Cost and time threatens Windows 7 upgrade

Windows 7

A Gartner report has warned businesses upgrading to Windows 7 from older versions face a costly process and may not complete their projects on time.

With Microsoft's support for Windows XP and Windows 2000 support due end in four years, the preferred method of upgrading by a hardware refresh cycle will fail.

"With most migrations not starting until the fourth quarter of 2010, at the earliest, and PC hardware replacement cycles typically running at four to five years, most organisations will not be able to migrate to Windows 7 through usual planned hardware refresh before support for Windows XP ends," warned Charles Smulders, managing vice president at Gartner.

The report claimed alternative upgrade paths were fraught with danger and increased costs as the deadline approached. As more companies feel the pressure to move between 2011 and 2012, demand for highly qualified migration IT personnel will exceed supply, leading to higher rates. Most organisations will need to find extra funds or redirect budgets to complete on time.

Gartner used the example of a company with 10,000 PCs. To upgrade them all would cost between 826 and 1,334 per machine, assuming 25 per cent of the machines would also need a hardware upgrade. There would also be extra costs incurred if specific drivers for peripheral equipment were required.

The catch is upgrading an installed PC simply postpones the inevitable replacement for two to three years. Users would need to be migrated twice, rather than once, during a four-year period. Replacing some of the PCs could avoid this, and some of the driver costs, but would still carry a capital drain of 777 to 1,289 each, according to the study.

Gartner estimated organisations worldwide would migrate approximately 250 million PCs to Windows 7 by 2015. Its advice is to line up service providers early.

Steve Kleynhans, research vice president at Gartner, said upgrade budgets would have to increase between 20 per cent at best and 60 per cent at worst in 2011 and 2012.

"Assuming that PCs account for 15 per cent of a typical IT budget, this means that this percentage will increase to 18 per cent and 24 per cent which could have a profound effect on IT spending and on funding for associated projects during both those years," he said.