On 29th July, Microsoft released Windows 10 to the world receiving critical acclaim for the vast improvements in features, the enhanced security and the ability to upgrade completely free for one year.
While individuals may be taking the steps to upgrade, businesses have a lot more to consider and prepare for before upgrading operating systems. This article aims to give an overview on Windows 10 and help guide businesses through what they need to know.
Upgrading to Windows 10
Windows 10 Pro and Home
Microsoft announced that any user running Windows 7, Windows 8 or 8.1 can upgrade to Windows 10 Home or Pro for free (not including pirated copies), however this offer is available for one year only until 29th July 2016. After this date, businesses and any users will have to pay to upgrade with Windows 10 Professional currently costing the same as 8.1 in the UK at approximately £140 per license. Windows XP machines do not benefit from the free upgrade, but due to the age of the machine it is unlikely that the hardware would even support Windows 10!
Windows 10 Enterprise
While the free upgrade is appealing, we would recommend business customers consider Windows 10 Enterprise due to some strategic features that are unavailable in Windows 10 Pro (see below). Windows 10 Enterprise is only available through Volume Licensing, so you would need to speak to a Microsoft licensing specialist - like us!
New Features in Windows 10
Windows 10 is the big change for Microsoft who have quickly moved away from the pain points in Windows 8, which did not get a warm welcome. After listening to user feedback and working closely with those on the Windows Insider Program, Microsoft have created what could be one of their best operating systems. Here are some of the best new features it boasts:
Return of the start menu: The start menu is back and includes shortcuts to most used, recently used and gives you the ability you pin favourite applications
Continuum: This feature automatically changes your Windows 10 experience dependent on what device you are using to promote a fluid multi-device experience.
Microsoft Edge: Microsoft's new browser, Microsoft Edge will include features such as ad blocking, 'inking' (drawing on screen) and simple sharing.
Virtual desktops: Work between virtual desktops on your machine.
Snapping: Snapping has been extended so you can now split your screen to show 4 applications on one screen.
Cortana integration: Use Microsoft's personal assistant to carry out tasks, book appointments and manage your calendar.
Windows 10 Enterprise Features
The reason why we recommended Windows 10 Enterprise is because it encompasses all the above features plus additional security enhancements. These security features outlined below make Enterprise a strategic licensing decision allowing businesses to gain access to software that is both valuable and potentially already costing your business.
Device Guard: This is a white-listing software that only allows trusted applications to run. While many companies use ‘blacklisting’ methods (anti-virus software), businesses are intelligently moving towards whitelisting, due to its increased security and optimised process. Device Guard will only allow programs that have been approved to run and is particularly effective against code that re-writes itself to prevent detection. While many businesses will already be paying for anti-virus software, using Windows 10 Enterprise could be a suitable and more advanced alternative to current software.
Updates: Windows 10 Pro will automatically receive updates and patches, whereas with Windows 10 Enterprise you have the ability to control these updates and their rollout. This allows businesses to choose desired update times and gives the important ability to carry out testing to ensure any feature updates do not affect key line of business applications, which could be vital for many organisations.
Direct Access: DirectAccess has been around for a while but is only available in Enterprise editions. It allows users to enjoy a seamless and secure remote access connection without requiring a VPN, for quick and simple remote working.
Provisioning: IT administrators on Windows 10 Enterprise will be able to setup provisioning packages to configure rules, which will allow for a much quicker setup of machines.
Credential Guard: This provides an additional level of security by effectively separating your credentials into a separate virtualised container using Microsoft Hyper-V virtualisation, making it harder for your credentials to be hacked.
To compare all of the Windows 10 plans please click here.
Considerations before upgrading
Upgrading your operating systems is no simple task and requires planning. We have listed some a few things you may want to consider before upgrading your OS are:
- Legacy operating systems
- Microsoft licensing
- Potential downtime
- Resources for upgrading
- Back-ups and disaster recovery
- Line of business applications
- Current OS support time remaining
- Timing – choosing quieter times to reduce any potential downtime
*Windows 7 requirements:
- 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
- RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
- Free hard disk space: 16 GB
- Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
- A Microsoft account and Internet access
Windows support: how it works
Microsoft provide two types of support for their operating systems: mainstream and extended. Mainstream support covers security updates but also includes new features and product improvements and is available for 10 years after the release, while extended support only covers security updates and continues for a further 5 years after mainstream support ends.
If you are running on Windows 7 then the mainstream support has actually already ended so you are not receiving any new improvements, but extended support continues until 2020. Instead of having to upgrade due to extended support ending (as many IT professionals experienced with Windows XP) it could be worth thinking about upgrading now, before having to rush.
Here is a list with all the Windows support dates, and yes, even Windows XP, which is still being used by 25% of businesses in the UK, even though it was released around the same time as the USB was created!
|Operating System||End of Mainstream Support||End of Extended Support|
|Windows XP||14 April 2009||8 April 2014|
|Windows Vista||10 April 2012||11 April 2017|
|Windows 7||13 January 2015||14 January 2020|
|Windows 8||9 January 2018||10 January 2023|
|Windows 10||13 October 2020||14 October 2025|
Benefits of upgrading:
- Optimised for multi-device experiences
- Improved security
- Keeps the familiar and intuitive Microsoft experience
- A range of new features as listed above
- Stay on the latest version through automatic updates
- There will be lots of development and feature improvements on Windows 10
- Fully supported OS with long support life ahead
- Receive the latest functionality as developers will now be building on Windows 10
Future of Windows 10
A key consideration in technology is forward planning and thinking about the future of the software to ensure it is scalable with your business and will continue to be invested in.
With Windows 10 and Microsoft this is no issue. The Windows Insider Program had over 5 million users testing the using the system and the popularity of Windows in business is undeniable. Thanks to the popularity and widespread usage of Windows the online community and support available is extensive. Microsoft are known as one of the largest R&D spenders in the world (number four worldwide) and invest heavily in their technology, so you know that your software will continue to improve and incorporate the latest advances in technology.
Since the appointment of Satya Nadella last year, Microsoft have been moving towards ‘One Microsoft’ aiming to streamline and integrate all services to drive their cloud-first, mobile-first strategy. Windows 10 is further proof of this as Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will be ‘the last version of Windows’, instead moving towards Windows as-a service.
This will mean Windows 10 will be continually updated, allowing business users to all run the same OS version and as mentioned above, receive continuous value through ongoing service delivery.
"Windows will be delivered as a service bringing new innovations and updates in an ongoing manner, with continuous value for our consumer and business customers." Microsoft
Windows 10 really is a great release from Microsoft and thanks to their new strategy and direction, it looks to be a strong choice for businesses. While businesses can choose to upgrade for free to Windows 10 Pro between now and July 29 2016, it is worth thinking about moving to Windows 10 Enterprise to strategically benefit from the advanced security features, which will keep your business protected and potentially remove other monthly security costs.
It’s also a great time to review your Microsoft licensing, which is notoriously confusing. If you are considering upgrading to Windows 10, reviewing Microsoft licensing or would like to discuss your IT, please contact us. We are Microsoft Gold Partners and experts at Microsoft licensing, helping our clients to fulfil their required functionality through the most cost effective licensing models.