When Microsoft released Windows 10, their new series of operating systems, the tech giant promised it would be “the last version of Windows”. From that point forward Microsoft introduced a new way to build, deploy, and service Windows – the term Windows as a Service (WaaS) was born.  Users and IT people rejoiced by singing and dancing in the streets because all their worries about upgrading, and application compatibility would finally be over. No more messy upgrades that would cost money or downtime.

We’d love to continue with this fairy tale, but things were not quite as straight forward as we hoped.  With all the positive press associated with Windows 10, people missed out on hearing the rest of the story. To this day, some users still think that by upgrading to Windows 10, they won’t need to do anything more. As this is not totally true we are here to tell you the full story…

Windows 10 was originally released as a specific version number – version 1507 to be exact, in July 2015.  Following that release, Microsoft produced security patches, specific to that version in order to fix up any bugs. In the meantime, Microsoft were busy adding new features to their product, making it more user friendly, more secure and more adaptable to our requirements as users. Included in these changes, Microsoft updated the user interface by moving a button to a different spot or changing the start menu (to mention a few things). As a result, their ‘new’ version of Windows 10 now looks “mostly” the same as the original.

Under the covers of course, there’s been a stack of changes in how things work. These changes may have an effect on the applications you are running and may even cause compatibility issues with those applications.

Since the first version of Windows 10 was launched there have been no less than 11 different major versions of the OS.  So much so that Windows 10 might also be called Windows 10.11 if we were tracking it like other systems do. It’s not however. Microsoft were using the year and month to create the version number, so that version 1507 was released in July 2015, and they continued with 6 monthly version releases. The last version that was released with that numbering system was 2004 – released in you guessed it, in May 2020 (yup – clearly this is “Microsoft time”). However, in October 2020 Microsoft named their new release with the following naming convention 20H2 – the version released in the 2nd half of 2020.

With every version release, Microsoft have defined a specific time period of 2 years following which they are not testing or releasing any further security patches or bug fixes. This means that they really are treating Windows 10 as a Service, and they expect that you will upgrade to the next version when they release it, or shortly thereafter. You DO need to do it in order to be protected from the security issues out there.

This is where the fairy tale ends. In the past, people usually upgraded their Windows OS to the next version available only when they were purchasing a new PC, which was about every 3-4 years. Now Microsoft users are forced encouraged to upgrade at the outside every 2 years.

To Microsoft’s credit, the company has done a pretty decent job with handling the version-to-version upgrades, and within the OS itself, things tend to work pretty darned well. The upgrade process typically takes 60-120 minutes or so, and Microsoft has also built a rollback process, so that if the upgrade does not go well, it will roll you back to where you were at before you began.

However – this is also one of the many challenges we face at a corporate level. Things like application compatibility with various applications was previously tied to the Windows OS level. For instance, IT companies would need to ask if the required application was supported on Windows 8 before they could do an upgrade, and if the vendor did not support it, then they wouldn’t pursue with the upgrade. Many vendors are not clearly tracking this well. They are not doing enough testing of their application at various version levels, nor are they clearly communicating. Microsoft however are aware of which applications DO NOT work with their latest version, and they will happily remove the said incompatible applications right after the OS successfully upgraded.

Let that sink in for a minute… you’ve upgraded to Windows 10 Version 20H2 only to find out that Microsoft have removed your LOB application that you need because they deem it incompatible.  Yup – it would have been awesome had they stopped the upgrade and said “Hey – this app is not compatible, so we’re not going to upgrade”, but as yet this is not something the company does. What this means for most people is that they can’t reliably upgrade from version to version without some risks.

What we do at Correct Solutions is a little different as we obviously need to ensure you remain secure. The best way to achieve that is by using the latest versions of Windows 10 and not letting ourselves get too out of date. The way we handle it for our clients is to do some planned upgrades, where we take a typical machine from their environment, perform the upgrade and verify functionality for their key applications. After it is done, we can continue the upgrade in a controlled manner on a few key users, and following that we perform a structured upgrade across all the computers in their organisation. This is way more effective than the old style experience of upgrading a stack of machines from say Windows 7 to Windows 8, even if Microsoft have done an amazing job on these basic upgrades. The end result is that it’s now easier than ever before to stay on the latest version of Windows, provided we take these few small steps.

These version-to-version upgrades represent a pretty significant and meticulous job. It’s not just a matter of giving it a go across your organisation and see what breaks. As a result we, at Correct Solutions, are handling these version-to-version upgrades in a similar manner as we would do an upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10. We’re spending the time with you to ensure things work smoothly and are treating it as a project to ensure it’s not something that is adopted ‘gung ho’ without proper thought and attention.

To sum up – the promise of Windows as a Service is here and it works, but like anything else, it needs careful consideration and planning before pushing the upgrade button. At Correct Solutions, our Aware and Essential agreements have been designed with the above in mind and will continue to ensure your organisation remains secure and that your business applications are working as expected. Contact us today.