Windows 10 migration: Everything CIOs and enterprises need to know

In July 2015, Microsoft launched its latest (and arguably greatest) operating system in the form of Windows 10, meaning the migration race from Windows 7 and the much-derided Windows 8 is well and truly on.

Although there is much excitement among consumers (especially with the promise of free upgrades) the disruptive nature of mass software upgrades mean that IT managers and CIOs have a lot more to think about when it comes to implementing a Windows 10 migration plan from any of Microsoft’s previous operating systems.

The sheer amount of migration tools available, as well as all the potential issues that could occur, only adds to the confusion, leaving CIOs with some awkward decisions to make about how to proceed (if at all).

This page aims to educate enterprises and CIOs (and everyone else) with everything they need to know to upgrade. It will be continuously updated, so be sure to check back for new information.

Windows 10 migration in the enterprise

In terms of adoption, Windows 10 has enjoyed an impressive start to life, meaning now could be a good time for enterprises to upgrade and migrate to the new OS. According to a Spiceworks report, Windows 10 has been tested by 60 per cent of IT departments surveyed, with 40 per cent planning on rolling it out this year and an impressive 74 per cent targeting adoption by 2017.

A more recent study carried out at IP EXPO Europe 2015 by end-point security software firm Avecto found that, of those enterprises surveyed, an impressive 54 per cent were already using Windows 10. Mark Austin, co-founder and CEO at Avecto said: “With Microsoft setting a target of 1 billion devices to be migrated by 2017, it’s clear that Windows 10 will be a dominant force in the years to come.”

More recent research carried out by Forrester found that 49 per cent of respondent companies plan on completing their Windows 10 migration by 2016, with 38 per cent of workers who use a PC saying they want the OS on their next laptop.

However, not all companies are racing to jump on the Windows 10 bandwagon. Research carried out by Adaptiva in May 2015 found that nearly half (49 per cent) of companies plan to wait for more than a year before migrating and, of companies with more than 100,000 end users, 80 per cent plan to wait a year or more.

Why should you upgrade?

Windows 10 is generally considered to be a vast improvement on its predecessor, with a range of new features for enterprise customers available. For example, according to Microsoft it is “the most secure Windows ever,” something that CIOs the world over will be happy to hear. Enterprise Data protection provides personal and corporate data protection wherever the data flows, Microsoft Passport helps employees securely login to applications, websites and networks without the need for a password and Windows Defender tackles the growing malware problem, enabling users to do “Fort Knox things.”

In terms of pure performance, the new OS takes the crown when compared to its predecessor, the much-maligned Windows 8.1. Security firm AVG carried out a rigorous comparison on the two systems, with Windows 10 coming out on top for boot time, Internet Explorer startup time, Word and Excel performance, battery life and gaming performance.

Windows 10, Microsoft

One fundamental change in Windows 10 compared to previous versions is the introduction of continuous updates. Although not all companies will be prepared for this, those that are will be able to take full advantage of the huge investment that Microsoft is making in innovation and stay up to date in what is a rapidly changing environment.

A Windows 10 migration will also help enterprises streamline operations across devices such as smartphones and tablets for any mobile workers and will enable businesses to take full advantage of cloud computing.

All of these improvements do offer several benefits to enterprises. Enhanced flexibility across devices will provide the modern digitally-enabled workforce with greater mobility and agility, the promise of on-going updates should mean the end of major migration upheavals that negatively impact business processes and the application compatibility issues that were seen with the move from Windows 7 to 8 should be significantly reduced.

Potential issues

Despite the positives, as with any mass upgrade there are some issues for IT managers to consider before Windows 10 migration can take place. These issues predominantly centre around security, specifically the security of corporate and customer information, with data protection becoming a very public topic due to the spate of recent data breaches and hack attacks.

With consumers enjoying free upgrades, combined with the rise of mobile devices in the workplace, there is also the very real danger that businesses will lag behind their workforce when it comes to adoption. This could enhance the privacy and security issues that already make Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) practices so problematic, meaning the implementation of an effective BYOD policy will become a priority (if it wasn’t already).

Other challenges of a Windows 10 migration that need to be overcome include maintaining user profiles (which can be very time consuming to re-create), keeping track of user authored data and any potential problems with the user experience, which should be measured before, during and after the migration has taken place. And then of course there's the question as to whether the operating system is actually ready for the enterprise itself. Windows 10 will continue to evolve as Microsoft releases updates and improvements so businesses may not want to rush into an upgrade until they are sure it is right for them.

When the time comes to upgrade, enterprises need to ensure they don’t leave themselves in a vulnerable position, so adequate planning and backup protocols will be essential no matter what the skill level or experience is of those in charge.

Preparing for your Windows 10 migration

Once the decision has been made to go ahead with the upgrade, there are some things you can and should do to prepare your organisation for the migration. The phrase ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail,’ certainly holds true for any mass software update and doing everything possible to mitigate the risks of any potential issues occurring will help your company in the long term.

Ed Shepley, solutions architect at Camwood, suggests that (as well as getting in there early and embracing the new technologies available) there are three key things businesses should to do prepare for their Windows 10 migration:

  1. Audit your apps by getting rid of those that aren't frequently used and are just taking up space.
  2. Rationalise and then virtualise the remaining apps, enabling businesses to cut back on licensing fees.
  3. Refresh your IT policy to enable Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and make the most of the integration capabilities across devices.

Making sure you don’t rush the process is also key, with various analysts recommending that you plan for a 12-18 month migration project. This may seem like a long time, but the planning phase is often underestimated, especially within larger enterprises.

The simple reason for this is that there are so many things to think about. Aspects such as software applications, web applications, user data and personalised settings all have to be considered - using the various tools that are available - before anything can happen.

If you're still not convinced, EACS has developed a five-step best practice approach which businesses can use to scope and OS migration, which includes actions such as establishing the business case for upgrading and carrying out desktop and application assessments.

You'll only get one chance at a clean Windows 10 migration, so make sure you're as prepared as possible before taking the plunge.