Windows 8 Rollout: One SMB's Story - InformationWeek

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1/17/2013
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Windows 8 Rollout: One SMB's Story

At McCoy Tree Surgery, a major technology refresh happening now includes Windows 8, Server 2012 and Office 2013. The firm's IT chief shares the upgrade strategy.

Windows 8: 8 Big Benefits For SMBs
Windows 8: 8 Big Benefits For SMBs
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If timing is everything, then IT pro Mark Kleine seems to possess a sound strategy.

Kleine, the chief technologist for McCoy Tree Surgery, is an early corporate adopter of Windows 8, Microsoft's revamped operating system. He recently kicked off a deployment that includes roughly 25 employees in the home office who will jump straight to Windows 8 from Windows XP boxes. Another 50 or so managers in remote offices -- McCoy operates more than 30 locations across six states -- will upgrade to Windows 8 later this year; most of those users are currently on Vista or Windows 7.

The Windows 8 upgrade is just a single piece of a much larger, deliberately planned tech refresh that also includes Windows Server 2012, Microsoft Office 2013 and other moving parts and pieces. In fact, a primary reason the home-office staff is still using XP is that Kleine wanted to wait and do a single, integrated upgrade across the organization.

"We obviously had the XP deadline, which we didn't want to pass, on the one side, and we had the latest and greatest on the other side," Kleine said in an interview. "We tend to try to match the server and the client software as best we can."

[ Here are a few reasons why some companies are staying with Windows XP. Read 3 More Reasons SMBs Stick With Windows XP. ]

He was comfortable sticking with XP while waiting for Windows 8 and Server 2012 because McCoy's Norman, Okla.-based headquarters is a relatively static environment. The older OS had continued to serve the company's back-office needs well. As a result, Kleine similarly decided to postpone new hardware purchases so he could upgrade PCs, servers and other gear simultaneously. "One refresh, one time" is Kleine's mantra of sorts, and now the strategy is coming to fruition with a broad IT investment.

"We've designed and spec'd machines that include the best of the current technology, virtualization, dual monitors, lots of memory and SSDs that we'll load up with the newest software, and hopefully be ready for the next five-plus years of operation," Kleine said.

The upgrade is also happening just in the nick of time, thanks to a rapidly evolving set of business needs and challenges. Technological changes to how McCoy operates -- Kleine said the company "quickly changed from office-based to mobile-based" -- have recently left it short on digital storage space. Likewise, a recent ERP upgrade necessitated a corresponding back-end refresh to ensure optimal performance.

McCoy's operations span thousands of miles of physical space. The company's 500-strong field crew members cut back trees and other vegetation so they don't interfere with utility lines and similar infrastructure. The 50 managers that oversee those crews comprise a mobile workforce that relies on netbooks, wireless access cards and a variety of productivity tools ranging from the mundane (email) to the not-so-much (specialized mapping readers and a custom real-time Google Earth management reporting system). The firm's legacy back-end was built around Server 2003 and had held up well as IT deployed new systems to meet the growing mobility needs. These included an organization-wide management reporting application, vehicle-mounted computers that report dashboard diagnostics and GPS locations via cellular modem and a paperless office document management system. But the storage infrastructure ultimately couldn't keep up.

"These new applications now require significantly more storage and have consumed our excess capacity," Kleine said, adding that he'd developed a positive pre-release impression of Server 2012 from a storage standpoint. "This software would be able to integrate local, building and cloud-based storage. As a SMB, our problem set includes redundancy and resiliency, and this type of storage would serve us well." McCoy is en route to 100% server virtualization as part of its technology overhaul.

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