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Are You Ready for Windows 7?

Although Windows 7 has been out for a while it should now be on your business radar. However, unlike previous versions of Windows, hidden behind the marketing campaigns convincing us it is an easy upgrade, lurks some serious considerations and preparation for any sensible business planning to move to Windows 7.
Having already assisted some organisations with a move to Windows 7 White Consultancy has identified the following issues that must be considered prior to an upgrade:

·            64bit or 32bit edition of Windows 7
·            Application compatibility
·            Hardware compatibility
·            Network Printing

Let us look at these in a little more detail;

64bit or 32bit – There are two core flavours of Windows 7, 32bit and 64bit. Both appear the same to the user but under the bonnet they operate differently, in particular how the applications run, hardware is recognised and used. The reason that Microsoft has introduced this new 64bit flavour is because in coding terms 32bit operating systems (e.g. Windows XP) have hit the ceiling, this means they can no longer support the new computer chips, memory and other hardware we use nowadays. 64bit operating systems can function with new and emerging hardware and will continue for many, many years to come. Therefore we highly recommend the 64bit edition of Windows 7, to ensure you future proof your computer system. Note: The next edition of Windows “Windows 8” will only be 64bit.

Applications compatibility - As Windows 7 has undergone some fundamental changes, it is likely that you will have some applications that do not work after it is installed. It is our advice that in advance of moving to Windows 7 you test to see if all you applications work, this can be done on a spare computer if you have one.

How do I test my applications?
·         Install a trial edition of Windows 7 which can be downloaded from here.
·         Install the application
·         Open a sample of applications and run some frequently performed tasks
·         Note an issues where they do not work properly
If you do identify any issues with your applications, contact the applications manufacturer and follow their guidance to get them resolved if possible.

If however, the manufacturer does not provide a suitable solution (many will want to charge for advice or a new edition of their application) or the cost of a replacement application is too expensive, there are other ways to make the old application work within Windows 7. One solution is a free Microsoft tool called XPM (‘XP’ Mode), which can be downloaded here including instructions (be warned it’s not for the faint hearted). It works by using a hidden version of Windows XP to load the application separate from the rest of your applications and files. However, this option does come with some disadvantages such as this hidden edition of Windows XP will be running in the background and its activity will not be monitored by your antivirus software.

Note: Don’t forget to test your antivirus software as this counts as an ‘application’.

Hardware Compatibility – As discussed previously, unless your hardware such as printers and computers, was produced in the last year or so, it may not be compatible Windows 7. This could result in you being able to install Windows 7 on your PC or stop your peripherals from being recognised.  Microsoft have provided a very handy tool that can be run on any computer to check to see if it is compatible before trying to install windows 7. The tool can be downloaded from here and Microsoft also has a website here that allows you to browse through a list of supported hardware, including externally connected peripherals

Printing – If your printer is not directly connected to your computer and you connect to it over the network you will need to plan for your printer ‘queues’ to be updated. Currently, there is a bit of software called a ‘printer driver’ that is used by your version of Windows to support printing. However, if you upgrade to Windows 7 the printer queue on the server will only support Windows 7 printer drivers. There are two versions of each Windows 7 printer driver, 32bit and a 64bit, so ensure that you have both added to the printer queue.
If you directly connect your printer to your computer, before you upgrade to Windows 7 you should check that the manufacturer has created Windows 7 printer drivers in both 32bit & 64bit and any printer software is available e.g. scanner-fax-printer all in one applications. Printer driver downloads are commonly found under the ‘support’ section on manufacturer websites or alternatively, you can check the Microsoft Windows 7 Compatibility website to see if your printer is supported.

Healthy Computer Use

We regularly hear about the importance of Health and Safety within the work place but does using a computer really affect your health?

Yes, we believe it does and we have met many people that have ongoing heath issues directly caused by being positioned incorrectly while sitting at their computer. Common issues that can occur are neck ache, back ache, eye strain, headaches, repetitive strain injuries from the shoulders down to hands and much more. This can all lead to time off work or worse still the employer being liable for not complying with their health and safety responsibilities.

Following these simple guidelines can reduce the likelihood of injury whilst working at your computer:
  1. Adjust your chair so that your (lower mainly) back is supported, adjust the height so your wrists align with the keyboard. Feet should be flat on the floor or on a foot support.
  2. Adjust your keyboard placement so that all the keys are easily reached and the mouse is in line left or right with the keyboard.
  3. Adjust your screen so that it is arm’s length away, it should not be angled up, down, left or right but straight on with the height set so that your eyes look straight to the top centre.
  4. Takes regular breaks ensuring you get up from your chair, take a walk and focus your eyes away from your computer screen. At least once an hour should be sufficient.
  5. If you are working on a laptop ensure you use a docking station (a small piece of hardware that has connected keyboard, mouse, monitor, audio, USB, etc). As an alternative you can use a laptop stand with an external keyboard and mouse
Note: If you work from home the same guidance applies

What is the best way to backup my data?

Everyone talks about knowing how valuable their data is but only those that have lost important data really know the true cost. The obvious choice is to back up your data, so what is the best technology to back up your data with? The main options include:

Online Automated Backup - You pay an on-going subscription fee, install a small program, and specify the folders and files to be backed up. It runs all the time and as soon as new data is created it is automatically backed up to the service provider’s servers. This option has the added bonus that your data is stored offsite so if there is a disaster it will be easily recoverable. This option can be used on both PCs and servers; however it the down side for some people is that your data is stored on a 3rd party’s servers, which you may not be comfortable with depending on the sensitivity of your data. Recommended providers of this service are Carbonite, Mozy & Iron Mountain.

Tape - A more traditional approach is the use of magnetic tapes, typically configured to run on a server only backing up specified folders and files. The backup routine is configured to run on a particular schedule, commonly daily (per working day), monthly or yearly. All tapes should be taken and stored offsite and/or kept within a fire proof safe.

External hard drive/CD/DVD - This option is primarily aimed towards single PC backup, consisting of a manual process of copying folders and files to an external hard drive or CD/DVD. The approach is time consuming and easy to ‘forget’ therefore, one that we do not recommend. It is now quite common that external hard drives will include free backup software, which once installed will prompt you to select the files and folders to backup, then set a frequency (daily, weekly, monthly) to connect to the drive and allow a backup to be performed.

In summary, as internet connectivity is now so fast we would recommend an online backup solution as this is suitable for PCs and Servers and once installed no interaction is required as all data is backup offsite automatically.

Regardless of how you back up your data we strongly suggest that you frequently test that the solution is working by performing a test restore (retrieving your data from the backup). Your data backup is only reliable if it can be restored successfully.

Saving money and being greener

As the number of electrical devices in our offices increases, such as computers, monitors and printers, so does the amount of electricity being consumed.  Electrical power is now a real tangible cost to businesses as most of this equipment consumes power for the entire duration they are turned on. However, most modern devices have built in ‘power saving’ modes that can be enabled to reduce this cost. We have identified a few ways to save power on common Office equipment including computers, printers and servers.


Do you leave your computer running at the end of the day because you do not want to wait for it to boot up in the morning? Windows has an option that allows you to place your computer in a temporary state of rest that can quickly be resumed to full use and consumes less energy than leaving your computer running.

Adjusting Windows Power Options
  • Go to Windows ‘Control Panel'
  •  Select ‘Power Options'
  • We recommend that at the very least you set the screen to sleep after a defined (i.e. 10 minutes) of inactivity; this simply sets the screen to a very low power consumption mode, as long as no keys are pressed and the mouse remains inactive.
  • Press any key or move the mouse to return to normal
If you have a network of computers and a Windows Server these settings can be defined centrally as a one-off activity and automatically ‘pushed’ to all connected computers.


Power Saving

Printers consume power continually if they are left running, laser printers being the most offending type as they need to keep their internal components warm ready to print. Most printers  have sleep mode setting that after a definable period of time (i.e. 20 minutes) they will go into a very low powered state. Once a print job is sent the printer will ‘wake’ up quickly and start printing normally, the typical added delay is only 3 minutes.

Save Paper

Paper consumption is a big issue for most offices but this can be reduced by adjusting the default printer options to duplex (both sides). If this feature is available on your printer you will find a duplex option in your printer settings.

Save Ink

Set your printer settings to default to Mono (Black and White) to reduce the costs of expensive colour inks and toners. Also use the ‘draft’ print quality setting to reduce the amount of ink used. Both these options will also speed up print jobs considerably. These settings can be manually overridden on each print job as required.


Unused Equipment

Ensure any equipment that is not being used is powered down fully but do not use any power saving modes, other than turning screens off.


‘Virtualisation’ is a new concept whereby a small piece of software is installed on your server which divides up your server resources i.e. CPU, memory and hard disk space, installing multiple editions of Windows. This reduces the number of physical servers required, e.g. 8 servers running at 20% capacity can be consolidated to 2 servers. Warning – never consolidate all your servers to 1 virtualised server as if there is a hardware issue, everything will be affected.

Temperature Control

Air Conditioning is required in most server environments however it is worth checking the temperature it is trying to maintain as this can be excessive and expensive. By using a simple thermometer to check the temperature it is possible to decrease the demand on you’re A/C, Google recommends 26.7C or 80F.

Like most modern technology, monitors should have built in power saving modes which should be enabled and set to the desired levels.