Running since the Windows 10 launch last year, the free upgrade offer comes to an end a few days before its "Anniversary Update" on 2 August. So, if you're planning to upgrade to Windows 10, here's how to prepare to migrate and manage a new Windows OS.
During its initial launch last year, ComputerworldUK spoke to Robert Epstein, a senior product manager at Microsoft to find out what features will be in place when Pro and Enterprise Edition licensees' begin to plan their migration.
“We know it is a huge burden on IT departments when it comes to deploy a new machine. Often when you go buy a new machine and it comes from the OEM you get all sorts of rubbish, additional software and it is rarely ready for enterprise," Epstein said.
“We have new deployment capabilities that allow IT professionals to take an existing Windows 10 machine fresh off the shelf and apply a deployment pack to it that is preconfigured,” he said.
This can be applied simply through a network USB or email. After issuing a new machine to a member of staff, for example, you can send them an email with a link and that will download corporate images, settings, security and even change versions. If you have bought a version that comes with Pro, you can move it to the enterprise upgrade if your organisation has the license.
“We’re thinking about those large commercial environments and how we make it simpler and cost effective for it managers to manage their estate,” Epstein added.
How to migrate to Windows 10: Existing machines
For those who are deploying on existing machines, the upgrade should be relatively simple if you have management tools in place. Admins simply deploy overnight and push it out to worker’s desktops, tablets or phones, according to Epstein.
Microsoft also has new tools to let you control the upgrades or features deployed, dependant on the employee. There is an option to stage and manage the new releases as they come in. The latest OS is working on a “Windows-as-a-service” model (like Office 365) which means home users will get a constant stream of upgrades.
Enterprise or Pro licensees, however, are paying a premium to control these upgrades across their IT estate.
This means high risk PCs, like those in a power-station for example, won’t get upgraded unless a manager has approved it, and you can avoid the teething issues including flickering and driver conflicts reported by disgruntled Windows users when it began updating this week.
You can do this through the “current branch for business” which gives a cool-off period after an update, after it has been released to home users and improved based on feedback. This means you won’t be deploying buggy software that might clash with existing business applications. It also means you can section some of your employees onto the constant update branch – if their PCs and applications are low risk.
If you are running an Enterprise Edition pack with Microsoft, you need to check your contract to see whether you are entitled to a free upgrade. Otherwise, free upgrades are reserved for consumers.
Your employees will be happy to know that customisations, favourites and icons pinned to their taskbar will remain the same following the upgrade. “It’s a much easier process than we ever offered before,” Epstein said.
How to migrate to Windows 10: Manage employee's licenses
The new “current branch for business” not only boasts locked-down upgrades and extra control, but improved asset management for organisations too.
Microsoft has opened a business version of its app store, where IT managers can deploy internal business applications or manage software licenses. Now departments can place orders for licenses through the store and if an employee leaves, their license can be pulled back and reused elsewhere with ease.
Improved asset management also helps with security niggles IT managers may have when it comes to killing an ex-employee’s device.
A new privacy feature is currently in development. This will allow admins to secure data, even if the organisation has a BYOD policy. Excel spreadsheets are rights protected and if an employee’s computer, tablet or smartphone is joined up to your management tools you can remotely kill all corporate data without touching their personal apps, Epstein explained.
However, this new data privacy feature will not be available until the 2016 enterprise Windows 10 and Office 365 release.
Top tips for IT pros planning to migrate to Windows 10
From Gareth Johnson, CEO at Crayon UK
Enterprise Users: Don’t expect Windows 10 for Free
Whilst consumers get a complimentary edition of Windows 10, if you are running Enterprise Edition then do not expect this to be free. Software assurance will always be the favoured option to committed Microsoft customers, allowing them the greatest value of benefits and options. However, before jumping to a new OS always consider what feature set you expect your organisation to adopt over the next three years and make your selection against these.
WaaS will speed up the Microsoft release cycle
Microsoft divulged information on ‘Windows as a Service’ in job postings in April and August last year. This will see Redmond scrapping version releases of Windows infavour of an as-a-Service delivery model for future updates. This means you will need to keep track of these, ensuring that you are correctly monitoring from a Software Asset Management (SAM) and security perspective.
SAM affects YOU
Software Asset Management (SAM) is relevant to any licensing type, whether subscription or perpetual. Records indicate the OS and whether the upgrade and Active Software Assurance will need to be maintained to ensure compliance with the vendor End User License Agreement (EULA). This is something that can be monitored through a set of processes, policies and controls over the installation and migrations of OSs.
Licensing: LTSB aids IT managers
For those Enterprise users with volume licensing contracts and Software Assurance, IT managers can now delay Windows feature sets being rolled out via Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) support, choosing to upgrade when they are ready.
As Microsoft is issuing updates on a monthly basis, security will be at the forefront of IT thinking. However, enterprises must ensure they have a full understanding of new feature sets being released in order for IT departments to correctly monitor whether there could be any future breaches or gaps in internal policy as a result of these.