by Ben Worthen

Mid-Market – The Big Upgrade to Microsoft Vista

Nov 15, 20062 mins
Small and Medium BusinessWindows

Now that the marketing onslaught for Microsoft’s new Vista operating system has begun, mid-market CIOs will have to present upgrade plans to CEOs—many of whom will probably get their information about Vista from the aforementioned marketing. CIOs who’ve been beta testing the new OS say you’ll like the security improvements, but you’ll want to roll out slowly for reasons that include Vista’s beefier system requirements.

Past versions of Windows made control over desktop settings an all-or-nothing proposition, but Vista lets CIOs give users more freedom by treating each configurable element differently. CIOs can, for example, give users permission to change the system clock time but prohibit them from loading information through USB drives. This flexibility should particularly appeal to mid-market CIOs with smaller and more time-pressed IT support staffs. So should the security improvements, including a myriad of fixes to XP holes and bugs, and a new feature called Bit Locker, which encrypts local files and makes it harder to access data on a stolen or lost laptop.

In Microsoft’s estimation, companies currently standardized on Windows XP can reduce IT labor and support costs $35 per PC by moving to Vista and around $340 per PC by upgrading to all the Vista-related infrastructure products (including firewalls and Active Directory). But it’s unlikely mid-market companies will be able to do either because of the new operating system’s hardware requirements. Microsoft advises enterprise customers to run Vista on computers with at least 40GB of storage, 1GB of memory and a 1GHz 32- or 64-bit processor—meaning that most mid-market companies will have to buy brand-new computers in order to support it.

“We can’t replace every desktop,” says Joseph Devenuto, CIO of Norton Healthcare, a $1 billion hospital chain in Kentucky. So Devenuto will upgrade to Vista on his normal technology refresh cycle, which covers about 25 percent of his 5,000 machines a year. Microsoft’s Brad Goldberg, a general manager in the Windows division, suggests that mid-market CIOs doing phased-in rollouts start with laptops, since the security benefits will be felt the most by mobile users.

Devenuto has one other concern. “The look and feel of Vista is different,” he says. That means that mid-market CIOs could end up with one additional expense that they hadn’t counted on: training.

“You’ll need at least an hour to teach people the intuitiveness of it,” he says.