10 ways to take a controlled approach to Windows 10 deployment

Microsoft is putting the heat on to move to Windows 10, but with the proper planning and the right tools you can smoothly transition on your own timeline

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.

According to Microsoft, Windows 10 adoption is happening at a record pace. With the ambitious goal of having one billion devices running Windows 10 by 2018, the company has put the pressure on enterprises and consumers alike to upgrade. Between Microsoft's decision to phase out support for Windows 7 and 8 on new PCs and its tactic of pushing automatic Win10 upgrades via Windows Update packages, enterprises are faced with even greater demands to migrate or be left out in the cold.

Though most enterprises plan to migrate to Windows 10, the expedited timeline is a cause for concern and frustration for businesses that are not yet ready to make the switch. Some have even gone to significant lengths to develop creative strategies to work around forced updates.

The good news is that, even though the move to Windows 10 is inevitable, enterprises can still remain in the driver’s seat. Taking a phased approach to Windows 10 allows you to maintain control over how and when the transition takes place so you won’t be forced to bite off more than you can chew. Here are 10 steps to ensure a smooth and pragmatic approach to Windows 10:

Step 1: Understand and prepare for the challenges of migration.  As a first step to preparing for a Windows 10 migration, you should examine the challenges that come with the upgrade. The first involves preparing for the new Windows-as-a-Service model for future releases and update cycles. Once Windows 10 is installed, the cumulative nature of its patches means trying to distribute massive update files to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of PCs enterprise-wide. This can lead to significant network bottlenecks that can severely impact business operations for on-premise updates.  You need to explore technologies and solutions that can speed Windows 10 content distribution, while protecting network bandwidth. You also need to develop processes for preparing for increased IT workloads and slow operations due to more frequent releases.  

Step 2: Rationalize applications. Reducing the number of software titles to the ones your company needs will shrink migration costs and cut time frames. With the help of Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), enterprises can collect raw inventory data, normalize and categorize applications, then identify which apps should be consolidated, retired, upgraded and migrated. Keep in mind that application rationalization should happen continually both before and after deployment so your organization will always be ready and can move quickly for future updates.

Step 3: Prepare your infrastructure. You should closely examine the issue of compatibility. An OS migration is a huge undertaking, and you need to know if the new software will be compatible with existing infrastructure. Legacy infrastructure can cause critical compatibility issues due to its age and resulting complexity. Moving legacy applications can also be troublesome for many businesses. While Microsoft has promised high compatibility with Windows 7, you must still plan and budget for the substantial effort involved in maintaining application compatibility, and the potential for costly remediation or application upgrades that may be required. In short, IT must perform rigorous, time consuming tests to ensure that the new OS won’t break any legacy systems.

Step 4: Select the right migration option. Once preparations are in place, you should determine which migration options to pursue. For some devices a wipe and load option, where you capture data and settings, deploy (custom) OS Image, install drivers and applications, and then restore the data and settings, might work best. For devices that are already running Windows 7, 8, or 8.1, an in-place upgrade that lets Windows do the work would be a simpler approach. New devices must be configured and provisioned to be enterprise ready.

Step 5: Explore ways to speed migrations. When it comes time to deploy Windows 10, the size of the deployment package will have a significant impact on your network bandwidth. The most efficient way to manage bandwidth usage and improve time to deployment is to employ a onetime download strategy, where updates are distributed to a local cache and then shared peer-to-peer rather than having each system download the files. For cumulative Windows 10 updates down the road, companies should consider taking advantage of a differential technology that only sends the change files in each new release a single time to each operating location to help minimize traffic and improve network speed.

Step 6: Automate wherever possible. Reducing the number of manual processes is the best way to keep up with Microsoft’s faster update schedule. To help offload some of the burden on IT, you can take advantage of technologies that automatically detect Windows 10 anomalies to keep your environment in sync. Using a tool that automatically pushes content changes a single time when the content is updated increases deployment rates by ensuring that the latest versions are always available as soon as possible.

Step 7: Encourage self-service. While it might not be right for every enterprise, it is worth examining whether a self-service approach to Windows 10 makes sense for your employees. By giving employees a self-service means of scheduling their own operating system deployments and application migrations, IT can eliminate some of the burdens associated with deployment support. This consumer-oriented migration approach often minimizes the impact of the migration on users, and eliminates hours of manual effort on the part of the IT staff.

Step 8: Follow security best practices. Security is a primary factor for enterprises choosing to move to Windows 10, so you can’t forget about following security best practices. Create a strategy to centrally manage security settings on devices. Encrypt content everywhere to protect all software assets. Manage role based security to limit the control different administrators have over the enterprise. It’s imperative to mitigate your risk where thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of machines can be impacted and compromise your underlying business activity.

Step 9: Maintain visibility and control.  One of the top challenges for IT organizations during Windows 10 deployments is maintaining visibility over which Windows 10 files and pieces of content are being distributed. Taking the time to implement technologies that can tell you where content is being deployed in real-time and give you the control to change the priorities of distribution can ensure that critical IT items, like security updates, never get negatively impacted during Windows 10 deployments.

Step 10: Implement a controlled approach to updating Windows 10 - After the initial deployments and migrations are in place, it is important to prepare for the frequent updates that come with the new OS. Windows 10 offers two servicing options that allow enterprises to employ a phased migration to the new OS: Current Branch for Business (CBB) and Long-Term Servicing Branch (LTSB). With CBB, companies can defer upgrades by approximately 4-8 months. While LTSB essentially allows enterprises to wait until the last minute to upgrade. Whether your organization plans to wait for months or longer to implement updates, this time should be spent wisely planning your company’s target update schedule.

Though Microsoft is putting the heat on for enterprises to make the move to Windows 10, you need not feel strong armed into rushing to migrate. With proper planning and the use of helpful tools and technologies to streamline the process, you can smoothly transition to Windows 10 on their own timelines. In the end, that’s a win-win for everyone.

Adaptiva is a global provider of IT systems management solutions that advance the power of Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). Founded in 2004 by the lead architect of Microsoft SMS 2003, Adaptiva enables IT professionals to securely speed enterprise-wide software deployments without adding costly servers or throttling network bandwidth. For more information, visit www.adaptiva.com.

 

Join the Computerworld newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

More about Microsoft

Show Comments