With just a few more months to go before Windows 7 reaches the end of its extended support life cycle, it’s time for businesses to get serious about upgrading. For most organizations, the most obvious solution is to upgrade to Windows 10. However, other options exist too, like changing over to an entirely different operating system, such as Linux or MacOS. It’s also possible to continue receiving critical security updates for Windows 7 for up to three more years by joining Microsoft’s Extended Security Updates program. But this option should only be considered as a last resort for enterprises that simply can’t make the shift to Windows 10 before the deadline.
Why upgrade to Windows 10?
Microsoft releases critical security updates on an as-needed basis for supported products to address potential bugs and flaws before they can be exploited by hackers, and using an outdated and unsupported operating system can greatly increase your organization’s susceptibility to data leaks or breaches. Since Windows 7 users will no longer receive these patches after January 14, 2020, the operating system will become progressively more vulnerable to attacks. Other problems which will manifest in time include interoperability issues and stunted productivity due to dropping performance and reliability. In other words, to ensure your business keeps running smoothly, you’ll need to upgrade eventually.
Fortunately, migrating to Windows 10 comes with many benefits in its own right, so it’s not all about being compelled to upgrade just because Microsoft is telling you that you need to. Most importantly — particularly from a business user’s perspective — Windows 10 is inherently more secure. Thanks to compulsory and automated security updates, it is easier to maintain. There’s also a host of new features that make the operating system more secure from the outset, such as an improved Secure Boot facility, Device Guard, Microsoft Passport, and Windows Hello. Aside from the security benefits, Windows 10 offers substantial performance improvements, better compatibility with today’s hardware, and enhanced usability.
Determining the scope and requirements of your migration
Although upgrading Windows is a far quicker and more refined process than it used to be back in the days of Windows XP, businesses still face some significant challenges when migrating. These are largely down to the fact that they have a lot more computers to upgrade than home users. Furthermore, some of these systems may be critical to the business’s ability to function normally, which means any extended downtime is highly undesirable.
To ensure a seamless migration, create an inventory of existing machines and determine that they all meet the necessary requirements to run Windows 10. Fortunately, the requirements are very similar to that of Windows 7, but you’ll still want to run the Windows 10 Compatibility Scan application to be sure. Any systems that don’t meet the criteria should be replaced by the January deadline, or at least permanently disconnected from the corporate network. Also, although Windows 10 will work on older systems running on BIOS firmware, experts highly recommend upgrading to those with newer UEFI firmware for their enhanced features and functionality. Microsoft also recommends that corporate users switch to Azure Active Directory for secure authentication.
Naturally, you’ll want to prioritize your migration plan to ensure that all the most important PCs are upgraded first, and that you’ll have plenty of time to upgrade and test them. If you have any worries about compatibility problems arising after upgrading, try running Windows 10 in a virtual environment with your existing apps and other systems to test it thoroughly.
Next, you’ll need to back up all your apps and data. Although migrating from Windows 7 to 10 should keep everything intact, the fact that there’s over a decade of updates between the two operating systems means you shouldn’t count on it. Microsoft offers several tools for migrating existing user accounts, files, and settings, but you should still keep a complete backup in case something goes wrong.
Preparing your employees
Although far less so than the much-maligned Windows 8, the difference between the interfaces of Windows 7 and Windows 10 might be a bit jarring at first to those who are accustomed to using the former. Fortunately, this shouldn’t present a major problem, as Windows 10 is even more familiar to consumers than it is to business users. Chances are, most of your employees have already been using Windows 10 on their own machines for some time. Nonetheless, it’s still desirable to keep them informed. Be prepared to onboard your employees with any new functions and features they’ll face.
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