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The company has deployed 2,500 desktop PCs in a live production environment with Windows 7 beta code, through the Microsoft early adopter programme. Unlike some Microsoft references, Baker Tilly has not gone through the normal Microsoft upgrade path from XP to Vista to Windows 7. It skipped Vista and went straight to Windows 7.
David Hilland, deputy IT director at Baker Tilly said the company needed to join the early adopter programme out of necessity. "Windows XP was getting long in the tooth and Vista was not good for an enterprise with 2,000 plus users."
David Hilland said Windows 7 improves on group policy controls, which were lacking in Vista. These make it easier for the IT department to manage enterprise security. It also makes it possible for the IT department to set up automatic operating system maintenance. This keeps desktop hardware running efficiently.
Like many businesses, Baker Tilly needed to run application compatibility testing to ensure XP applications were available or could be ported to Windows 7. This took four months.
Now just one application is not available on the company's Windows 7 desktop infrastructure. "For this one application, which affects 2% of our users, we look at the Windows XP virtualisation software Microsoft provides for Windows 7," said Hilland. This lets users use a virtual machine on Windows 7 to access XP applications.
The performance boost Windows 7 has given his older PCs is perhaps the most surprising benefit for Hilland. "Windows 7 is much better at its job [as an operating system] than Vista. We have had feedback from 400 users who say their machines are running much faster under Windows 7, compared to XP." This has meant that PCs that were three years old and due for replacement can be used for another 12 months with Windows 7, Hilland said.
Baker Tilly is also assessing Windows Server 2008 R2. "We are at an early stage and looking at the branch cache feature," Hilland said. This allows a business to keep track of data stored on local hard discs on desktop PCs. The local files become part of the company intranet, which helps with regulatory compliance.