By Guy Clapperton.

On 30 January this year the wait will be over — Microsoft will finally have released all of the versions of Windows Vista, the new version of its operating system. A lot of people will now be wondering: should they upgrade?

The business versions of Vista have been around for a couple of months so there is a good chance you will already have considered this. There are advantages and disadvantages.

Security

Prime among the advantages, and indeed the element on which MS has done its heaviest marketing, is the new security built into Windows Vista. Network administrators will now find it much easier to say that user is allowed to print that stuff and look at only those bits of the Intranet at the touch of a few buttons. There are more checks and balances when people connect to any network, wireless and otherwise, and the system keeps a much closer eye on your security settings, antivirus and firewall than before.

Appearance

Another improved element of Vista as compared to its predecessor, Windows XP, is that it’s much easier on the eye. The designers have spent ages rounding off corners and making it feel a lot gentler, leading to the customary punch-up between Apple and Microsoft over who’s pinching whose ideas and looks. None of this needs matter; it looks good, certainly, but are the business users really all that concerned about pretty desktops? We think probably not — but see the point under ‘computer’ below.

Hardware

There are two major considerations in terms of hardware; one is the computer onto which you’re installing Vista and the other is the peripherals you attach to it.

Computer

Most computers bought within the last 12 months or so will be equal to running Windows Vista. If you bought prior to that, you might want to consider waiting until your next hardware upgrade before changing your operating system. Your graphics will almost certainly not be up to scratch for all the prettying up that Microsoft has done this time around. You may have insufficient memory. Weigh up the advantages against the disruption of upgrading every single machine and ask yourself, when are we next going to refresh our stock of PCs anyway..?

Peripherals

The launch of the previous version of Windows, Windows XP, went well in that very few people came out with ‘my camera doesn’t work on this!’ or ‘my printer’s started churning out gibberish!’ There’s no real reason to suspect that Vista will be any different but there’s always a chance. Microsoft has tested the system in beta extensively and has logged over 1 billion sessions of it prior to release. They’re not, however, claiming to have checked every scanner, printer, memory stick, camera, phone, hand-held computer or other device you might connect regularly to your system now and take for granted, so you can’t afford to assume everything’s going to work.

As always with a new system the best advice is to wait a short while. If after a couple of months you have a good business reason to change and there are no horror stories in the press about the thing not working, go for it. If either of those things looks less than positive, give it a few months and think again. Oh, and if your current system isn’t broken you might want to consider whether it’s worth spending out on fixing it…

Guy Clapperton is a freelance journalist, broadcaster and book author/editor specialising in small business issues and technology.
www.clapperton.co.uk/