Should My Small Business Upgrade to Windows 10?

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We’ve all heard about it by now—Microsoft has released Windows 10, and everyone wants to know whether or not they should make the leap (and if so, when).
 
Already we’ve seen reports that 75% of businesses plan to adopt Windows 10 in the first two years of its release, and that an overwhelming 96% of IT professionals are showing a keen interest in the operating system.
 
With the number of questions we’ve been receiving from our client base, combined with Microsoft’s huge marketing push, we have no doubt that the draw toward Windows 10 is nothing short of colossal. And it’s no big surprise; after many people skipped the Windows 8 upgrade, they are more than eager to upgrade from 6-year-old Windows 7 (and any remaining, unsupported Windows XP machines).
 
But here’s the real question: when it comes down to whether or not your small business should upgrade, how do you go about making such a big decision?
 
Below we’ll work through the factors to keep in mind when you’re considering an upgrade, whether or not Windows 10 would be a good fit for your small business.
 

What to consider before you make an upgrade

In a previous article, we explored the key elements to consider before you make any sort of upgrade to your operating system. They are as follows:

  • Usability. An operating system won’t do you much good if you can’t use it effectively. Is there going to be a substantial learning curve that will end up costing you in lost productivity? Or is the interface intuitive to the point where it actually saves you time?
  • Compatibility. Will your critical line-of-business applications work seamlessly on the system? What about your printers?
  • Vendor Support. Are your third-party vendors going to support the new operating system? Upon its release, or will there be a delay? Will they offer any kind of transition services? Will there be an associated cost?
  • Security. To what lengths has the manufacturer gone to secure the operating system? How extensively have they tested it?
  • Upgrade Time & Cost. How long will it take to upgrade your organization? Do you have to go computer by computer? Can you build a mater image and clone it? Or are you safer to upgrade in conjunction with new hardware?
  • Features. Are there features specific to this upgrade that will be relevant to your needs? Or are they just hokey “tools” with no real applicable value?

 

How Windows 10 stacks up 

When it comes to Windows 10 specifically, how does Microsoft’s offering perform? Very well, actually. Here’s our assessment of the new OS:

  • User-Friendly. The big complaint with Windows 8 was the interface; it was a drastic change from Windows 7, and there was a significant learning curve to account for. This is not the case with Windows 10—the Start menu and programs are very similar to Windows 7, making it intuitive for those used to a Microsoft desktop. The OS also adjusts seamlessly to tablet use, where it will function more like Windows 8 in response to the touch screen. We have, however, experienced issues with periodic crashes, so we expect that to be on Microsoft’s list of upcoming fixes.

  • Highly Compatible. Beta testing was very promising with the programs that our engineers tested over the course of several months. Rather than having to install special drivers every other day, for example, we had more of a “plug and chug” experience with compatibility when compared to other OS releases. Windows 10 also retains Internet Explorer, even with the advent of the new Edge browser. This will prevent any issues with applications that are IE-specific.

  • Widely Supported. While smaller vendors might be a bit slower to adopt Windows 10 (this has been our general experience with upgrades), larger companies are already making moves to support the OS. Citrix, for example, has already announced that it will support Windows 10 upon its release, and will provide transition assistance.

  • Enhanced Security Features. There has been a lot of unrest about this OS’s privacy settings. The beta had a keylogger (which was critical to the testing experience and was explicitly outlined in the privacy policy), and now Microsoft is sending your information out whether you change your privacy settings or not (which is still “not scarier than smartphones,” and won’t actually put you at any real risk). When you look closely, though, this OS offers “Hello” multifactor authentication for better login security, has virtual “Device Guard” to prevent zero-day attacks, separates personal and corporate data into “sandboxes” based on policies to allow you to secure company data down to the application level, and has additional and more strict app signing requirements that will prompt warnings when applications aren’t secure. Microsoft has also changed their back-end to segment off the system, which would theoretically contain a breach and protect the bulk of your system (hackers, of course, will eventually find their way around this).
  • Easy to Upgrade. When you need to build a Windows 7 machine, you’re working with a 6-year-old operating system. This equates to 2GB of Windows patches to apply. Since Windows 10 has hardly anything in the way of updates, you’re looking at a much swifter build time. You can also upgrade any “Home” or “Pro” install of Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 for free for the first year (though “Enterprise” is excluded).
  • Useful Features. For companies that deal with CAD or graphics-intensive programs, the DirectX 12 application programming interface is going to be of interest for you—this is a Windows 10 exclusive, and has been found to perform 50% faster than DirectX 11. There’s also some real value in Cortana, the “virtual assistant” which functions somewhat like Siri (though Microsoft would shudder at the comparison, we’re sure). She can help with searches, scheduling, reminders, and more. Far less practical will be the facial recognition login, which will only work if you happen to have an infrared camera on your device.

 

Our overall recommendation

Long story short: we really like Windows 10, and barring any unique circumstances that tie you to Windows 7 for the long haul, we think your small business would do well to upgrade. (And if you’re on XP or Vista…we implore you to make the switch.)
 
We do, however, strongly encourage that you wait to upgrade until at least the first of their “continuous development” updates comes out: Threshold Wave 2, which is planned for the end of October. This way, all discovered bugs or glitches will be taken care of before they reach your people and affects your workflow.
 
At that point, your IT team can test it with your existing hardware and software applications to make sure that everything will run smoothly. If you’re in the clear, go ahead and roll it out to all of your machines at the same time (as opposed to letting your staff upgrade at will—which can get really messy really quickly).
 
From there, enjoy!

Is your small business looking to upgrade to Windows 10? Are you due for a  large-scale workstation replacement project? Let us know--we can help.