Healing the woes of migrating user profiles

The last layer of abstraction: Virtualizing it is easier than you think.

 If you’ve been following this series of posts – here and here  – you’ve probably already gotten a good sense of the positive impact virtualization can have on migrating two vital layers of abstraction: your Windows 7 OS environment and applications. But there’s one more component to deal with, one more layer of abstraction that you have to worry and define success criteria for. And it probably won’t come as a surprise but virtualization along with some pretty nifty tools can help here too.

 I’m talking of course about migrating user profiles.

 It turns out though that a lot of IT professionals are a bit jumpy about making this particular move. A recent survey found that while 57 percent of respondents intend to rollout Windows 7 by this fall, 45 percent were specifically worried about migrating user profiles. Nearly half! 

 It seems that while the arrival of Windows 7 presents an opportunity for IT to re-assess the way desktops are managed and leveraged throughout the organization, it’s also a risky and expensive proposition – or a perceived one, at least – particularly if it affects users’ working environments.

 In Windows XP you had personalization settings referred to as Version 1. Windows Vista and now Windows 7 use a different profile configuration called Version 2. Traditionally, if you were going to migrate to Windows 7, IT would have to painstakingly copy things over or make users re-enter their user profile data. A big hassle for everyone involved.

 But now there are solutions from Microsoft, Liquidware Labs and Appsense that assist in achieving your success criteria by supporting the easy migration from Version 1 to Version 2 user profiles. Without getting too lost in the weeds, what these tools help you do is gather user profile information and send it over to the central server – essentially you virtualize it – so now whether your user is logging onto a Windows XP machine or a Windows 7 one, their profile follows them wherever they are. In other words, their desktop documents, background image, documents, Internet Explorer or Firefox bookmarks, are no longer tied to that device under the desk. What you’re now looking at are centrally managed virtual desktops.

 Since user profile data is the only unique aspect of the desktop, and this can now be managed independently of the operating system and applications, your users’ desktops can now be standardized across your organization. Virtualizing user profiles offers tremendous opportunities for desktop management cost reduction, as well as huge reductions in cost (management, storage, licensing) not to mention more productive employees.

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About Jonathan White

Jonathan is a solutions architect within the Enterprise Architect Group at Softchoice. His main focus is to help customers define and design virtualization solutions.