Pound For Pound

To Upgrade Or Not

Even with the popularity of Linux, Windows remains the OS familiar to most network administrators. And unless you crave the latest gizmos, an unnecessary upgrade to your company's OS is probably the last thing you want to do. The old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies here. If the server OS you're running works for your company and its future growth, there's simply no reason to make a change-at least not today.

The real reason you would need to upgrade is quite simple: if your OS is out-of-date and can't perform the functions necessary to keep your business running smoothly. Companies still running the 16-bit Windows 3.x that never upgraded to the 32-bit Windows 95/98/NT should probably consider migration to Windows 2000 Server and Windows Professional, or even choose the upgrade path to the more affordable Linux OS. Essentially, Windows 3.x users are now two major OS upgrades behind, and both new applications and new hardware will soon be difficult to run on those systems.

Still, the migration to Windows 2000 shouldn't be rushed. Recommendation from analysts at GartnerGroup (www.gartnergroup.com) is to delay until a more stable version of 2000 hits the streets later this year. If tradition holds true, Windows 2000's stability probably won't kick in until Microsoft ships Service Pack 2. The goal is to give Microsoft time to fix the bugs in the early version. GartnerGroup also suggests Windows NT users deploy Windows 2000 as part of ongoing hardware replacement cycles and doesn't recommend migrating current systems to Windows 2000. In fact, this segment-the one Microsoft plans to capture with 2000-is essentially being offered an easier-to-use upgrade for NT. Additionally, whereas NT was only capable of running a small network, Windows 2000's Advanced Server finally promises to deliver an affordable enterprise-level option. Claims are that corporate network costs will be reduced by two-thirds when compared to running Sun's Solaris OS on a Sun Unix server.

Companies running a small network with the Windows 95 or 98 system should probably hold off acting for now, especially if your computing needs are being met and you're running a small network. Of course, Windows 2000 machines can be integrated as time goes on, but if you're running older 16-bit applications or older hardware, you're going to run into significant compatibility problems with Windows 2000. This is a case where a plan for migration should be initiated.

Windows 98 users who've chosen not to make the jump to Windows 2000 will be glad to know that when Windows Millennium Edition (ME) hits the market it promises to improve users' online experience by delivering an OS that takes full advantage of the Internet and multimedia entertainment. Windows ME focuses on four main areas: digital media and entertainment, the online experience, home networking, and PC health.

Windows ME will include Movie Maker, a video-editing application that will enable users to transmit movies over the Net; NetMeeting conferencing software for videoconferencing, chatting and collaboration; and Internet Connection Sharing for enabling multiple computers to share a connection to the Net and offering easier connection of multiple PCs for sharing. Other enhancements include an upgraded WebTV for broader support of TV tuner cards and enhanced support of USB devices.

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This article was originally published in the May 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Pound For Pound.

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