Upgrading to a new client operating system is a massive headache for the CIOs of most organizations. That's because it's disruptive, it impacts hardware purchasing decisions, it drains IT budgets and it can take up hours of IT staff time.
So the release of Microsoft's Windows 10 on July 29begs some awkward questions about if, when and how best to proceed with a move from Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, Windows Vista or even the no-longer supported Windows XP.
If you're not planning a migration to Windows 10 any time soon then you’re in good company. A survey carried out by WA-based systems management company Adaptiva at Microsoft's Ignite 2015 conference in in May found that 71 percent of those polled said their companies plan to wait at least six months from the release of Windows 10 before migrating. 49% said they planned to wait more than a year.
Larger companies with more than 100,000 end users were even more conservative, with over 80 percent planning to wait a year or more.
But whether you’re hoping to move to Windows 10 in 2015 or plan on waiting until 2016, 2017 or even later, here are 10 things you should start to consider now.
1. The clock is ticking on Windows 7
Microsoft's most popular desktop operating system, Windows 7, commands almost 61 percent of the desktop market (according to Netmarketshare). But the OS is scheduled for end of life in four and a half years – in January 2020.
That may sound like a long time, but many organizations had a similar amount of time to move from Windows XP to Windows 7 and still ran out of time, warns Steve Kleynhans, an analyst at Gartner. "This time companies should be more proactive and get going sooner to avoid the risk of crashing into a wall," he says.
2. Windows 10 is (almost certainly) more secure
While it's true that any new operating system will inevitably contain unknown security vulnerabilities that will be discovered by hackers or security researchers over time, Windows 10 does include some potentially valuable features to help keep corporate networks and data secure.
Device Guard, which prevents applications from running unless they are recognized.
Windows Hello, for biometric authentication.
Secure Boot, which prevents malicious software from loading while a computer boots, thereby potentially compromising the operating system as soon as it starts.
3. Windows 10 may make mobile computing more attractive
Truly compelling reasons to migrate to Windows 10 are few and far between. But for some organizations, Windows 10 will finally make moving to tablets a viable proposition. "Windows 10 enables you to use those cool sexy 2-in-1 hybrid tablets that have until now been limited to running Windows 8.1," says Kleynhans.
Many organizations have held off purchasing these devices in order to avoid having to train staff to use Windows 8.1 or having to figure out how to integrate Windows 8.1 into their environments, he adds.
Windows 10 promises to be far easier when it comes to integration with existing Windows 7 devices and users.
4. Uncertainty over Windows Phone means the value of universal apps is questionable
Windows 10 sees the introduction of universal apps that can easily be made to run on any device, and in particular on desktops or laptops and on phones running Windows 10 Mobile.
[Related: Windows 10: Fact vs. fiction]
But just days before the launch of Windows 10 the future of Windows 10 Mobile was plunged into doubt with the announcement that Microsoft was writing off $7.6 billion from its acquisition of Nokia last year, and that 7,800 jobs are to be cut in a "fundamental restructuring of our phone business," according to an email written by CEO Satya Nadella.
Windows 10 Mobile has yet to be released, but if and when it does see the light of day it may not live long enough for Microsoft's universal apps to offer much value.
5. Migrating from 7 to 10 is likely to be much easier than the move from XP to 7
The move from XP to 7 was a significant change, and one which enabled better security and device management. But taking advantage of these new capabilities involved implementing new backend infrastructure, says Ed Shepley, a solutions architect at migration specialist Camwood.
"The difference this time is that with Windows 10 you will be able to continue to use that same backend infrastructure. Things will be much simpler and there won't be nearly as many blockages," he adds.