Windows 10 is a great step in the right direction from Microsoft. The teams here have been tinkering with it from Golden Master onwards and have been impressed with its developments. A question that we have been asked a lot however, is whether we think organisations should take the plunge and upgrade their systems. Is Windows 10 the right OS to place your bets on? And is 2016 the time to do it?

Taking a look back for context, we’ve seen a common cycle with Windows. Back in 2001, Windows XP (Rest in Peace) made great advancements and quickly became the de facto platform for business. Roll on 5 years and Windows Vista was released, to great anticipation and expectations. Microsoft even promised that it had really focused on security this time – the main bug-bear of XP. Whilst it was indeed a more secure platform, Vista was criticised for high system requirements, long boot-times, and poor general speed. At the point of Windows 7 release, Windows Vista had only 19% market share, whilst the supposedly redundant Windows XP still sat at 63%.

So in 2009, out comes Windows 7, to whoops of joy. Windows 7 was relatively easy to adopt, and proved a big hit. In Feb 2014, it held a healthy market share of 47%, having eaten away at XP’s chunk quite nicely.

Next, it’s back to the drawing board with Windows 8. Start menu, no start menu - make your mind up Microsoft! Frustrations were mainly with the new interface, rather than performance or security related. As a company, we actually really liked the platform; it is/was a secure and reliable OS, but alas, user experience wins; Windows 8 wasn’t a big hit with the end users. Windows 7 actually grew market share whilst Windows 8 was on sale, and currently sits at 55%, with Windows 8 at around 13%.

So naturally, one would assume that Windows 10 was to be another high, in the cyclical pattern of Microsoft highs and lows. Well, so far, it’s following the trend.

Windows 10 was released to critical praise in July, and has already nearly caught up to Windows 8 market share, currently sitting at 8%. And that’s without a huge amount of businesses switching (but with a slight financial incentive might I add… see later)

As with all new operating system releases, it’s generally not recommended to roll them out to business users straight away. This is mainly for two reasons: firstly, there could be ‘early-life’ bugs in the operating system, which could either pose a security risk or cause operational frustrations. Secondly, and most commonly, there are often ‘backward-compatibility’ issues with the central applications and databases of a business. Therefore, it’s often advised to do extensive testing before migration, and to ‘let the dust settle’ after a release, waiting for the first service pack to be brought out (which, for Windows 10, happened in November 2015).

So, what makes Windows 10 so eye opening, and is 2016 the right time for the businesses of the world to switch?

Well, firstly, Windows 8 was about moving Microsoft into the tablet game. A lot of UI features shifted quite heavily towards touch, and this is what users found most frustrating. Windows 10 has reigned it in; producing an OS that recognises how desktops are a mainstay of the enterprise and should be usable as such, whilst still retaining its abilities as a tablet OS.

The desktop of 10 is much more familiar to end users, reverting back to a more traditional layout, but with nods to modern styles. IT admins will be relieved that the transition from Windows 7 to 10, in terms of user intuition, will be pretty smooth. There’s nothing too challenging for end users to get used to. Gone are the full screen apps and touch-optimised tiles, and instead we have the return of the start button and a revamped internet browser – named Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft have ditched Internet Explorer entirely (hooray!) and started from scratch with Edge. They’ve built a whole new HTML rendering engine which is tonnes more efficient than IE. We’re delighted to say that in tests, it actually BEATS chrome’s response times – which is seriously impressive.

The other big news for business is around Microsoft’s identity management improvements. Windows 10 will now provide active directory access to the Azure cloud as well as several Office 365 services, which removes the need for multiple logins. Microsoft have also focused on Mobile Device Management capabilities, enabling IT admins to easily manage multiple windows devices all based on Windows 10.

A key difference, which we’re quite excited about, is that Windows 10 will be the FINAL EVER Windows release…

Upgrading from one OS to another across a whole organisation can by quite traumatic. The previous strategy has been to save up a whole host of updates, and deliver them all in one go, in the form of a single OS release. From now on, releases will be delivered incrementally, every couple of weeks.

There will be no more big releases (perhaps some larger patches), but most of the time, updates will be drip fed. This will help with compatibility issues: there shouldn’t be the huge task of preparing IT environments for updates, or having to wait for Line-of-business (LOB) software vendors to respond before commissioning the roll out. If minor Windows 10 updates cause issues, those updates can be delayed or removed altogether, and applied again at the relevant time. This means that organisations will benefit from the majority of OS updates, and won’t be hindered by just one piece of code that doesn’t want to play ball with their current LOB software. They’re not restricted from the wider benefits.

In regards to delaying/removing updates, there’s a key bit of information to consider here. Users on Windows 10 Home edition will be forced to install updates, exactly when Microsoft releases them; they will install in the background automatically, with no option to turn this feature off. This is obviously to help combat malicious access that’s often done through unpatched vulnerabilities. Whilst Home edition is of no concern to business, the behaviours of Windows 10 Professional & Enterprise obviously are. In a “Windows Professional Environment”, you’ll be able to delay updates for a maximum of 9 months. This gives companies/us the opportunity to test and rectify any compatibility issues that may transpire. However after 9 months, it will be compulsory to install that update. This will mean that there is pressure on IT admins and LOB vendors to identify issues early and produce resolutions in specific timescales. We suspect that this pressure will fall largely to the LOB vendors, as most issues will be so widespread amongst their clients that they will have to be dealt with.

With Windows Enterprise, you have the option to remove an update entirely, if it is of critical issue to your own software. We think this will evolve into being one of the key benefits of choosing Enterprise over Professional.

Again, you can see the reasoning for all of this from Microsoft perspective, in terms of combating cybercrime. I suspect it won’t cause many large hurdles for organisations and overall it will be more beneficial for companies to receive the majority of new features and security updates in a timely manner.

The very last thing I want to mention is something that your FD will likely be interested in. Currently, upgrading from Windows 7, or Windows 8, to Windows 10 is FREE! Yes, free. But to take up this opportunity, you need to act swiftly – it will only be free for 12 months from the Windows 10 launch (July 2015). So after July 2016, it will likely cost over £100 per machine to upgrade. So our advice is, get testing pronto! If you would like any of the Servatech or Pure Data Engineers to set up tests for you, please ask your account manager. By the way, Microsoft’s free upgrade offer is only open to Windows 7/8 Professional users (or home users, should your kids want the latest and greatest). Windows Enterprise have to purchase a license to upgrade.

So in conclusion, we’re pretty excited about Windows 10. It’s proving a solid platform for business and there is a substantial financial incentive to upgrade in the early months of 2016.  Its end-user usability and relatively trouble-free upgrade path are plus points, and the first key update has just been released bringing stability to the point that we’re comfortable installing it for our customers. So, our suggestion would be to make use of the free upgrade offer whilst it’s still around (after some thorough testing of course!).

Any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me directly: paul.jordan@servatech.co.uk or 01924 562100.