Windows administrators only have the remainder of the year to migrate their desktops to Windows 10, or they will find themselves running an unsecure operating system.
Microsoft began pushing out notifications to Windows 7 users in the beginning of March, notifying them of the OS's expiration date of January 2020. Any machine on Windows 7 past the deadline will no longer receive security updates.
Microsoft launched Windows 10 in July 2015 and introduced the Windows as a service model, which continuously pushes out automatic updates for the OS. Despite Microsoft offering free Windows 10 adoption upgrades for the first 12 months since its release, enterprise adoption has been relatively slow compared to Windows 7.
A significant number of IT professionals still have plans to migrate to Windows 10 in 2019, according to a 2018 TechTarget IT Priorities Survey. Among those who responded, about one-third prioritized Windows 10 adoption and deployment.
"It's fairly difficult for businesses to stretch out their investments until a point where things start to go end of support or end of life," said Mark Bowker, senior IT analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass.
Windows 10's release was met with lukewarm response from IT professionals concerned over automatic update controls and legacy application support. Windows 7 still holds about 38% of the OS market share, according to NetMarketShare.
For organizations that still want to support Windows 7 past the expiration date, Microsoft will offer Extended Security Updates on a per-device basis, but the price will increase each year.
"Microsoft made it very clear that they have no intention for supporting Windows 7 for the next ten years," said William Warren, owner of Emmanuel Technology Consulting, an IT services company in Brunswick, Md.
Extended Security Updates means that Microsoft will no longer accept feature requests for products and will no longer provide complimentary support for Windows 7. Microsoft will only support Extended Security Support for an additional three years.
"To their credit, Microsoft has made a very compelling argument to make it easy to get off of Windows 7," Warren said.
SaaS revolution and new alternatives
The increase of cloud-based applications is one of the defining reasons for lack of motivation in Windows 10 adoption, said Steve Brasen, research analyst at Endpoint Management Associates in Boulder, Colo. The emergence of SaaS puts pressure on IT professionals to reduce the footprint of licensed products and platforms such as Microsoft 365.
"Everybody is using SaaS applications rather than locally downloaded, installed and run applications on the endpoints," Brasen said. "So that means you're not using that many resources."
Additionally, with vendors such as Google, Amazon, VMware and Citrix, organizations can consider alternative deployment models and OSes over Microsoft. Amazon WorkSpaces, Citrix Workspace and VMware Workspace One offer deployment options for virtualized desktops and cloud services.
"If your workforce is primarily using SaaS-based applications," Brasen said, "what's the advantage of having Windows 10 on your device rather than Windows 7 just running a browser?"
Google Chromebooks, which can run Google Chrome Enterprise, present a cheaper alternative to Dell or HP. Some of Chrome Enterprise's features include VMware integration, application virtualization and management tools in the cloud.
Management, staff challenges
Organizations delay Windows 10 adoption for two reasons, according to Daniel Beato, director of technology at TNTMAX, an IT consulting company in Wyckoff, N.J. The first reason is a lack of support for legacy applications in Windows 10.
"Some legacy applications are the deterrent to upgrade and the reluctance comes from that," said Beato.
Smaller businesses that rely on legacy applications for basic operations often delay Windows 10 adoption. These organizations might not want to expend resources on replacing proprietary software. Most programs created for earlier versions of Windows will work in the most recent version of Windows 10, according to Microsoft's website. It is not a guarantee, however, that every application will work in Windows 10, so IT administrators should test them to ensure compatibility.
Organizations with fewer financial resources, such as nonprofits, often do not have the resources to support Windows 10 migration and management, according to Beato.
"Sometimes [small businesses] don't see the need or they don't want to upgrade to Windows 10," Beato said. "It's more like reluctance to have a new system and what it entails."
Windows 10 includes upgrades to Microsoft Intune and new security features. IT administrators will have to learn and maintain the new system to ensure that it does not disrupt workflow. Administrators may also not find the need to learn a new management tools. Organizations already invested in existing Windows 7 enterprise mobility management tools such as VMware AirWatch are often less likely to trust built-in security features [in Windows 10], Bowker said.
IT admins may need to update hardware to match the processing power of Windows 10, which will cost the organization. Device drivers and other associated software may need upgrades to support the operating system.
For a long time, businesses have been deeply rooted on Windows desktops, but that is changing.
"There's a new wave of workers that didn't really work in a world where they worked with Windows or Microsoft services. The SaaS revolution is putting pressure on [businesses to] reduce the [Windows footprint]," according to Bowker.