Twice-yearly "Feature Updates" still require some significant lifting from IT teams
For organizations working hard to migrate to Windows 10 before Microsoft ends support in January 2020, you can take some solace in knowing that this may be the last major Microsoft operating system migration you have to do. Why? With Windows 10, Microsoft shifted to a "software-as-a-service" model and plans to continuously update the platform instead of replacing it every few years. However, you're not off the hook completely. The twice-yearly "Feature Updates" still require some significant lifting from IT teams.
Windows OS Versions vs. Feature Updates
So, what's the difference between, say, moving from Windows 7 to Windows 8 and the new Feature Updates for Windows 10? According to Microsoft, the intent is to make more regular but smaller incremental updates to its operating system that roll out new Windows 10 features. The idea is to make it simpler to keep devices current with as little of the disruption associated with complete operating system migrations as possible.
Feature Updates are separate and more significant than the regular "Quality Updates" that come out monthly – or even more often if an emergency patch is needed. Microsoft has rolled out about a half-dozen Feature Updates since launching Windows 10 in 2015, and some haven't gone smoothly. For example, some users complained about the fall update last year caused important files to be deleted. The problem highlights the tremendous diversity of devices that run on the operating system and the challenge of pushing updates that won't adversely affect any of them.
While Microsoft says the Feature Updates are easier to manage than a complete migration, they still require planning and testing by enterprise IT teams before they can be widely implemented. Moreover, given the history of early bugs in recent update rollouts, it's advisable for organizations to wait for them to be fully vetted to avoid issues.
Have a Feature Update Plan
Microsoft offers step-by-step guidance for how it thinks business IT managers should approach Feature Updates. Some of the highlights include:
- Testing – set up devices to test Feature Updates in your environment and recruit volunteers to use them with business-critical apps to get feedback on any potential issues
- Validate compatibility of business-critical apps – from your testing, you should prioritize and make sure your business-critical apps will work with the update
- Update group policy – each feature update includes new group policies to manage new features, and you'll want to make changes accordingly
- Decide how you'll manage updates – options for updating Windows 10 include: Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), System Center Configuration Manager, or Windows Update for Business
- Deploy – Once you've got the above steps taken care of, you're ready to deploy broadly, but just like a full migration, you'll want to have extra staff on hand to deal with any end-user problems
How Much Time Will You Have?
As the extreme slowness of Windows 10 adoption for large organizations currently on Windows 7 or 8 has shown, many will put off migrating to a new operating system for as long as possible – sometimes for very good reasons. That's going to be less of an option with Windows 10 once you've moved over. Microsoft lets business users put off installing Feature Updates for a maximum of one year, and the window for less-impactful Quality Updates is only a month. That's going to mean IT groups will have to confront significant updates much more frequently and have a solidplan in place for handling that.
Windows 10 is a Change Opportunity
The narrow window for managing updates will put more pressure on already taxed IT teams who are currently tasked with delivering digital transformation. So, Windows 10 migration might be a good time to consider partnering with a managed services provider to help shoulder the load.
CompuCom is a Windows 10 migration expert, and our technicians have already migrated over a million devices. We can help you evaluate your current infrastructure, decide which devices should be migrated or replaced, and craft a strategy for the least-disruptive migration possible.
This might also be the time to consider Device as a Service, which significantly shortens the refresh cycle for devices and ensures your end users have the latest and greatest up-to-date machines.
Reach out today and let us show you how we can accelerate your path to Windows 10.