For the past 2-3 years we have been selling computers that come with Windows 10. We stuck with Windows 7 prior to that (skipping over 8.x) and XP before that (skipping Vista). Our approach to technology for small business has always been to focus on stability. For more than a decade this has meant upgrading hardware on a 3 to 5 year cycle with operating systems generally getting upgraded as part of the hardware refresh. Given the direction Microsoft has taken with Windows 10, however, we no longer have the option to upgrade the operating system “by attrition”.
Those with computers still running Windows 7 are likely running on hardware that is already at least 3 or more years old and should plan to purchase new hardware (that will come with Windows 10) in 2018. This provides for both modern hardware and an up to date operating system and avoids the issues an increasingly obsolete operating system and aging hardware tend to present.
In the days of Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8.x we could generally expect 5 years of “mainstream support” plus 5 years of “extended support” from Microsoft. In the case of Windows XP, the extended support lasted a bit longer. Mainstream support for Windows 7 ended in January 2015 and extended support will end in January 2020.
Windows 10 introduces a whole new approach to keeping the operating system up to date. Instead of service packs released infrequently over the life of an OS version Microsoft is releasing major updates on a twice annual basis moving forward. Microsoft states that, “Windows 10 was designed as a service, whereby feature updates are required a couple times a year.” These “updates” however are really more like “upgrades” as they essentially load a whole new version (or build) of the operating system while preserving installed applications. These upgrades will be required in order to keep receiving security patches, support, and other “fixes” from Microsoft as they plan to drop support for each “version” 18 months after its release. Thus, moving forward, we will no longer be upgrading the operating system only when a new computer is purchased but instead will be upgrading the operating system on an annual basis.
Many system settings and some user settings may be returned to their defaults after each upgrade while applications and most user settings remain intact. Given the scope and potential impact of these upgrades it is necessary to prepare for and control the deployment of each one. In order to minimize the cost and disruption for our clients, we plan to deploy only one upgrade each year. This should provide ample time to test, pilot, deploy, and stabilize a given “version” and keep it maintained with patches until the next version is ready to be deployed. In short, we plan to deploy every-other-version, once per year and will communicate and schedule these deployments with our clients to minimize disruption as much as possible.