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Lessons from running Windows 10 for business for the last 60 days

by Keith Lynch

The company I work for is full of people who share the passion for learning as much as they can as early as possible. With that said, there has been a number of us running Windows 10 since late last year. In late January a few of us took the plunge to not only “play with it” but run it on our primary production device. For me this is my Surface Pro 3. It is a combination of a tablet and a laptop in one. If you haven’t tried it out, you should. I am not a “promote all things Microsoft” but on this one they got it right.

Now back to Windows 10. As I mentioned I moved over to using Windows 10 day in and day out back in late January. I can’t say it has been flawless, but overall I am impressed. I am in the “fast ring” which simply means I have chosen to get updates a quickly as possible. It also means I get to test out features sometimes before they are ready. You can choose the “slow ring” and avoid this if you would rather have the masses validate updates before they come out. Additionally, businesses rolling out Windows 10 will be able to control when updates go out.

Taking all of this into consideration, there has been a steady amount of improvement in the OS as I have been along for the ride. The earliest builds were not as stable as I would have liked (but expected), and did not play as nice as you would like with typical business applications like WebEx, but most of that has been resolved. For now, here is my top ten list of lessons with Windows 10 as you look to use it, or bring it into your business environment.

  • The start menu is back – kind of. The latest release has the start screen and the “modern applications – think tiles” mergered. I honestly was never that bothered with the switch in 8.1 away from the start menu. But for a number of customers I work with, this is a really big deal. This is especially true in high touch environments, like legal and health care, where retraining the employees is a requirement with any deployment. The new blend makes sense in easing the transition over. The truth is, if you are using touch you will likely enjoy seeing the big tiles as that means your finger will be a great “pointing device” to launch them. At the end of the day I spend 95% of my time in desktop mode, which I think will be true for a vast majority of business users.
  • 3rd Party Apps – I am back to running all of the apps I had been before. WebEx was a big one for me. Although I use Lync as my primary collaboration/communication tool, a number of people I work with leverage WebEx. Early on I was not able to join and present during a WebEx meeting, which as a consultant is a pretty big deal. The funny thing is with Windows 10 today, I can – but I have to use Chrome to do it.
  • windows-10_1Microsoft Office – I use Office 2013 – the full suite – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio and Project daily. All of these work without issue and have all along.
  • Wireless – Wireless has been solid. I had some trouble with early versions of 8.1 not being able to join some Wi-Fi connections. However, Windows 10 has been solid on this since day 1.
  • Recovery – I do take risks with my machine, in terms of testing out applications which most people would not and should not on their production machine. With that said I had an opportunity to leverage the roll back process built into Windows 10. I was actually very surprised with how well it works. You have a number of options, but in this case I was able to roll back and get rid of the program that did bad things to my display drivers, while not losing any data.

    windows-10_2

  • Domain Join if you can. I ran on my own island outside of control of “corporate IT” for a long time. I ultimately ended up joining my machine primarily because we utilize SharePoint very heavily as our corporate document management system. So everything I do day in and day out is tied up on this system. Prior to joining the domain, I would get prompted about 5 times for login credentials every time I hit the SharePoint site. This drove me to join the domain, and things have been a lot better since then.
  • Easier to close an app – I know this seems silly but even in Windows 8.1 I found myself inside a full screen app with no escape. Do I swipe up, down, left/right? What about if I just shake it fiercely (no this was just when I got mad). Now all apps (even modern applications) have traditional controls on the right of the Window that helps you minimize, maximize or kill them.

windows-10_3

With all of the good, there are some things which need improving.

  • Batter life is not great. I have seen a real difference with Windows 10 on the Surface as opposed to Windows 8.1. I know this is due to the fact I am running an incomplete version of the OS, with process that can get stuck causing the fan to kick it into overdrive for long periods.
  • Display Drivers – This has been steadily improving as I have gotten updates, but it is not unusual for me to take 2-3 times to get my secondary monitor to be detected and displayed at the right resolution.
  • Sleeping Beauty – About 25% of the time after I put my device to sleep it just won’t come back. It is on and alive, but it just refuses to open its eyes and show me the screen. I ended up having to reset it and start over. On the plus side my office docs are there in the recovery pane when I get back, but it is a real pain.

Overall, I am pleased with Windows 10. I think based on where it is and the release date set for later this year, now is the time to have corporate IT departments working with it and becoming familiar with it. If you are planning on a Windows 8.1 release in 2016, I think it would make sense to consider 10 as a replacement. The time for application validation and packaging, SCCM OSD task sequences, management, Least Privileged Access models, etc. will all have to happen, and so you should put the work into the most recent stable platform. After all, we all know corporate IT skips at least one OS, and I am not seeing a large number of 8.1 deployments out there.


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