How to deploy new Windows 8 devices – quickly and painlessly
Rapid deployment isn’t something only the military need concern itself with. Most businesses can’t afford to waste money by having new hardware being left unused for months on end, and with the passing of the support deadline for Windows XP, firms certainly can’t afford to postpone their migration plans any further.
Upgrading to Windows 8 presents a magnificent opportunity for companies to not only bring existing hardware up to date, but to bring new types of device into the business. This could be the time to introduce touch technology, replace bulky old laptops with lightweight long-lasting tablets, or save desk space by introducing small form factor PCs.
A rushed deployment will be a bungled deployment, but with careful planning, there’s no reason why your company can’t deploy Windows 8 devices with minimal disruption and zero downtime. We’ll show you how to create a solid deployment plan, so that your employees can get straight down to work the moment they’re handed their new devices.
Any kind of operating system migration presents a good opportunity for IT departments to take stock of exactly what applications are running inside their company, and root out any that aren’t necessary. Does the company really need to support three different versions of Office applications? Why do different departments use different apps for the same purpose? How many different web browsers does the company support? The more unnecessary software a company supports, the longer it takes to test and deploy a new OS.
Microsoft provides a selection of free tools to help businesses prepare for migration to Windows 8 within the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit. The Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT), for example, will create an inventory of applications running on your existing network. It provides advice on whether those applications are compatible with Windows 8, need to be upgraded to maintain compatibility, or can be “shimmed” to fool the legacy application into thinking it’s running on an old operating system when in fact it’s running on Windows 8.
Careful testing and consultation is key at this stage. The reason why the sales department might be using a three-generations old version of a CRM package is that it supports a business-critical feature that was removed from more recent releases. The IT department should consult on any software it plans to upgrade or drop support for, and run test deployments where possible, to minimise the risk that nasty surprises will occur post-deployment.
Once the business has decided which applications it requires, it can use these as the basis for operating system images that can be rolled out across the company. The firm might decide to create a different base image for each department, pre-loading CRM software only for those who need it in the sales department, for example, and saving Sage installations for those in accounts.
An alternative approach is to image according to device. Will tablet users with limited storage space need all those disk-hungry desktop applications that are pre-loaded on a standard desktop images? And are there Windows Store or even bespoke in-house Windows apps that can be installed on their devices instead?
Manufacturers such as HP can handle this imaging process on behalf of their customers, ensuring that new devices arrive at the company pre-loaded with the applications they need. Alternatively, using HP’s Image Modification and Load Service, HP will take an operating system image supplied by the customer, modify and validate it for their chosen equipment, and ship it on the customer’s PCs.
It’s not only applications that can be customised to the business’s needs. HP can modify the BIOS settings to the customer’s wishes, ensuring they have a consistent set-up across the organisation. Company logos can be added to the BIOS screen, which will appear every time the PC is booted. Physical labels or tracking tags can also be added to the company’s devices, helping with asset management.
Migrating user data
If an employee is to feel truly at home on a new PC, they will need instant access to their data. The User State Migration Tool (USMT) in the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit allows companies to easily transfer user data from one PC to another, even after performing a clean installation rather than an in-place upgrade. This Command Line tool not only migrates the user’s files and folders, but their Windows and application settings, meaning they don’t have to waste time readjusting everything back to how they like it the moment they switch on their new PC.
Alternatively, companies can lift the weight on their IT department and let a manufacturer such as HP take the strain. HP Installation Services will provide desk-side assistance to handle the migration of security settings, network connections, device authentication, and the movement of user data from an existing device to the new PC.
HP’s Decommissioning Services, meanwhile, will handle the removal and safe disposal of the old PC. This not only means that the computer, monitor and any unwanted peripherals are recycled or disposed of responsibly, it will also ensure that the company’s data isn’t compromised by destroying any hard disks within the unwanted PCs.
The IT department’s job doesn’t end the moment the new devices are delivered to employees’ desks. Many employees will need training before they are handed their new equipment, especially if it’s the first time those members of staff have been exposed to touchscreen devices or Windows 8.
Support may also be required in the weeks or months after they have their new equipment. The IT staff may wish to identify a “mentor” or “champion” within each department – a technically proficient user who could offer informal technical support to other team members if they’re struggling to get to grips with the new Windows interface or the settings of a line-of-business application that was upgraded in the migration process. That not only lifts the burden on IT support, but makes employees more comfortable, knowing that they can seek quick advice from a team member they’re already familiar with.
A phased rollout will also allow the IT department to apply lessons learnt from one department to another. Even the best test deployments may fail to identify problems that occur when the machines are running in a live environment.
Time for action
Deploying new hardware and operating systems is never a job to be taken lightly, but neither should it be a long, drawn-out process, if properly planned and well executed. Even if you don’t have the in-house resources to handle a swift deployment, there are experts such as HP ready and waiting to help your business move forward.
For more advice on transforming your business, visit HP BusinessNow