Software migrations are as unavoidable as death and taxes, and just as aggravating, according to a recent SearchWindowsManageability survey. When asked to describe their migration headaches, IT pros sadly submitted tales of DNS snafus, mangled mailboxes, and the loss of users' "favorite" links. Hope for a lasting cure to these headaches is dim, they said.
Legacy system interaction
A Technical Systems Analyst at a 3,000-user Canadian manufacturing corporation finds reengineering the company's legacy systems the most time consuming process of a migration. With every new OS rollout, the legacy system must keep up and interact with the other PCs in the office, she said.
Because this IT manager's company has been using legacy systems since the 1950's, they are an integral part of the storage system. So, when a new OS arrives, the legacy must be reformulated to communicate with it. Even if the company wanted to phase out the legacy, she said, regulations require records to be available for seven years in case of an audit.
Hardware not up to par with software; big wigs veto replacement
At the library where Penny French works, budgets are not in her control. So, she battles to convince higher ups that computers are too old and need replacing. Therefore, when a migration is complete, older computer hardware, or "old beaters," as French calls them, run new software, such as Windows 95, 98 or 2000. Newer hardware, she said, could make that new software run more effectively. She wonders what the point is of migrating to new software versions if the hardware is lagging behind?
To alleviate the hardware problems, "we've been using Symantec Ghost to image workstations, but that only works if the system components are exact or very similar," said French, customer support lead for Washington State Library's Information Technology Support Services.
While French knows standards are difficult to get people to adhere to, she thinks it would be helpful at the library. She noted that the library is getting better at having a set of standard applications and versions, however. Still, "there are enough differences to make upgrades and migrations take much of our technicians time at each PC," she concluded.
IT consultant Richard Scott has nightmares about companies not investing the time to train users on new versions of OSes or applications. "The time spent by technicians to upgrade older equipment and software would be more productive if they didn't have to hand hold users at their workstations," he said.
While Scott is impressed that many of the companies he has worked with have strategic plans to upgrade, test and ensure positive functionality of new equipment, they do not think about end user training at all. "The average office worker knows very little about the computer they are using, much less the difference between Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000 or XP," he said.
Though, Scott admitted, the actual training can be tough because users can be clueless. Users often don't know what their new computer can do or even how to sign on, he said. "Often times, they lock themselves out of their own accounts trying to figure out what to do with this new thing."
Kurt Stanwick had quite a problem when he first began his IT job. The existing setup at the school where he works had corrupt configurations. Consequently, when Stanwick moved the school to Windows 2000 from NT 4.0, the corrupt configurations got in the way. Stanwick, being the only person experienced in desktop and server management at the school, was out of luck to get help.
So, Stanwick came up with his own solution. He said it was easier, though more time consuming, to start from scratch with new equipment. Then, he moved all the old data over. "That way I know that what I did is clean, and I have no headaches from previous people."
Stanwick didn't throw out the old machine, though. He was able to rebuild it and use it for another application.