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Automation tools make Windows 10 migration easier

Companies conducting a large Windows 10 migration could use a tool that automates much of the heavy lifting when transferring users' content.

As businesses look to migrate to Windows 10, tools to help mitigate the process are a necessity.

IT faces multiple Windows 10 migration challenges, from ensuring support for legacy apps to moving users' documents, folders and applications. Automation software can help ease the process of transferring users' content on a large scale.

"If you have 1,000 users, doing a manual upgrade is insane," said Jack Gold, principal and founder of J. Gold Associates, a mobile analyst firm in Northborough, Mass. "Think about the cost and labor involved. These tools are mandatory."

Tools in this market include AppSense DataNow, Zinstall, Microsoft Windows Automated Installation Kit and Laplink PCmover. The availability of automation tools is becoming increasingly important because of the fast rise in Windows 10 adoption, said Robert Young, research analyst at IDC. There are more than 300 million devices running Windows 10, including more than 22 million in businesses and schools, according to Microsoft.

"To automate the Windows 10 migration as much as possible is a pretty powerful enabler [of IT]," said David Johnson, analyst at Forrester Research.

That's because manually moving files during an upgrade almost always results in problems, Young said. IT admins going from desk to desk with removable hard drives to transfer files to a new PC often results in lost files. And users may save documents somewhere that admins don't check, which results in them not being transferred and even deleted.

"IT wants to be able to upgrade and know that they won't lose any files," Young said.

AppSense DataNow automates Windows 10 migration

The IT department for the city of Round Rock, Texas, uses AppSense DataNow to handle upgrades to Windows 10 PCs for more than 1,000 employees.

AppSense DataNow 4.0, released in May, is the latest update to the vendor's user data management tool. It is designed to speed up a Windows 10 migration by automating much of the work that IT would otherwise have to do manually.

To take some of the heavy lifting out of the process, DataNow automatically syncs to the corporate server any changes users make to their saved files and documents on their current PCs. During the Windows 10 migration, DataNow pulls all the content from their old computers from the file server and automatically uploads it to their new PCs.

We just install the DataNow client and watch what it does.
Omesh Pertobvirtualization architect, city of Round Rock

"That prevents data loss, which is a huge help for us," said Omesh Pertob, virtualization architect for the city of Round Rock. "We just install the DataNow client and watch what it does."

Without that automation, IT would have to physically take each user's old laptop and manually move its files to the new Windows 10 laptop using a flash drive or portable hard drive, he said.

IT can install DataNow remotely by pushing it to users without needing their passwords -- a huge benefit for Pertob's IT department, because more than 260 of the city's employees work remotely at least some of the time, he said.

One of the biggest issues surrounding a Windows 10 migration is downtime, which can lower productivity, so it is important to have tools to complete this process quickly, Gold said.

DataNow constantly syncs a user's PC to the corporate server to back up all work content, but IT can control the pace of data flow between the two. This capability prevents the syncing process from bogging down a PC's performance while users are working.

DataNow gives IT other controls as well. Admins can set policies to dictate which devices users can access corporate content on, and they can remote wipe a user's device that has DataNow installed.

DataNow supports Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices.

"DataNow is the easiest way to get the user to access their files, but on the admin side, it makes it secure," Pertob said. 

Other updates to DataNow 4.0 include data encryption during file transfers and improvements to the Windows user experience.

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How helpful would a Windows 10 migration automation tool be for your organization?
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AppSense is OK if you have the time to spend on it, and are OK with data-only migration.
I've used it in my previous position, but now switched to Zinstall and never looked back.

It runs out of the box, and migrates everything without building config scripts (can even migrate apps, although we are not using that. Are using the settings and profile migration, like passwords etc.)
Pro tip: use their Zinstall Migration Kit Pro. All the rest is for consumers.
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