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January 20, 2009

Windows Vista Small Business Assurance

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Microsoft has maintained since the launch of Vista that the operating system is a robust and stable platform for most users and that the issues with it have been over-hyped by the media and the Web 2.0 universe.

We discussed the main reasons people hate Windows Vista earlier and it is true that many of Vista’s issues stem from user misunderstandings or other training issues.

It is certainly true that Vista’s compatibility problems have been greatly reduced with the recent service pack and the continuing release of newer and better drivers from manufacturers for their products. Still, Microsoft knows all too well that fear and uncertainty can cause people to make just as many decisions as facts and testing.

Windows Vista Small Business Assurance

For larger companies, something like upgrading operating systems is just part of the job. The IT department systematically tests the new products and then develops a logical migration plan including a pilot migration and various milestones and verifications along the way.

For a small business, that is a luxury they cannot afford. For them, their computers just have to work. So, when they hear news reports or read articles suggesting that a migration to Windows Vista might cause them more trouble than it is worth, they balk.

Vista -- Ease of Access

Microsoft knows this is true and so to help win over the small business owner, they launched the Windows Vista Small Business Assurance program.

Smaller sized businesses don’t have large IT departments, if any IT professionals at all.

The thought of something as complex as migrating to a new operating system conjures up nightmares of three hour hold times for technical support, hours staring at a computer screen hoping to “figure it out,” and expensive visits from computer consultants.

The Vista Small Business Assurance (VSBA) program helps eliminate these fears.

The VSBA program is for all businesses with less than 50 employees or less than 25 computers.

Which means that even larger businesses whose companies do not provide office based services, like construction companies, restaurants, medical offices, and delivery services, to name a few, can still qualify based on having a low PC count.

Companies are eligible if they bought a new PC and Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate between July 1, 2008 and May 31, 2009. The operating system does NOT have to come installed on the system. As long as there was both a new computer purchase and a new OS purchase, then the eligibility requirements have been met.

The program runs through June 30, 2009.

What Kind of ‘Assurance’ Do You Get?

The main value of the VSBA program is free phone-based technical support. That means that if the business can’t get a printer to connect or the computer won’t “see” the network, there is no need to pay for expensive support visits or consultants. Instead, a dedicated Vista support team is available for free on the other end of the phone. This support is valid for both compatibility issues like drivers and firmware, as well as configuration issues like getting the network settings right.

In addition, the VSBA program provides “one-on-one” coaching for small businesses. In a nutshell, the business owner tells the Vista representative about their business, and the rep points out Vista features that might be of value.

Why Upgrade to Vista Now?

While Microsoft has continued to extend “downgrade” rights to Windows XP, software vendors and other technology partners have probably shipped their last XP versions of their products. And, unlike the bigger companies that probably have various Windows XP discs "laying around somewhere", smaller businesses are likely to start bumping up against the XP trailing edge in the near future.

By upgrading now and taking advantage of the Vista Small Business Assurance program, you can get all of your setups migrated, your software packages installed and your peripherals and accessories hooked up and running smoothly, all with free technical support.

By the time the program ends in mid-2009, your small business will already be up and running. Waiting until later in 2009 doesn’t mean the migration will be any easier, but it does mean that you’ll be getting support on your own nickel.

Waiting for Windows 7.0

Thinking about just waiting for Microsoft to ship Windows 7?

While various pundits have suggested simply waiting for Windows 7.0 to upgrade, that route may be starting to look less and less appealing. Consider that Microsoft plans to ship Vista SP2 sometime in the first half of 2009 (that is Microsoft code-speak for June 30, 2009).

If SP2 provides the kind of stability and compatibility that users want and vendors go along with ending their XP shipments, then Microsoft has no reason to rush Windows 7 out the door. And, to be blunt, Microsoft has a longer track record of being late to ship software than they do of being on time.

With the problems Microsoft had with the launch of Vista, it is probably safe to assume that Microsoft will err on the side of shipping Windows 7 later and getting everything just right, than err on the side of shipping during 2009 and having another sloppy launch. And by mid-2009, vendors will be getting tired of building “both” systems, that is systems that are built and installed such that they can run both Vista or XP without any customer issues. Just maintaining both sets of drivers is likely to be the kick in the pant that hardware vendors need to give up the XP ghost during 2009.

This all adds up to the unpleasant scenario where a small business needs a couple of new computers toward the end of 2009 and the choice of XP systems is getting lean. Then they have to choose between installing a few Vista computers and dealing with the issues of running XP and Vista together, just to upgrade those systems to Windows 7 sometime in the next year, or limping along without new computers.

Neither option sounds like a winner. And, if you follow the age-old advice to wait for Service Pack 1, then that choice is actually one you have to live with until 2011.

For small business owners, the choice is clear -- start moving to Vista now and take the free VSBA with you.

About the Author

(MCSE, CNA) is a professional freelance writer and small business owner with the freelance writing business ArcticLlama, LLC. Brian’s experience includes network and systems administration, financial planning and advising, and he even has a degree in Biochemistry. Brian specializes in several areas of highly technical writing for ArcticLlama including technology, science and medical. He is also a freelance financial writer specialist. He lives in Colorado with his wife and daughter. Brian contributes articles on Windows Server 2008 and other related topics.

Author's Website: http://www.arcticllama.com/


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