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Windows 10 upgrade offer spurs spike in adoption

More businesses plan to take advantage of Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade offer before it expires in July, but IT pros still have concerns about cost and privacy.

Windows 10 enterprise adoption is on the rise as organizations look to take advantage of Microsoft's free upgrade offer.

Microsoft will allow users of the Standard and Pro editions of Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 to upgrade to Windows 10 for free within the operating system's first year of availability. The offer, which expires July 29, is driving much of the new adoption among businesses. The number of IT pros who plan to upgrade to Windows 10 this year nearly tripled over last year, growing from 13.9% to 40.6%, according to the TechTarget 2016 IT Priorities Survey.   

Businesses using Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 Pro should sign up for the Windows 10 upgrade offer, even if it means migrating before their current licenses are scheduled to expire, said Jon Booth, IT director at Bear Valley Community Healthcare District in Big Bear Lake, Calif. The offer does not apply to Enterprise editions of Windows.

"If you already have Windows 7 or Windows 8 ... it's foolish not to adopt [Windows 10] for free," Booth said. "Windows 7 will reach end of life eventually, and I'll have to upgrade anyway."

His organization plans to take Microsoft up on its offer and upgrade to Windows 10. The IT department is currently testing legacy applications to make sure they support the new operating system.

Windows 10 upgrade offer provides incentive

Millar, a medical technology provider in Houston, also plans to upgrade before the July 29 deadline.

"It's an opportunity to save thousands of dollars in potential licenses," said Todd Miller, the company's IT director.

A free upgrade until the end of July gives us an incentive.
Steve Blecicsenior systems analyst, Gas Liquids Engineering

Typically, the company of roughly 140 employees performs Windows upgrades in conjunction with hardware refreshes. But the IT department decided to upgrade to Windows 10 prior to the hardware lifecycle ending because of Microsoft's promotion.

"We are about 90% deployed on Windows 10 already," Miller said. "We wanted to see how painful the transition would be ... but the response from users has been pretty positive."

Many members of Millar's IT department, including Miller, are part of Microsoft's Windows 10 beta program and were able to test the OS months before it launched. The company waited until October to start upgrading its PCs to Windows 10 because some of its legacy application vendors did not support the OS until then.

The IT department at Gas Liquids Engineering is also trying to take advantage of the Windows 10 upgrade offer and is testing all its internal applications to ensure a smooth transition. The Calgary, Alta., company would normally upgrade the OS with its hardware, but its PCs are only two years old, so it is instead doing a straight OS upgrade on its roughly 300 workstations, said Steve Blecic, senior systems analyst.

"Being a free upgrade until the end of July gives us an incentive to work with Windows 10," Blecic said.

Gas Liquids Engineering employees tested Windows 10, and their first impressions were favorable, he added.

"The interface is cleaner," Blecic said. "It's not completely like Windows 7, but it's familiar to it, and it holds all your basic commonly used applications. We're off to a good start."

More than 270 million active users run Windows 10, including 22 million enterprise and education customers, Microsoft said. The company has a goal of reaching 1 billion users within two or three years.

Microsoft: No bait and switch

Despite the free Windows 10 upgrade offer, some IT professionals are concerned that Microsoft will eventually charge them a subscription fee to use the OS and keep receiving its automatic updates.

"They already have Office 365, where they have an annual fee and are basically renting software," said Jim Davies, director of IT at Ongweoweh Corp., a pallet and packing management company in Ithaca, N.Y. "I have a feeling that they'll do that with their OS too. Once you get the OS and they start charging for it, then what do you do? Then you're already in it."

Other IT pros also said they hope Microsoft does not move to a subscription model.

"That would be a slap in the face to the early adopters," Booth said. "I would be concerned about the subscription. That would be a rather dramatic breach of trust."

Many IT departments would look at open source alternatives if Microsoft implemented a pay-as-you-go model to Windows 10, Booth and Davies said. But Microsoft said it will not do that.

"We have no plans to charge consumers a subscription for Windows 10," a company spokesperson said.  "We want an engaged customer base running Windows 10, and we will continue to keep it up to date for the supported lifetime of the device, keeping it more secure and introducing new features and functionality over time -- at no cost."

Windows 10 enterprise upgrade concerns

Still, Ongweoweh, which has 90 employees across five different facilities, uses Windows 7 and doesn't plan to change that anytime soon. The company's IT department is looking at alternatives prior to the operating system's Jan. 14, 2020 end-of-life date.

"I'm really not dead set against [upgrading to Windows 10], but as we move forward as a company, I want it to suit us," Davies said. "I am riding Windows 7 for as long as I can."

Davies also has privacy concerns regarding Windows 10, which logs user information into a Microsoft cloud database, he said.

Another Windows 10 concern revolves around its usage of corporate bandwidth. The OS downloads and fixes new features in the background, and this constant communication with Microsoft uses more bandwidth than expected, early adopters said.

"Windows 10 does talk to Microsoft quite a bit, and we've seen a slight increase in our overall network traffic because of that," Miller said. "If you're a small company and run off a 25 MB DSL connection, you may not have enough bandwidth to do all the things that you want to do."

This issue hasn't been serious for Millar, which has a strong network connection, but there have been scenarios where Windows 10 downloads a large amount of data all at once, Miller said.

"Microsoft should educate IT pros on how to manage the bandwidth," he added.

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