  This article is intended to be a brief synopsis to help small and medium-sized business owners to be informed concerning Windows 7 and its impact upon your day-to-day business operations.

Most of the businesses that we have served since the release of Vista have patently asked us to sell them Windows XP on all new systems.  I can recall maybe 1 or 2 laptops that we have sold with Vista on them.  The primary reason has been that their legacy applications would not run on Vista, and given the current economy, investment in upgraded software packages has been sparse.   In addition, the earliest releases of Vista were prone to running slow.  User Account Control was a maddening annoyance.  Also, clients were unpleasantly surprised that their printer (and other peripherals), which ran beautifully on XP, would not be usable in Vista due to limited driver support.

Performance and Reliability

On-Site has been beta-testing Windows 7 on a couple of workstations since February 2009, and the results have been startling.  When I first installed Windows 7, I was honestly expecting a bloated version of Vista.  What I found was an operating system that achieved what Vista should have been.  Not only did the machine perform better on Windows 7 than Vista, it ran far more stable.  In 8 months, the machine has just crashed once due to a configuration error. 

Legacy Application Support

As stated before, most businesses did not adopt Vista because their current software would not install on anything other than XP.  The most astounding development in Windows 7, in my opinion, is the so-called XP Mode.  If your company is still running that legacy application that requires XP, your Windows 7 pc can be configured to run applications in XP Mode through a virtual machine that runs XP.  The caveat is that it does require the download and installation of the feature, and your machine should meet certain hardware requirements, as not all PCs can run XP Mode.

Pricing

The OEM pricing (when you purchase Windows 7 with a new pc) is actually less than Vista.  There are several flavors of Windows 7, but your business will be primarily interested in Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate.   Think of Professional as the basic business desktop OS, with some added features such as the Media Center.  Ultimate includes Bit-Locker (full-disk encryption) as well as some Linux application support).  There is an Enterprise version for bulk purchasing which includes everything that Professional has, plus Bit-Locker. 

Bottom Line Synopsis:  Should I upgrade or adopt Windows 7?

In the past, we have taken a wait-and-see approach to adopting a new operating system, waiting until the first service pack is released.  With Windows 7, it may be several months before the first service pack is released.  We do recommend that our clients stick with that which is proven and stable, but I see no compelling reason not to purchase a new pc with Windows 7 given its current level of stability at release.   At this point, upgrading an XP machine to Windows 7 is not supported, but Vista can be upgraded.

 It is always recommended to ensure that legacy hardware such as scanners and printers are supported by Windows 7 before purchasing.  It’s also critical to find out if the new pc can run XP mode before purchasing it.

If you have further questions or concerns with Windows 7, please feel free to let us know, so that we can offer our insight in your decision-making process.