Software could ease pain of Windows 7 migration


InstallFree says their technology is less about virtualization and more about problem-solving.
InstallFree says its technology is less about virtualization and more about problem-solving.

The migraine-inducing process of migrating Windows from XP to 7 could get easier now that virtualization developer InstallFree has released InstallFree Bridge 2.0, a program that reportedly eliminates software compatibility issues.

InstallFree said this latest product should help speed up the migration of schools and businesses to Windows 7. Bridge 2.0 does this by giving users the ability to run older versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer and other applications on Microsoft’s newest operating system—a process the company calls the “application repackaging business.” (Read “School IT chiefs mull Windows 7.”)

InstallFree says its software creates isolated, modular, and portable virtual applications that can run on any version of Windows and be updated on the fly. These applications integrate seamlessly with the user’s environment and communicate with the operating system (OS) and other applications without making any changes to the underlying OS file system or registry, according to the company.

“The typical problem is that you install an app, and it isn’t compatible with another app or program or breaks that app or program. By isolating these applications, these problems won’t happen anymore,” said Alon Yaffe, director of marketing for InstallFree.

Even though Windows 7 has an “XP Mode,” which allows users to run a virtual edition of XP from inside Windows 7, Yaffe said this mode is more of a “one-off, or niche solution,” that isn’t effective if you have multiple conflicting applications.

“We are hearing from customers that … they don’t want to start dealing with VM-based solutions because they are trying to get rid of XP, not perpetuate it—they need something that will preserve the end-user experience and performance, while at the same time reduce the overhead for IT,” he said. “InstallFree [Bridge] does not require a full Windows XP VM to be deployed to every machine.”

(For a detailed analysis of how InstallFree’s solution is different from Window’s XP Mode, click here.)

Yaffe pointed to ANGEL Learning, a learning management system (LMS) used by several by schools, to show how InstallFree can help.

“ANGEL Learning has web-based apps, but these apps have a dependency on plug-ins and different browser versions. By isolating these apps, they still think they’re running on XP,” he said.

InstallFree supports full virtualization of Internet Explorer and can run multiple versions of the browser side-by-side on a single OS. For example, virtualized versions of both IE 6 and IE 7 can run at the same time on Windows 7, and each InstallFree Virtual (IFV) app can be configured to use its own specific version of Internet Explorer for full compatibility. What’s more, URL Redirection rules can be defined to open each application in the right version of the browser automatically, Yaffe said.

Another perk to using InstallFree is its ability to support secure shared computing, he said. For instance, IFV apps can be assigned to specific users and computers and then delivered “on-the-fly” to any shared Windows PC at the time they are needed. This way, students reportedly can access their personal learning applications from any PC, whether these apps are already installed or not.

Each IFV app can be removed instantly from the shared PC at the end of the user session, and IFV apps run in a protected environment that prevents users from modifying core application configurations. However, users are allowed to customize apps at the same time, even on locked-down PCs, which InstallFree says can help with teaching flexibility (for example, installing an add-on to Microsoft Excel).

Application changes made by the user are saved to a separate file that can be backed up, transferred to a new environment, or completely reset by school IT staff to restore the environment to its original state.

“Think of it like a Lego model,” explained Yaffe. “You can build the model according to its original design, but you can also add on other pieces if you want to make it your own—[and] each of these additions will be noted. However, at any time, you can remove those extra additions and know where they come from and what each are.”

If users accidentally upload malicious software, “this addition is separated in its own layer, and IT can simply remove that layer,” he said.

Already, schools and universities such as Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), and Peach County Schools in Georgia are realizing the benefits of using Bridge 2.0, such as cost and time savings.

“InstallFree made it possible for us to migrate our environment to Windows 7,” said Dennis Thomas, information systems director of Georgia Northwest Technical College.

“We had many critical desktop and web-based applications that were not compatible with Windows 7. InstallFree enabled us to virtualize our Windows XP applications and then deploy them without any changes to Windows 7. For our web applications, InstallFree made it possible for us to run them using virtualized versions of Internet Explorer 6 and 7 on Windows 7. Without using InstallFree, we would not have been able to complete our migration project as planned.”

InstallFree Bridge is available for free evaluation, either by downloading the software or by using InstallFree’s new online Hands-On Lab, which enables users to test the product “in the cloud.” Users can register for the evaluation on the InstallFree web site.

The company also has announced a limited-time promotional discount to help customers get a jump-start on their Windows 7 migration projects.

Said Yaffe: “It’s really less about this whole concept of virtualization than it is about the question: ‘How do I make my applications work?’ It’s more about how technology can solve a very painful problem.”

Links:

InstallFree

Georgia Northwestern Technical College

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Peach County Schools

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Solving key IT challenges with virtualization resource center. Giving students access to 21st-century learning tools is important—but schools often don’t have the resources to purchase a computer for every child, and software licensing costs can overwhelm budgets that are already stretched too thin. To solve this challenge, a growing number of schools are turning to software virtualization. For more information, click here.

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