Microsoft will end support for Windows NT at the end of this year, but for the FSS, a government agency supplying forensic services to the police, the main motivation for moving to the new operating environment was its support for Office 2003. This allows users to easily include digital media in Word and Excel documents.
"The FSS has evolved from the days of test tubes and deals witha phenomenal amount of digital data and DNA samples, all of which need to be processed and analysed quickly," said Simon Bramble, head of ITC at the FSS.
"According to a review by the National Audit Office, IT is central to providing a quality service, and our ageing IT system needed to be upgraded to enable us to meet data demands made by the police."
Mainstream support for NT will end this year before the FSS Windows 2003 roll-out is finished, but Mark Lowther, project manager at the FSS, said the risk to the business was very low.
He said the FSS had been using a standard build of NT for six years and it was very stable. Also, users did not have internet access at their desktop, mitigating the risk of virus attacks.
"We have not moved before now, partly because criminal justice likes stable systems and we wanted to see real benefits before we upgraded. We waited for Windows Server 2003 because we wanted its stability over Windows 2000. NT lasted for six years and we hope this will also last that long or make the transfer less painful.
"We also preferred to wait for Windows Server 2003 because it comes in a hardened security state, which you unlock, compared to Windows 2000, which you lock up as you implement it."
Windows 2003 also offered the FSS, a Home Office agency, standard support for universal serial bus peripherals, such as digital cameras.
The FSS will use Office 2003 to publish documents in HTML and will use Sanctuary Device Control from SecureWave Software to manage what programs users can connect to their desktops. The implementation is expected to be finished before the end of the year and the client roll-out should be complete by March 2005.
The roll-out includes a change management programme with mobile support staff and deployment managers for each of the 11 sites. The FSS chose HP partly because of its experience of criminal justice with Wiltshire Police, Lowther said.