5 Tips for Planning the Perfect Windows 10 Migration

Dave Fuller, Head of Enablement and Innovation, 1E
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Dave Fuller, Head of Enablement and Innovation, 1E

Dave Fuller, Head of Enablement and Innovation, 1E

Two years in and you still haven’t taken the hit and migrated to Windows 10? It’s now or never for most firms–our recent survey of IT Pros found that 73percent of companies will be on the road to Windows 10 migration by the end of 2017 and that a majority of them believe it’ll take a year or more to complete. Hoping to make the process a little less painful, we put together five quick tips to help you plan based on two years of Windows 10 in the wild and the latest developments.

  By far the easiest way to get from where you are today to Windows 10 is to use the In-place Upgrade process  

1. Which path?

By far the easiest way to get from where you are today to Windows 10 is to use the In-place Upgrade process. Applications and data remain intact so the process is least disruptive to the user. However, you are likely to have some hardware that simply won’t support Windows 10 (especially the security features that require UEFI and the Windows Hypervisor), so ensure you have a process to migrate applications and data from the old to the new device. Even if the hardware is supported, you may need to go from a 32-bit OS to 64-bit, change the OS Locale, or just prefer to lay down a standard corporate image. In these scenarios, traditional disk-imaging (“Computer Refresh”) processes can be used, but again ensure you can preserve the user’s data and applications.

2. Branching out

A lot has been said about the Windows Servicing Branches-Current Branch (CB), Current Branch for Business (CBB) and Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB). CB/CBB benefit from twice-yearly Feature Upgrades, which each have an expected support lifecycle of 18 months, whereas LTSB can stick around for 10 years with just monthly Quality Updates. CBB, released about 4 months after CB, is simply the CB with the latest cumulative Quality Update applied–the difference is all about when it becomes available to devices. Watch out for changes in this terminology–in line with Office 365 updates, the next release of Windows 10 (1709?) will follow the Semi-Annual Channel, which will release as ‘Pilot’, followed by ‘Broad’ about 4 months after.

3. Automate

We’ve already identified the need to support In-place upgrade, replacement and reimaging of devices to get to Windows 10 and once you’re on the Windows 10 train, applying upgrades up to twice a year is going to require a lot of effort. Better to invest the effort today in automating the process as much as you can. Microsoft Configuration Manager can fully automate replacement, refresh and in-place upgrade scenarios, including management of the semi-annual Feature Upgrades. With the volume of content required to deploy and update Windows 10 in any scenario, consider peer-to-peer content distribution options to protect your WAN. When you automate the process, you can make it available to users for self-service, which eliminates most user disruption and gives back time to the IT team. Configuration Manager offers some self-service capability while 1E offers a more complete solution.

4. Latest and greatest

When you start your migration, it makes sense to start with the latest available version (1703 as of today), simply because it will give you longer before you need to upgrade. However, another reason you should consider Windows 1703 is the introduction of the MBR2GPT tool, which for the first time enables a device to be converted from legacy BIOS to UEFI (required for SecureBoot, Device Guard and Credential Guard) in the in-place upgrade scenario where the user data and applications are kept intact.

5. Applications

Generally, your Windows 7 applications will continue to work just fine in Windows 10. Specialist software that interacts with the device at a lower level, such as disk encryption or anti-malware software will require Windows 10 compatible versions, but as these are typically security-related and Windows 10 being almost 2 years old, you are probably already running the latest version of these on your Windows 7 environment. Use an inventory tool that includes usage (again Microsoft Configuration Manager is your friend here) to identify the most used applications in your environment so you can prioritise testing and validation of your current application portfolio and look for opportunities to upgrade applications to the latest version and perhaps standardize on common applications (e.g. picture editors, FTP clients, text editors etc.) to reduce version and application sprawl in your environment.

While the Windows 10 Migration is not a pain-free one, it’s important for ensuring your business is up-to-date and protected from security risks such as WannaCry. These tips above can hopefully help guide you through the process with less hassles and frustrations.

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