Are you ready for Windows 10?

Citrix's Jason Tooley offers tips on upgrading to Microsoft's latest operating system

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The release of any Microsoft product receives a significant amount of attention, but the recent launch of Windows 10 has generated an unprecedented level of interest. The first major announcement under Satya Nadella’s leadership is set to impact virtually every element of the technology ecosystem - from smartphones to laptops.

Upgrading an operating system can be an arduous task for all of us, even consumers, and making this transition may feel even more uncertain for enterprises – especially when transferring legacy data and apps from one operating system (OS) to another.  

With such a challenging transition on the cards, what is the best practice for upgrading to a new OS?

Consider how you will migrate

Many businesses may now consider updating their OS to Windows 10. However, this transition presents several possible challenges if businesses take the traditional upgrade route: it can take many months to load new software onto thousands of individual endpoints as organisations spend time and resources to test, integrate and install the new OS.

Many user PCs may need to be upgraded or replaced to support new requirements for memory and processing power. Finally, many organisations, such as those in the financial services industry, have a host of legacy applications that may prove to be incompatible – yet vital to particular job roles.  

Application and desktop virtualisation offer a clear strategy for overcoming these challenges. Instead of working through hundreds or thousands of individual PCs, IT simply installs a single image in the datacentre, and then uses that across the organisation. Patches and updates benefit similarly from the single, centralised image. And because the operating system runs in the datacentre rather than on the endpoint, there is no need to upgrade user hardware; the same machine used to run Windows 7, or even Windows XP, will be more than adequate.

Understand your priorities

Even in a largely virtualised environment, there may still be legacy apps that are browser-based and run into compatibility issues - so firms must take time to consider which apps are worth making the cut to the new OS. It sounds simple, but establishing these priorities is an important step - particularly if you have a large IT estate with a variety of different requirements to manage. Companies can then virtualise those individual apps, deliver them out to the workforce, and ensure compatibility on the new OS.

Alongside this, app migration tools can help firms in the long-term so that all apps are fully compatible on a new OS – which of course isn’t always the case. This also ensures those legacy apps can be delivered to mobile devices, enabling employees with access to them wherever and whenever they need them.

Implementation

Traditionally, the large-scale roll-out of a new OS would involve a vetting process with members of the staff to ensure they’re happy with the new system - yet this can be quite disruptive. Today, employees are more tech savvy and adjust to new OS faster, while businesses cannot afford the migration process to delay productivity within their teams.

However, establishing test groups can be helpful to give employees a ‘taste of Windows 10’. With desktop virtualisation tools, the new features can be published to your test group, enabling them become acclimated to the new Windows while staying productive on their existing Windows desktop.

Alternatively, for firms seeking to just ‘flip the switch’ once they’ve committed to upgrading to Windows 10, virtualisation also supports rolling deployments to individual departments by publishing the apps and desktops in a progressive manner, publishing to more and more employees as desired.

Either way, the key is ensuring productivity during the migration, delivering a seamless experience and enabling workers to remain productive throughout the migration.

Mobilise apps

A key benefit of Windows 10 is the universal app platform that enables a single application to function natively on phones, tablets and laptops with equal ease. This feature will help businesses to further mobilise their workforces.

The key is ensuring that all the line-of-business apps are either re-written to the new operating system, or virtualised so employees can connect to them in the datacentre from their Windows 10 device for instant access. This way, employees can get the seamless app experience that they are used to – whether on a desktop or on the go.

Consider the cloud

The arrival of Windows 10 will be seen as an opportunity by many organisations to further their cloud adoption strategies. This will be done either by outsourcing desktop and device management to service providers or moving their own apps and desktops to cloud infrastructure.

Some businesses have already mapped their cloud strategies around the adoption of SaaS solutions, such as Office 365. This is positive progress, but with the potential offered by new tools there is more enterprises can do to add value to these solutions with secure app and data delivery.

This can be done by integrating third party file sharing tools that will allow employees to edit documents stored in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business, providing greater flexibility for businesses that subscribe to Office 365.

It will inevitably take some time after the unveiling of Windows 10 for the OS to be adopted in a widespread manner by enterprises globally. However, regardless of the date an enterprise adopts Windows 10, the challenges around migration will remain.

The key to addressing this successfully is to use the transition as an opportunity to future proof the broader IT infrastructure investment through greater adoption of virtualisation and cloud. In doing so the transition itself will not only be easier, but will allow companies to benefit from future technology trends that require a more agile IT infrastructure.

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