Lowering the Cost of Upgrading

SAN MATEO (02/07/2000) - Making the move from Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT or NetWare to Windows 2000 is not a job to be taken lightly. You must weigh factors beyond the time and money necessary to perform the migration. Training costs for IT staff and employees plus the much more advanced hardware requirements of Windows 2000 can make the upgrade much more expensive than it first appears.

Despite the initial expenses, Win2000 -- a platform more stable than NT -- promises to lower total ownership costs through reduced administration and decreased downtime for servers and client machines. This, plus knowing that most application and server software will eventually require Win2000, should help you decide if the time is right to upgrade.

Also consider Win2000's Active Directory (AD), which can significantly reduce overall administration costs by centralizing directory information. By setting up AD as your company's primary directory service, you can greatly reduce the administration costs for client and server machines.

To lead the migration of Win2000 from NT 4.0, you'll need to do your homework first. Learn the steps necessary for deploying Windows 2000 Server and Advanced Server as well as the process of migrating to Windows 2000 Professional.

SERVER MIGRATION

Phase 1: Research

The first step in deploying any system as large as Win2000 is research. If you don't know what's in your enterprise and what Win2000 features you want to implement, the project is sure to fail.

Your IT staff must take an up-to-date, detailed inventory of all the server and client hardware in the enterprise. This should include diagrams of network layout, router configurations, and firewall settings, as well as the protocols in use on your network.

The safest way to deploy Win2000 is to get it working before adding the bells and whistles. So another research goal is deciding which features from the new OS your business needs implemented off the bat. Postpone nonmission-critical functionality until after the initial migration, limiting the variables you'll need to check in case of a problem. Waiting until Win2000 is deployed before adding the extras can dramatically cut down on server and client problem debugging.

Phase 2: Planning

The first step in planning your migration is to determine a time line. As your research and planning progresses, it should be updated to include reasonable milestones and goals. Dragging out the migration can drive costs way up.

All hardware and software should be checked for Win2000 compatibility, and upgrade options should be explored for non-Win2000-compliant packages.

Fortunately, you can keep Windows NT 4.0 servers running for the software that hasn't been tested or approved for use with Windows 2000.

Also, IT staff and end-users may need training on Win2000's new features.

In-depth training for system administrators can be expensive, but it will end up saving money in the long run when problems are avoided or resolved quickly.

Phase 3: Prerequisites

As soon as the first two steps are under your belt, and your IT staff is up to snuff on administering a Win2000 environment, proceed with preparing your infrastructure. Upgrade RAM in servers and clients as needed. Microsoft recommends a minimum of 128MB of RAM for servers and 64MB for desktops, but these numbers should be doubled for optimal performance.

All software updates must be performed to bring applications up to Win2000 compliance. Plan to maintain an NT 4.0 server to keep any non-Win2000-compliant software running.

Next, apply the latest service packs to your Win2000 servers. This way, you know you have the most stable environment possible in which to perform the migration.

Finally, reorganize your existing domain structure to make the transition to AD smooth. Enlist the aid of third-party tools, such as FastLane DM/Manager, to automate the optimization of your domain structure. After migrating to AD, these tools will help with the testing and diagnostics.

Phase 4: Test migration

Now test your upgrade plan. Go through the migration process on a nonproduction server and take detailed notes. Record any problems or oddities you encounter so that you can address them before the real migration.

When you are confident that your plan will lead to success, create a detailed checklist from your notes. In the heat of the real server migration, it is easy to make mistakes or skip an important task.

Next, test all applications and services on the Win2000 server. Now is the time to squash bugs, before irate users find them for you. This includes testing e-mail server software, Web and FTP servers, CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) packages, and administration tools. Check network management suites to ensure that they still communicate with the Win2000 server, and monitor everything for stability.

Also, you must thoroughly check your new AD installation and all security settings and file permissions. Make sure that users can log in to the directory tree and access their drives and applications. Try accessing administrator-only directories and applications from a user account without administrator privileges.If it looks good, you're ready for the next phase.

Phase 5: Server migration

If everything is working smoothly so far, begin the server migration. First, back up every server that will be affected. Verify these backups and store them in a safe place. If catastrophe strikes, getting the servers back up quickly will be of the utmost importance.

If you've prepared properly and tested everything thoroughly, the actual migration will be a breeze. Follow your checklist step by step -- now is not the time to make any last-minute changes to your plan.

As you go through the installation and configuration of Win2000, document everything. If you run into problems, such as servers that cannot communicate or an e-mail server that doesn't work, this information can ensure a quick resolution later.

When the upgrade process is complete on each server, a set of wizards will assist in the proper configuration of the new environment, including building your AD structure.

When you next log in, you'll be presented with the Win2000 Configure Your Server wizard. This program centralizes all of the tools and tasks needed to finish the upgrade. You can configure the server for various tasks, such as setting up Web services, an application server, file and print sharing, and AD.

Phase 6: Post-migration testing

You're not through the woods yet -- now you must test everything again. Ensure that servers can talk to each other and all clients can log in and access all of their drives and other resources. Double-check your security settings and other server configuration options.

Completely test every aspect of the new Win2000 environment. It is especially important to check the AD structure for anomalies, such as missing domain or user information. Then have a small subset of users log in and use the new servers. If everything goes smoothly, you're ready to plunge the entire organization into Windows 2000.

CLIENT MIGRATION

After going through the server migration, the update to Windows 2000 Professional on your desktops will seem like a walk in the park.

Professional has more rigorous hardware requirements than previous releases, but it supports a much wider range of system components and peripherals, making the move from Windows 95 or 98, as well as from NT 4.0, an easy one. Keep in mind that IT staff and end-user training on the new system will be critical in realizing all of the benefits Professional can provide.

Similar to the server migration, check for hardware and software compatibility with your existing infrastructure. Most in-place Windows applications should run fine on Win2000, but performance issues should be addressed.

Windows 2000 Professional requires 64MB of RAM, but this should be viewed as an absolute minimum. Any machines with less than 96MB will be noticeably sluggish.

The most important factor to consider when planning this migration on your desktops is whether or not they will run well under the new OS. If you have mostly Pentium and low-end Pentium II machines with 64MB of RAM, expect to update them to at least 96MB or 128MB, if possible.

Compatibility with existing applications is also a critical factor to consider for client PCs. Before upgrading to the new OS, all software that your users need should be thoroughly tested on Windows 2000 Professional.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Don't hesitate to enlist additional aid with your Win2000 migration. The Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit will help in the planning and research phases of your deployment, and the Windows 2000 Server Deployment Planning Guide offers detailed information on all aspects of deploying Win2000. Both are available from Microsoft's Web site. Many other resources are also available at www.microsoft.com/windows2000.

In addition, third-party consultants trained in deploying Win2000 in enterprise environments are waiting to be called in to your site. Bringing in these people can save both time and money when your IT staff isn't up to speed on this technology.

You must consider many factors when planning to move to Windows 2000. Don't jump into an upgrade before weighing the benefits you will receive with the many costs involved.

If you follow these steps, take the time to double-check hardware and software infrastructure, and take detailed notes, the move to Windows 2000 should be a smooth one. Ensure that both your IT staff and end-users receive adequate training before making the migration. If you do thorough research and plan the migration well, you will significantly reduce the costs of migration.

WINDOWS 2000 MIGRATION STEP-BY-STEP

1. Determine the infrastructure in your enterprise. Decide which Windows 2000 features you will deploy.

2. Check compatibility with existing hardware and software. Also begin training IT staff on new Win2000 technology.

3. Perform necessary hardware and software upgrades, apply service packs to all servers, and prepare domain structure.

4. Test your migration plan, build a detailed checklist of steps, and test servers and applications.

5. Take the plunge: Perform the actual migration of your servers.

6. Retest all aspects of your Win2000 deployment. Let a small set of users try the new system and if everything goes smoothly, perform the companywide rollout.

Senior Analyst Kevin Railsback (kevin_railsback@infoworld.com) covers network management, Linux, server hardware, NOSes, and help desk solutions.

Will high deployment costs hinder migrations?

According to an October 1999 Gartner Group study, migrating servers and desktop PCs to the Windows 2000 platform will be a very expensive affair. Estimated migration costs could force companies to delay upgrading to Win2000.

* SERVERS

* NetWare 3.x to Windows 2000 Server: $457 per user* NetWare 4.x to Windows 2000 Server: $430 per user* Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000 Server: $279 per user* DESKTOPS* Windows 9x to Windows 2000 Professional: $2,015 to $3,191 per desktop* Windows NT 4.0 Workstation to Windows 2000 Professional: $1,268 to $2,044 per desktop* TYPICAL SCENARIOS (using Gartner's low numbers for desktop migration)* 1 Windows NT 4.0 server (200 users) to Windows 2000 Server: $55,800* 50 Windows 98 users to Windows 2000 Professional: $100,750* 150 Windows NT 4.0 Workstation users to Windows 2000 Professional: $190,200* Total migration cost: $346,750* 2 Novell 4.11 servers (250 users total): $107,500* 2 Windows NT 4.0 servers (250 users total) to Windows 2000 Server: $69,750* 500 Windows NT 4.0 users to Windows 2000 Professional: $634,000* Total migration cost: $811,250Bolster your effortDo not hesitate to track down additional resources to help ease the Win2000 migration process.

* www.microsoft.com/windows2000: This site provides detailed information about all aspects of Windows 2000 Server and Professional.

* Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit: From Microsoft's Web site, it's a must-have for your IT staff.

* Windows 2000 Server Deployment Planning Guide: This is an excellent resource for planning your migration to Win2000. You can download it from Microsoft's site.

* Web-based training: Pinacor and Learn2.com have partnered in an effort to train resellers and customers in Win2000 technology.

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