There is lot of buzz about Microsoft’s latest operating system, and the consensus seems to be that this upgrade is more meaningful and more stable than the previous release of Windows Vista.  But rushing to upgrade before you’re prepared could leave you hanging.  In business, downtime can mean lost income, so before jumping in there are few things you’ll want to consider:

Your Hardware: You’ll need to verify that your current computer hardware will meet the requirements for Windows 7.  Any computers you have that are running Windows Vista will probably support Windows 7, but your older hardware running XP may need to be upgraded or replaced.  So, you’ll want to decide on the best timing to invest in either of these options if necessary.  Sure, lots of computer stores have been running specials coinciding with the launch, but as with most technology, pricing will only go down, not up.

Your Software: Consider all the software you use on a daily basis to get things done.  Don’t assume that all of it will automatically work on the new Windows platform.  Some software developers will need to upgrade their applications to work properly with Windows 7. In fact, Microsoft offers a Windows 7 add-on called XP Mode, which allows you to run your old software in a “Virtual PC”.  You may wish to simply wait until your software will work directly in Windows 7.  Most software will continue to work in XP for some time, and your vendors should give you ample notice when they foresee no longer supporting it.

Your Time: A simple upgrade is never as easy as it sounds.  There are almost always complications that can result in listening to hours of on-hold music from Microsoft, your computer manufacturer, and your software vendors.  The more time you allow these folks to iron out the wrinkles, the better your chances for a smooth transition.  No matter how much beta testing a release has gone through, it can never match the testing from actual customers. Some call a baby’s first three months of life its “fourth trimester” because it hasn’t yet acclimated to the real world.  Similarly, you should regard the first several months of a major software release as still being in its infancy.  Unless you want to spend time burping and changing your new Windows, you might want to wait until it’s a little older.

How Bad You Need It: Windows 7 does offer many enhancements to make using your PC easier and more enjoyable, however if you spend most of your time in a web browser (as many people do these days) then the operating system isn’t so critical and there is no rush for you to upgrade. Conversely, you are probably more concerned with the friendliness of your Windows environment if you run a lot of windows-based programs.

When you do decide to upgrade, do it in stages.  Upgrade one PC, install your old software, and use it for a few days or a week to make sure everything is working as it used to.  If all is well, move on to other equipment.  Don’t let the transition drag on too long, however.  It’s easier to support one system in an office than two.  If you don’t have IT expertise in your company, consider hiring a technology professional to manage the upgrade for you … avoiding the time and headaches is well worth it.

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