Oct 25 2019

The Complete Business Guide to Windows 10

Windows 7 end of life is only weeks away, and doing nothing is not an option. For businesses looking to migrate to Windows 10, start here.

The end is coming for Windows 7. Already outside mainstream support, Microsoft will no longer provide extended support for this decade-old operating system as of January 14, 2020. In practice, this means no technical support, no software and no security updates. It also means that now — not the New Year — is the ideal time to migrate and deploy Windows 10 across an organization.

For many companies, however, this is a daunting task; as noted by TechRadar, recent estimates suggest that 39 percent of all PCs still are still running Windows 7.

Ready to make the move but not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered with the complete guide to Windows 10 migration. Here’s what you need to know.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Read why businesses shouldn't wait any longer to upgrade to Windows 10.

What Is Windows 10?

Released on July 29, 2015, Windows 10 is now the operating system of choice for more than 61 percent of all Windows-based PCs as both businesses and individual users shift away from Windows 7. Although Windows 10 isn’t the direct successor to Windows 7 — versions 8 and 8.1 bridged that gap — the smartphone-inspired look of Microsoft’s last generation didn’t capture user attention.

Windows 7 remains popular because of its familiarity, ease of use and large install base. But experts say Windows 10 is even better. So what are the key differences between Windows 7 and Windows 10?

Functionally, both Windows 7 and Windows 10 offer a familiar Microsoft experience. One key difference is the Start Menu: Removed in Windows 8 in favor of a “tile” system, the Start Menu is back in Windows 10, but with a twist. While the Start Menu still offers quick access to applications, it also includes Live Tiles that show relevant, real-time data.

In addition, Windows 10 streamlines search and notification functions with a dedicated search bar at the bottom of the desktop and notification center in the bottom-right corner, making it easier for users to find what they want, schedule upgrades or make system changes.

    The Advantages of Upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10

    Windows 10 offers key advantages over Windows 7, including:

    • Virtual Desktops: Windows 10 natively includes virtual desktop functionality to streamline business workloads.
    • Improved Data Security: Using tools such as Windows Defender, BitLocker and Advanced Threat Detection, Windows 10 offers better defense against threat actors.
    • Automatic Updates: Instead of cumbersome, time-consuming updates, Windows 10 handles the updating process automatically to minimize downtime.
    • Windows Sandbox: Users can easily test unknown software in a safe and secure environment.
    • Windows Timeline: Using the “Task View” button or pressing the Windows Key + Tab brings up the timeline, which shows recent activity in supported apps. This is a great feature for business users working across multiple devices in the Windows 10 environment.

    Additionally, Windows 10 gives users new options to optimize system performance. Check out these 5 tweaks to boost Windows 10 performance to learn more. 

    What Are Windows 10’s Security Features?

    Windows 10 comes with a renewed focus on system security. Key components include advanced user account controls, which run all applications in the context of a nonadministrator account unless otherwise specified. Also critical is the Windows Defender Device Guard, which includes both kernel-level and code integrity–level protection for processes and services.

    Familiar Windows 10 safe mode options are also available to help businesses identify and remediate problems with applications, network connections or user authentication.

    When Is Windows 7 End of Life, and What Does it Mean for Businesses?

    Windows 7 end of life has two components: The end of mainstream support — which happened on January 13, 2015 — and the end of extended support, which takes place on January 14, 2020.

    When mainstream support ended, developers and users could no longer request any changes to the operating system and Microsoft stopped releasing any new features or upgrades. Bug fixes and security patches are still provided, until the end of extended support.

    Once past the extended-support end of life, Windows 7 will no longer receive any security updates, bug fixes or patches for potential vulnerabilities.

    MORE FROM BIZTECH: Read how small businesses can avoid the cyber threat from within.

    What Happens If a Business Goes Beyond Windows 7 End of Life?

    According to Nick Cavalancia, Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter MVP and the CEO of Conversational Geek, a provider of tech-oriented e-books, “there are two perspectives here: security and compliance.”

    From a security standpoint, nothing happens to Windows 7 users “until a new vulnerability is discovered that applies to Windows 7 machines,” he says. Considering the steep rise in malware, ransomware and cryptojacking attacks, this scenario is a matter of when, not if.

    From a compliance standpoint, a business is effectively out of compliance with any number of regulations if its operating system isn’t regularly patched and secured. And according to Cavalancia, “some of the newer regulations have real teeth, spelling out exactly how much penalties will cost per record, per incident, should a breach occur.”

    How to Ensure a Smooth Windows 7 to Windows 10 Migration

    For Cavalancia, the answer is simple: “Start now. As in today.” Why? Because migration always takes more time than expected. “The longer an organization waits,” he says, “the more likely the migration will cost more, experience errors, impact productivity and even impact profits.

    He also recommends looking at migration from Windows 7 to Windows 10 “as an opportunity to get things right.” With enough time, IT teams have a better chance of ensuring a new Windows 10 deployment meets the needs of business users, rather than scrambling to complete critical tasks before end of life occurs. Given the time- and resource-intensive nature of deploying Windows 10 to scale, the need for planning can’t be overstated.

    Before you begin your transition, make sure to check out our Windows 10 migration checklist to learn more about Windows 10’s system requirements, and for a list of recommended Windows 10 migration tools. 

      What Is Windows 10 LTSC, and Is It Right for Your Business?

      If your organization recognizes the need for Windows 10 migration but also requires an OS with functionality and features that don’t change over time, consider Windows 10 LTSC (long-term servicing channel). Deploying LTSC effectively “locks” your deployment in place, ensuring that updates and new features don’t accidentally expose critical data or cause unexpected downtime.

      Microsoft explains that LTSC “is designed for Windows 10 devices and use cases where the key requirement is that functionality and features don’t change over time”; for instance, “medical systems (such as those used for MRI and CAT scans), industrial process controllers, and air traffic control devices.”

      These are embedded systems, developed for a specific purpose only, so frequent upgrades are counterproductive. What’s needed instead is feature consistency over time. So Microsoft will support each LTSC release for 10 years without changing its features and functionality during its lifecycle.

      What Are Common Windows 10 Deployment and Migration Pitfalls?

      Cavalancia highlights three common Windows 10 migration pitfalls:

      • Focusing on the OS only: Ultimately, this transition is about the user’s experience and productivity before, during and after the migration. Focusing on the move itself rather than the outcome can frustrate business operations.
      • Leaving security out of the plan: Security is no longer an addition to the basic desktop environment. “Security is now as critical as user productivity,” Cavalancia says. Overlooking security can put critical business functions at risk during a crucial transition period.
      • Not considering key desktop changes: Desktops are evolving to meet new user and business expectations. For businesses, this requires strategy ahead of deployment. Consider which devices could be replaced by virtual desktop infrastructure or Device as a Service solutions instead of simply migrating every machine.
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