This is something I hear (or see) often when working with clients. They have a bunch of machines running Windows 7, but they need to invest in some new hardware…all of which comes with Windows 10. So now they are operating in an environment with both. The question naturally comes up: Do I need to migrate all of our machines to Windows 10? Why? (Or, What can I do instead?)
Here’s the short answer: You do need to get on board with Windows 10. In fact, you won’t have a choice. So you should start preparing now for the transition, if you have not done so yet.
Long answer: Once you understand why the Windows 10 migration is necessary, you’ll see that it is actually a net benefit for the organization. But for the upgrade to go smoothly, you’ll need to plan ahead. There are some important things you will need to consider. Here at Model, we’ve done this sort of upgrade many times, so you can consider this a “best practices” guide to transitioning from Win 7 to Win 10.
Windows 10 is Coming, Like it Or Not
Hardware manufacturers are no longer selling devices that are compatible with Windows 7. This means that, as older hardware is retired and replaced with newer hardware, there is no way to guarantee that Windows 7 will continue to be a viable operating system. (It is over 14 years old, after all!)
Not only that, but Microsoft is no longer going to support Windows 7. (Support ended in January of 2015, although extended support will continue until January 14, 2020.) So, if you want the support of the maker of your operating system, you will need to make the shift to Windows 10 on all machines.
Finally, you might have noticed that cybersecurity has been in the news more and more. Achieving an acceptable level of security is getting harder, as environments have an increasing number of mobile devices and personal devices. And when there’s a data leak or, yikes, an outright data breach, the admin team will be the first folks in the hot seat. Windows 10 offers a lot by way of security, which will help. Some of these features (like Device Guard) will require hardware with the right system board, however. So updating Windows and your hardware at the same time can mean a huge increase in your overall security.
For these reasons, your organization will need to move to Windows 10, and do it sooner rather than later. Once you do, however, you might be glad you did…
This Is a Good Thing: Benefits of a Windows 10 Environment
Windows 10 really is a next-generation operating system. It will allow organizations to do more, in a standardized, secure environment. This is because:
Windows 10 is cloud-borne. Windows 10 was designed with the cloud in mind. This means better cloud-native apps, Active Directory access via the Azure cloud, the ability to free up disk space using OneDrive cloud storage, and Windows 10 S, a cloud-only alternative for educators. It also means that Windows 10 itself is easily managed from the cloud, which gives your infrastructure team better access and control.
Windows 10 is designed for a mobile workforce. If you have a lot of mobile and/or personal devices that need access to your network, you’ll have a lot on your hands in terms of asset tracking, maintenance, and security. Windows 10 makes managing all these mobile devices easier.
Windows 10 has cool security features, such as Device Guard. Device Guard on Windows 10 Enterprise makes it so that apps will run only if they have been designated as “trusted.” Device Guard uses hardware features (such as Intel VT-x and AMD-V virtualization extensions) to protect a computer from malicious code, which will not run.
What Your Team Will Need to Consider
Even though Windows 10 is generally a good thing, there are many things that need to be considered when transitioning. If something goes wrong during the upgrade, your users will notice, and of course they will blame you and your team for “fixing something that wasn’t broken” and causing new problems.
Here are some of the things that we look at when we help an organization with their Windows 10 deployment:
Goals and workflow. We ask questions and really listen to clients, because every organization is going to have different needs and timetables. For example, security concerns might mean that HR or Accounting get the upgrade first. Then again, those departments might be using legacy software that could pose a problem. This is why you have to gather information.
Hardware footprint. Do all endpoints have the minimum hardware requirements? (If some do not, they need to be left off of the deployment schedule.) Do any users need special peripheral devices, such as cameras, scanners, external drives, and so on? Those need to be considered, too.
Application footprint. What applications are used most often, and are they compatible with Windows 10 running natively? Do they need upgrading as well? How do you test and discover this with minimal disruption to workflows? Your team will need a plan to remediate or find alternatives if an application will not work as needed.
Driver impact. Any upgrade can potentially have an impact on drivers. Some will need updating. Having the wrong drivers can easily render a device or an entire system inoperable.
Security features. Windows 10 comes with a host of security features. But some will require your organization to do things a little differently. Which features are you ready and willing to take advantage of?
Cloud management with Azure/Intune. Is the cloud right for your organization? And if so, are you going to transition to modern management services through the cloud? It’s worth asking. Windows 10 allows both cloud and non-cloud management, or a hybrid approach, but you have to know how to set things up right from the start.
A new cadence. The cadence of upgrades for Windows 10 is much more ambitious than any previous operating system; Microsoft says they want to keep a schedule of twice-annual updates, which will happen automatically unless disabled. While these updates are good in terms of patch management and quicker roll-out of cool features, you’ll need to get your team accustomed to this new reality—including how to schedule proper testing.
How to Make This Easier
Really, a Windows 10 deployment should be easy. But there are some tried-and-true ways to do it to minimize the risk of things going wrong.
Many of the services we provide here at Model Technology help enterprise-level organizations do just that. If you have questions, or just want the deployment to go as quickly and smoothly as possible, feel free to contact us.