Windows Vista this Summer?

With most new PCs and laptops shipping Windows Vista and a rapid uptake of the operating system in a variety of organisations, many schools will be asking themselves whether they should go ahead and deploy new kit this summer with Windows Vista on it.  The question might move to whether they should roll it out fully or in part across their school, or whether they should wait another 6 months to a year before dipping their toe in the water.  There are a number of things to consider here...

1)      What benefits do you get by deploying Windows Vista?

2)      What is the downside of staying with your existing version of Windows?

3)      Does your School Agreement entitle you to Windows Vista and how do you get the right Volume License Media?

4)      What, if anything, is the risk of deploying?

5)      Do you have to upgrade all your PCs or can Windows Vista PCs and laptops coexist with what you have now?

 

1)  What benefits do you get by deploying Windows Vista?

First thing to consider is what you gain by deploying Windows Vista.  As you’d expect there are a lot of new features; some are “must haves” for the modern IT enabled school, others are less important.  For schools some of the major benefit will be realised around:

Better Security – A host of new security features combine to give watertight, manageable security to your users, making use of innovation such as User Account Control, Windows Defender, Windows Firewall, Protected Mode browsing, Bitlocker volume encryption and Parental controls.

Pervasive Search and collaboration tools – With more data storage and a deluge of media files, documents and emails hitting your system, pervasive desktop search provides the tools to tag and find your information quickly, however disorganised.  Quick search extends seamlessly from desktop to the intranet and internet from the start menu.  The improved collaboration environment (Meeting Space) and ad hoc peer-to-peer wireless networking let you easily share files and applications with other devices wherever you are.

Multimedia – the Windows Media Centre, improved media player, digital photography tools and HD MovieMaker combine to give your users, powerful out-of-the box multimedia capabilities, both for creating and consuming content.

Improved Accessibility tools – built in screen reader and powerful voice recognition for interacting with the operating system out of the box.

Enhanced mobile and tablet experience – tuned for portable PCs, Windows Vista has better network awareness, lower power consumption, better power management, new presentation settings, improved projector support and superior handwriting recognition for making the IT enabled classroom a reality.

Re-engineered for Manageability – host of developments to increase efficiency of running and supporting your PCs and portables including improvements to roaming user profiles, network awareness and diagnostics, the reliability monitor and  improved group policy (including new policies for such things as creating network quality of service policies for your key network applications, preventing unauthorised USB devices, etc.).  There are also far better tools for user self help including full machine backup and previous version file restoration, driving down support costs.

Easier Deployment – improved tools for deploying and patching the operating system including the image manager which makes system image modification and deployment significantly easier for your IT support team.

Improved User Interface – Windows Aero combined with other changes to the interface combine to give Windows Vista a better looking and more ergonomic user interface.

2) What is the downside of staying with your existing version of Windows?

So, you buy a PC with Windows Vista installed. Whilst you can downgrade pre-installed Windows Vista to previous versions, you are missing out on the benefits of the operating system you received with the PC.  In addition, new hardware and driver upgrades are increasingly likely to shift focus onto Windows Vista whilst staff and students are likely to be using Windows Vista at home and elsewhere and will wonder why it isn’t available in the school.  A “do nothing” approach (versus an evaluation or pilot rollout) will also make it harder to migrate later on as your staff will have no experience of the new system and might not have factored Windows Vista into the planning of the infrastructure.  Given these factors, it makes sense to think about an evaluation or limited deployment and the formulation of a coexistence strategy from this summer onward, even if you are not going to roll Windows Vista out right across the school just yet.

3) Does your School Agreement entitle you to Windows Vista and how do you get the right Volume Licence Media?

The Volume Licence Agreements for schools entitles them to obtain the following versions of Windows Vista:

 

Windows Vista Education Licences

By default, for Schools Agreement, the Media Kits will typically include a non-bootable upgrade DVD or CD of Windows Vista Enterprise.  To obtain a bootable copy of the media you will need to contact your authorised reseller to order it or you will need to download it from the Microsoft Volume License website.  You also need to request Windows Vista Ultimate media separately as per the instructions below:

Some details about the Enterprise and Ultimate versions:

Microsoft Vista Enterprise

Microsoft Vista Enterprise is offered as a benefit, exclusive to Software Assurance customers. It is designed specifically to meet the needs of our large customers, who have a complex IT infrastructure and to allow easy standardisation across the organisation through a single deployment image. This Vista product is created especially for Volume Licensing customer needs and to significantly reduce IT costs and risks. Vista Enterprise has high levels of data protection using hardware-based encryption technology. It also includes tools to improve application compatibility. This is a volume licensing product that can be deployed across all eligible* desktops in an organisation. For more details on the Vista Enterprise edition, please see the website here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/editions/enterprise/default.mspx

Activation: The customer activates the Software Assurance benefit on MVLS. The customer can download and install the software across his eligible desktops immediately or request a shipment of the product.

Microsoft Vista Ultimate

Vista Ultimate is a retail product directed for the home and business user. Vista Ultimate not a Volume Licensing product but is available as an SA benefit to eligible Volume Licensing customers. Vista Ultimate offers a home digital entertainment experience as well as business-focused infrastructure. Many business customers have installed Vista Ultimate in training centres or meeting rooms because of the video and other multimedia capabilities. Each Vista Ultimate media shipment offers one installation only as the product is not available under Volume Licensing programs to purchase. For more details on the Vista Ultimate edition, please see the website here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/editions/ultimate/default.mspx

Activate shipment: You activate the Software Assurance benefit and shipment on MVLS. If you require additional installations for any reason, such as training centre use, you should contact your local SA Contact Centre. Telephone Numbers

Additional media: After activation, the channel partner may also order additional media for the end customer from the Volume Licensing Price lists.

For more details about the Schools Agreement see http://download.microsoft.com/download/2/b/c/2bc8c747-db5e-4805-92b9-061de1d568ff/SA3ProgramGuideEMEA.doc&&DI=6243&IG=08ca6d051b8f4d54b2b81af761dd6e83&POS=6&CM=WPU&CE=3&CS=AWP&SR=3

 

4) What, if anything, is the risk of deploying?

Every deployment project carries with it some risk and careful planning is key to making sure the deployment is successful.  Things to think about include:

·         Hardware compatibility – are your computers up to spec to run Windows Vista?

·         Application compatibility – will your programs run on Vista?

·         User accounts and settings – how do I manage accounts on the new machines?

·         Management – can you manage the new Operating System efficiently in a mixed environment?

In a subsequent post we will go through the planning process and Windows Vista deployment technicalities in more detail, including migration of data and application compatibility testing.

5) Do you have to upgrade all your PCs, or can Windows Vista PCs and laptops coexist with what you have now?

You don’t have to upgrade all your computers to Windows Vista in one go, you can introduce a few new computers (perhaps a classroom or new IT suite) and manage them using your existing Active Directory, taking into account the special considerations for Group Policy Management in a mixed environment http://technet2.microsoft.com/WindowsVista/en/library/5ae8da2a-878e-48db-a3c1-4be6ac7cf7631033.mspx?mfr=true

Summary and Additional resources

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what Windows Vista offers you, how to get hold of the Windows Vista media and some of the things you need to consider in determining whether to begin deploying Windows Vista in your school environment this summer.  For more information see the following links:

       Windows Vista main site
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/default.mspx

       Windows Vista Product Guide
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=bbc16ebf-4823-4a12-afe1-5b40b2ad3725&DisplayLang=en

       Windows Vista Test Drive
http://www.windowsvistatestdrive.com/

       Technet Vista Virtual Labs
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/traincert/virtuallab/vista.mspx

       MSDN Vista Virtual Labs
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/virtuallabs/aa948894.aspx

       Product Evaluation Scenarios
http://technet2.microsoft.com/WindowsVista/en/library/75e0d9a9-368d-4b0f-8c0c-6ed3270742ea1033.mspx?mfr=true

       Windows Vista Webcasts
http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/SearchResults.aspx?culture=en-US&evtTyp=3&kwdAll=windows%20vista&lng=en&tgtAud=4&advFlag=1

       Windows Vista Screencasts
http://blogs.technet.com/james/pages/vista-screencasts.aspx

 

       Desktop Optimisation Pack
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/editions/enterprise/default.mspx?tab=Microsoft%20Desktop%20Optimization%20Pack