Why We Moved to Windows 7 from XP – Breaking the “Wait for the First Service Pack Rule”

As most companies, if not all, that use some type of financial transaction, most data-related business processes use Excel. Should they? Maybe, but never for data storage. That’s what is killing us. Our biggest processes use Excel as the application front end and data store. It’s ugly and, in no way, optimal. Excel is a great financial tool FRONT END, but it should never be a data store. Still, it’s there and we have to support it. Oh, and don’t get me started when people use it for lists <banging head here>.

That’s why, when one of our most important processes was starting to bog down due to the limitations of Excel 2005, we called in a Microsoft Excel expert to partner with our business stakeholder and optimize the process. The MS engineer was able to identify bottlenecks and reduced the run time by about 20%. His final recommendation was to upgrade from Windows XP to Vista to see a big jump in grid-based applications. He estimated we’d cut operational time of the process by 50%. But Vista. Really? I had it at home and cringed at the thought of our users having to deal with the OS. It just wasn’t enterprise-ready.

Sure, I quickly raised the BS flag and took the 20% overall improvement we gained from his reengineering of the Excel macros. My customer was happy and we moved on. On a side note, I was able to gain the trust of one my toughest clients after the MS engineer thoroughly impressed all of us with his knowledge and customer relation skills (Thanks Dean Y.).

Enter Windows 7.

On a hunch, we rolled out a new PC with 64-bit Windows 7 shortly after RTM and gave it to our Excel-lovin’ customer and asked him to test his re-engineered process.

It ran almost 50% faster. That’s on top of the 20% we saw from the Excel macro improvements.

We also tested a third-party grid-based application and it ran faster. Much faster. It didn’t crash either.

The company President’s only guidance to me on all things IT is very simple. “Does it run a lot faster?” With that in mind, It was a “no brainer” to install Windows 7 and do it quickly. We’ve tested the OS on new and existing hardware and are very happy so far. Other determining factors:

  • It handles memory very well (remember the “Minimize All” to free up memory in XP?)
  • Resource Monitor tells me what I need to know to identify root causes. It even tells me the network ports and associated IP addresses.
  • All Office products are much faster.
  • There are real troubleshooting tools available.
  • Search functionality kicks butt!
  • It does boot and log in faster.
  • Users can record application errors and send them to us. Not screen shots, but actual recordings of what they are doing to cause the error.
  • Configuration changes to all things are much easier.

Look, it’s not perfect. I’m sure we’ll see issues some day, but we’ve deployed it to about 30 users and they love it. Right now (knock on wood), they only problems we’ve seen were with configuration errors we caused. Only one 16-bit application was incompatible and we didn’t need it anyway (seriously, we had a 16-bit app out there, go figure).

We’re tightening up our image and deployment process and will really get deep on application testing over the next month, but I feel good about having all 400+ pc’s upgraded by the end of this year.

Don’t wait for the first service pack. Deploy Windows 7. Use MDT 2010, too. We love it.




About Doug Sigmon

IT Helpdesk manager in southern California. Love technology, gadgets, and golf.
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