When you’re a one-man IT band, it helps to have some powerful instruments in your ensemble.
That’s why Antonio Palumbo, chief technology officer of the National Development Council, moved his entire organization to Windows 10 and Microsoft’s cloud. Since 1969, this nationwide nonprofit organization has brought together advisory services and capital for community and economic investment. About 60 of NDC’s roughly 100 employees work from home or the road; the rest are split between four offices across the country, Palumbo says.
Before Palumbo came on board as the NDC’s first and only IT employee in 2012, staffers made their own decisions about what computers and software they used, he says. They were also accessing remote desktops via a managed service provider that cost the organization $40,000 a month.
By dropping its MSP, adopting cloud-based solutions such as Office 365 and upgrading to Windows 10, NDC has cut its monthly IT spend by 80 percent, he says. Over the past three years, Palumbo has been replacing employees’ Windows 7 machines with Lenovo ThinkPad X280 laptops running Windows 10, tied to Azure Active Directory and Office 365.
“The moment I tied the machines to Office 365, all of their documents and email were there,” he says. “It was easy to hand them machines, then schedule a Skype call so they could share their screens and I could show them how to do things in Windows 10.”
When you’re the sole IT guy for a team of 100, anything that makes your job a little easier is a plus, he adds. “It’s worth the time investment to hand-hold employees through the process on the front end,” he says. “Once they get the new machines, I don’t hear from them again after the first week.”
Besides lower costs and easier management, Windows 10 also provides enhanced security features. Palumbo says managing passwords and enabling two-factor authentication are much easier in Windows 10. And once NDC, which works with local and state governments and other partners to increase capital investments in low-income communities, is fully migrated by the end of this year, Palumbo plans to enable Windows 10’s mobile device management tools so he can push out updates and control everyone’s machines from a single console.
Changing how people do their jobs is always difficult, he admits. But once they realize what a new OS can do for them, they immediately get on board.
“It goes from, ‘Oh man, I think it’s my turn to get upgraded next’ to, ‘Hey Antonio, when can I get on?’” he says. “That’s the conversation we’re having now.”
SEE MORE: Learn how to think through the options for businesses that are still using Windows 7.
How to Overcome Windows 10 Adoption Challenges
Despite Windows 10’s clear benefits, only about half of SMBs have made the switch, most of them within the past year, says Anurag Agrawal, analyst at Techaisle.
“The key challenges to SMB adoption are fear of incompatibility with their existing software applications and limited time for employee or IT staff training,” he says.
But nearly three-quarters of SMBs say they plan to migrate, largely because of Windows 10’s improved security, performance and manageability, he adds. That’s the case at glassybaby, which makes and sells hand-blown votive candle holders and drinking glasses. The 20-year-old Seattle-based company has more than 400 employees across eight retail locations, as well as “hot shops” where glassblowers ply their craft.
In addition to employing iPad devices for point-of-sale and Macbooks in its marketing department, glassybaby uses 60 to 75 Windows PCs for its back-office and warehouse operations, says IT Manager Joshua Henry.
The company is still in the process of migrating from Windows 7 to 10, mostly by phasing out older Dell desktops in favor of new Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptops. The biggest benefits: improved security and productivity, says Henry.
“Windows 10 definitely has better overall security features than Windows 7,” he says.
Along with Windows 10, glassybaby has also standardized on Outlook email, Office 365 and Microsoft StaffHub for managing employee schedules. These tools provide continuity and consistency across the company’s disparate locations, says Director of Partnership Development Victoria Fredman.
“Everybody has access to all the same documents and can use them at the same time,” she says. “It’s nice to have us all on the same page, so we’re not doing one thing in California, another in Washington, then changing it completely in Oregon.”
Windows 10 Takes Businesses to the Next Level
Gregg Rogers’ Golf Performance Centers have been helping duffers overcome the hitches in their backswings since 2007. Now, the Bellevue, Wash.-based business is using a homegrown Windows 10 app to do it.
The software, developed with the help of Microsoft and a third-party app builder, records a golf swing from multiple angles using high-speed motion-capture video. Founder and COO Gregg Rogers says he can analyze factors such as club head speed, swing angle and body mechanics, then share an annotated copy of the video with his customers via the Microsoft Azure cloud.
“Before all this technology, we’d be able to say, ‘Yeah, it looks like you hit it further,’” Rogers says. “Now we can say, ‘You hit that ball 7.2 yards farther because you’ve improved your fundamentals in this way.’”
Rogers relies on 20 Dell XPS towers to crunch the video, plus another 20 Microsoft Surface Pro laptops to display video and handle customer requests, spread throughout his 7,000-square-foot facility.
Rogers also uses Windows 10 and Office 365 to schedule appointments with his five full-time instructors and manage inventory for the handmade clubs he builds. He has been running his business on Windows since the days of XP. He upgraded to Windows 7 Professional and then Windows 8 before adopting the latest Microsoft operating system. Windows 10 was the easiest upgrade experience by far, he says.
“Going from XP to Windows 7 was quite a bit of work,” Rogers recalls. “We struggled a bit with Windows 8 as well. Windows 10 filled in a lot of the gaps. I could still use the technology I was already using without a lot of downtime trying to configure everything. It was just plug and play — OK, it works great, here we go.”
Though he describes himself as a “tech junkie,” Rogers says there’s definitely a learning curve involved with adopting any new technology. The fun part is mastering it and figuring out how to use it to propel your business forward.