By: Alyssa Provazza, Senior Managing Editor, Tech Target
Less control over Windows OS updates. Windows 10’s automatic updates and patches mark a drastic change for IT professionals
The changes to Microsoft’s model — in which organizations now receive fewer, larger Windows OS updates rolled up with all of the previous month’s patches — are cause for concern, said Hector Cortez, global infrastructure manager and architect at Neovia Logistics Services, a global logistics company.
“Patching seems to be more of a long-term concept from the OS level,” Cortez said. “There’s not that granularity anymore, so we’re making sure that we’re able to manage and support that.”
For that reason, the organization has decided not to use the Long-Term Servicing Branch for updates, and instead test and manage individual Windows OS updates as they come in, he said.
The size of the rolled up patch updates can present other problems. They can be up to 7 GB, so they require a lot of storage and network bandwidth to deliver to users, said Chris Cobb, vice president and desktop engineering manager at Chemical Bank in Midland, Mich.
“When you’re talking about doing that to 250 remote sites and not impacting productivity and killing their network connection, that was probably the thing we have been most challenged with,” he said.
Earlier this year, Chemical Bank implemented Adaptiva to help with this issue. The software distribution tool uses bandwidth harvesting, which enables IT to send Windows updates out to a branch, where they only consume the bandwidth the branch isn’t using at that exact time. Before, employees had a hard time serving customers because there was such latency when the network was downloading an update.
“There had been mighty struggles with patching,” Cobb said. “Now, I’ve pushed out terabytes of data to our branches, and the one call I haven’t gotten that I used to get every day is ‘Our network is slow.’ It gets it done behind the scenes.”
Taking application inventory before a Windows 10 migration
An information and analytics provider plans to start its Windows 10 migration for thousands of employees across multiple sites early next year — right after moving its on-premises virtual desktops to the cloud.
As IT tests applications to ensure they will function properly on the cloud desktops, it is also testing them for compatibility with Windows 10. The application inventory process is especially tricky because different employees — developers, human resources staff and finance workers, for instance — use a lot of in-house custom applications for bespoke work.
“It’s good old-fashioned contacting the user and sitting down with them and asking, ‘How does this work?'” said an IT manager at the company, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “It’s making sure that we’ve got all the information and we haven’t under-scoped it.”
The company uses AppTracker, an application workflow and management tool from MigrationStudio, an IT systems migration software provider, to help with application inventory. It provides a dashboard where IT can keep track of information about all the applications and other data that are critical to a Windows 10 migration, such as the number of users and devices at each site and which devices need to be updated before the transition.
“You don’t want to be using Excel spreadsheets because that’s just a nightmare,” the IT manager said. “It’s nice to have a single pane of glass.”
MigrationStudio also enables IT to schedule Windows 10 application tests with users. IT spins up a VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machine (VM), deploys the app to a Windows 10 desktop, ensures that it installs, then lets the user log in to the VM and test the application at an appointed time.
Windows 10 Edge browser compatibility
When Chemical Bank began its Windows 10 migration, it found that nearly 90% of its web applications didn’t have Edge browser compatibility.
The IT department at the banking company based in Midland, Mich., is in the process of slowly rolling out Windows 10 to 5,000 computers across more than 250 branches.
One major concern has been the Windows 10 Edge browser, the default for the operating system. Most of the bank’s apps use ActiveX controls, an add-on that Edge doesn’t support, but that Internet Explorer (IE) does.
Edge gets added to the taskbar when users sign in to Windows 10 for the first time, so IT must run a script that updates the taskbar to remove it as an option and put IE as the default. That process gets broken after every OS feature update, however, so IT has to continuously fix it, said Chris Cobb, vice president and desktop engineering manager at Chemical Bank.
“Trying to make Edge disappear is a challenge,” he said.
Windows 10 user experience concerns
When the IT department for NASCAR began its Windows 10 migration this year, it put user experience in the driver’s seat.
The stock car racing organization, based in Daytona Beach, Fla., is 85% done with a migration for about 1,500 endpoints throughout its business, including office workers’ PCs, PCs in conference rooms and on kiosks. NASCAR also plans to move to Windows 10 for PCs that run race timing and scoring apps and that process car inspection information at nearly 40 events per year, said Steve Worling, manager director of IT.
Going into the migration, the biggest fear was around the Windows 10 user experience because employees were so used to Windows 7, Worling said.
“They were happy with that and did a lot of training on that,” he said. “Windows 10 does look and feel different. How do we put a new OS out there and make people comfortable with it?”
The IT team decided to do in-place upgrades on users’ existing PCs, which essentially upgrades the Windows 7 desktop image to Windows 10 and enables the users to keep many of the familiar settings and the look of their previous OS. IT used Microsoft System Center to schedule upgrades for each new Windows 10 user, and then met with them in person to make sure it went smoothly.
“It allowed the support team to be there to answer any questions and handle any challenges,” Worling said.
IT also sent out a couple pages of information to every Windows 10 user about what would look different.
“The changes weren’t big enough to make people upset about it,” Worling said.
It also helped that the company used some tech-savvy employees and IT staff as guinea pigs to test Windows 10 and give feedback before migrating, he said.
Windows 10 data privacy issues
When the University of Arkansas moved endpoints across its campus off of Windows 7 as part of a VDI project earlier this year, some IT administrators were concerned about Windows 10 data privacy.
Student labs and kiosks at the university in Fayetteville, Ark., have Windows 10 virtual desktops, while physical desktops available to staff and faculty are in a gradual rollout from Windows 7 to Windows 10. The data that Microsoft collects from Windows 10 users may include error reports, app usage information and even search terms, plus much more.
“Just using it, you are agreeing to all of that data being siphoned up,” said Jon Kelley, associate director of enterprise systems at the university.
To address these Windows 10 data privacy concerns, the desktop team tweaked some of the operating system’s settings, he said.
Like in other organizations, Kelley and his team were also concerned about the more consumer-focused aspects of Windows 10, such as the Cortana digital assistant and the Windows app store being available to enterprise users. To make sure the Windows 10 migration was strictly business, the university adopted the Long-Term Servicing Branch, which is available for Windows 10 Enterprise and doesn’t include the Windows Store, Cortana or Edge browser.