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Windows 7 Migration & License Management Tools – The Forgotten Resource

Written by Matt Fisher On the 0 Comments

Most companies have elected to skip Windows Vista (which will still be supported) and move to a standard Windows 7 build. Of course, they could move straight to Windows 8, but Windows 8 has proven to be too new and too different for many organizations and companies to stomach, so the majority are moving forward with their Windows 7 migrations.

While many large companies will have by now very nearly finished this critical Windows 7 migration, there are a significant number of medium sized organizations that are finding it difficult to muster the skills and resources to migrate to Windows 7 prior to the magic date.

Their Windows 7 migration projects will continue with all haste to ensure their operations aren’t vulnerable to security issues identified once support for XP has stopped. The problem these organizations are encountering is not so much building a basic Windows 7 build – that’s easy - but the deceptively simple question of understanding what applications are deployed on the estate, who is using them, and are they really required.

Only once these questions have been answered can the Windows 7 Migration Project start addressing issues of Windows 7 compatibility, locating source media and licenses and, finally, deploying Windows 7 to end users. There are any number of IT Services Firms out there who are willing and eager to assist in this process - many of them offering ‘free’ tools that will identify applications and usage to support the Windows 7 compatibility analysis that these firms are so keen to help with.

Even leaving aside the question of whether these ‘free’ tools are really free (most are in fact limited-time trial licenses or restricted in their capabilities) the resource required to implement these tools across the estate is significant. It also takes time to deploy a new tool to a large, complex desktop environment – and with that end of life date coming up fast, time is the last thing Windows 7 Migration projects have up their sleeve.

It seems crazy to attempt to go through this process without checking internally to see whether any existing tools can provide sufficient data to meet some or all of the requirements of the Project – and if you already have a good license management tool in place, you can be pretty sure that this forgotten resource will save a lot of time and money.

The reason is simple – the magic of software recognition! Good Software Recognition is worth gold, as you will know if you’ve ever compared the data a license management tool provides with the raw data from a standard discovery tool (e.g. Microsoft SCCM).

The raw data is practically unintelligible and is useless when it comes to interpreting license consumption. So a good License Management platform includes sophisticated software recognition that translates the raw data into licensable applications. It then goes a step further and identifies applications which are part of a suite – so it will be able to tell you, for instance, that an individual doesn’t have Adobe Photoshop, Acrobat, etc. installed, they actually have a copy of Adobe Creative Suite.

In addition to identifying applications, most License Management tools provide license categorization reports – so you can tell at a glance whether an application is a utility (such as the calculator or paint), a game that someone has illicitly installed, or a genuine business application that needs to be tested for compatibility with Windows 7.

Between them, Software Recognition and Software Categorization will answer many of the questions regarding what applications are in use and where, and whether they are they genuine business applications that require Windows 7 Compatibility testing. Any Windows 7 Migration project worthy of the name will be trying to standardize on the minimum number of applications possible – maintaining a complex estate of applications is expensive!

In order to do this they need to determine whether applications installed are actually being used and whether the organisation has sufficient licenses to cover the new standard applications or whether additional licenses need to be purchased. The question of whether an individual user actually requires an application or not can also often be answered by a good Software Asset Management platform.

Solutions like Snow Inventory include sophisticated application metering out of the box. Getting an accurate picture of who uses what and how frequently is something that takes time, but in the long run saves money by reducing the number of applications that need to be re-installed, and allowing a cost benefit analysis to be carried out to determine the degree of application standardisation that is possible within the estate, given existing licenses.

Even once all Windows 7 Applications that may pose a compatibility risk have been identified and testing has commenced, a good license management tool can still come to the rescue – for instance, if the technical teams are struggling to get an application to work, the problem may not be Windows 7 at all.

For instance some applications may require a particular version of Internet Explorer to function or the installation of an old .dll file. Analyzing the data contained in the license management tool can help resolve some of these problems and work-arounds that may not have been documented properly.

This is because a good License management tool allows analysis of the detailed data that feeds its application reports, right down to individual file level. This means that the engineers doing the Windows 7 testing can go back to this basic data and check to see whether all machines with the troublesome application have a particular version of dll file or a specific version of Internet Explorer installed.

So while License Management tools are certainly not a Windows 7 magic wand – and, unlike some other Windows 7 Migration tools, they have never claimed to be - they can still turbo-charge a sluggish Windows 7 Migration project, reducing both the resource requirements and time required to move onto the all-important deployment phase – after all, come 8 April 2014, the only way your desktops and laptops will receive those all important security updates and patches is if they have been migrated off XP and are running Windows 7.

To learn more about how Snow can help you, speak to one of our SAM experts today.