Smoothing the move to Windows 7

"The licence situation is not as draconian as it used to be: the software will still work, only for reduced periods of time," says Clive Longbottom, services director at analyst firm Quocirca.

"But users will have been warned for quite some time that they need to move to a full licence, so anyone caught out really only has themselves to blame."

There are also more positive reasons for moving to Windows 7 than simply staying on the right side of the law. Windows 7 is seen as more secure than earlier versions of the OS, it has better features and performance including an improved user interface and better power saving features.

"The main reason [for moving to Windows 7] just has to be that XP is now more than showing its age," adds Longbottom. "Users expect a newer interface with better capabilities. Even on Vista, IT - and the business - should worry about the underlying security models of XP and Vista, and really should be looking at moving over to a more modern system."

Many of the issues that deterred companies from making the switch to Vista, including a shortage of hardware drivers at launch, the demands the OS makes on older PCs, and some application compatibility issues, have now largely been addressed.

The tools for migration are also much improved although businesses will still need to plan a migration with care.

Proper planning prevents poor performance

As with any significant system upgrade, IT professionals need to plan the move to Windows 7 so it minimises disruption to the business. This means checking the applications currently in use for compatibility, and putting measures in place to enable staff to run those that are not supported.