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Windows 10 enterprise adoption faces legacy app roadblocks

Windows 10 turns two this month, but most organizations forgo its security enhancements and stick with Windows 7 because of legacy app incompatibility or resistance to change.

Two years since its release, Windows 10 still isn't close to catching up to Windows 7 in terms of enterprise adoption.

The most common reason many organizations are holding off on Windows 10 enterprise adoption is because they rely on legacy applications that still don't support the operating system. Other organizations resist migration because what they currently have still works.

United Bank in Parkersburg, W.Va., uses a third-party software provider for its applications that manage customer bank accounts, mortgages and loans. These applications still do not support Windows 10, which has kept the bank from migrating. 

"People have to update their software if they want to remain competitive," said Willem Bagchus, messaging and collaboration specialist at United Bank. "We want to do this as soon as possible because we want to remain current and have all the available tools."

Bagchus hopes the software provider will support Windows 10 in the coming year, and the bank plans to begin its OS migration immediately after, he said.

"Investment in legacy applications is typically a roadblock, and we are certainly seeing a lot of that," said Doug Grosfield, president and CEO of Five Nines IT Solutions, a consultancy in Kitchener, Ont.

Although Windows 10 is free for consumers, and there was a free promotional offer for businesses in the first year, its share is still nearly half of Windows 7's. In June, 49% of all desktop PCs -- both consumer and enterprise -- ran Windows 7, and 26.8% ran Windows 10, according to NetMarketShare. Enterprise typically sees slower growth when a new OS rolls out, and Windows 10 is no different, which means most of Windows 10's market share comes from consumers.

There are over 500 million devices running Windows 10 today, Microsoft said, but the company did not break out use among businesses and consumers.

Reasons behind slow Windows 10 enterprise adoption 

While some organizations can't migrate to Windows 10 because of app compatibility problems, others purposefully hold off on migrating for as long as they can.

"There is a hesitance from companies to be an early adopter and live on the cutting edge," Grosfield said.

Some of these organizations stay complacent with their current OS and applications and won't update until their hardware refresh cycles are up. These cycles commonly ranges from three to five years, but some IT departments stretch them even longer to get more of a return on their investments.

There is a hesitance from companies to be an early adopter and live on the cutting edge.
Doug Grosfieldpresident and CEO, Five Nines IT Solutions

Many organizations that don't want to upgrade their OS point to widely reported errors that occur with Windows 10 updates, Grosfield said.

When the Anniversary Update came out in August 2016, there were problems with it not recognizing third-party antivirus and VPN client software, and users had to reinstall the operating system for it to work. VPN client software issues occurred again with the April release of the Creators Update.

"That's more validation in the minds of some people that they made the right decision to stick with Windows 7," Grosfield said. "The Anniversary Update and Creators Update have both broken a lot of things in my experience. You end up with a lot of support calls because of these large cumulative updates."

Organizations also point to Windows 10 automatic updates occurring at inconvenient times as a reason to avoid the OS, Grosfield said. Microsoft has tried to remedy this problem with its Active Hours feature, which lets IT and users set customizable time slots during which updates can take place.

Security: The key to Windows 10 enterprise adoption

The biggest reason organizations should adopt Windows 10 is to improve security, said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of research firm Moor Insights & Strategy in Austin, Texas. Many IT professionals are concerned about the numerous security threats they face today but won't take the steps necessary to protect their PCs, he said.

Windows 10 included a slew of security features when it was first released. Windows Hello allows users to sign in with biometrics such as facial recognition software. Device Guard allows IT to lock down devices by only running applications that IT approves. While this is one way of blacklisting apps that aren't work related, its main purpose is to prevent attackers from running malicious code.

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will arrive in September with new security features as well, including Windows Defender Application Guard and machine learning features in Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP). Application Guard runs the Microsoft Edge browser in a virtual machine to separate it and any web-based malware it runs into from the rest of the OS. The new ATP machine learning capabilities allow organizations to automatically detect and flag abnormal user activity.

"The hottest thing in security right now is using machine learning," Moorhead said. "It either predicts things before they happen or quickly realizes you're under attack or at risk."

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