Like it did six years ago for Windows 10, Microsoft is wooing end-users via ads for a free Windows 11 upgrade. Who doesn’t want to take the latest tech out for a spin? And for free?!
But as far as business continuity is concerned (business continuity is the planning and process by which organizations maintain operation, not severely disrupted by a disaster or other unwanted incident) maybe this bargain is not yet a good deal.
Why is Microsoft giving its operating system (OS) for free for a time? One of the reasons (there may be others, like the fragility of the perceived value of downloaded software) is to have the software put through its paces in real life. After it’s been tried and people point out flaws on forums and to customer service, then the new OS will be patched, modified and made ready for serious enterprise use.
It’s Just a Phase
Though downloading and upgrading is possible for any compatible machine, Microsoft is officially rolling out Windows 11 in stages. These stages seem to be according to machine specifications. Per cnet.com: “your system might not prompt you to upgrade just yet … you might not find it even if you tell your computer to check for updates. [In August] Microsoft said the company expects ‘all eligible devices to be offered the free upgrade to Windows 11 by mid-2022.'” 1
Bryley engineers generally advise its partners to wait at this early-launch stage. Although the current free upgrade may be acceptable for individual users with compatible applications (if you only use apps in the Cloud, for instance) and have currently-manufactured peripherals (like printers and monitors). Multi-user environments with several PCs or devices, running some legacy applications and with older peripherals may have issues – upgrades in these environments urge a planned approach with thorough testing before implementation. Bryley engineers are sandboxing Windows 11 now to check its compatibility with the software and hardware Bryley uses.
The Windows 11 OS controls system functions and provides the basic, underlying glue that allows applications to function in conjunction with other applications, peripherals and the network. Because of an OS’s complexity and a potential disruption to the interface, Bryley multi-user partners can expect a delay of at least a few months; Bryley engineers like to evaluate a body of evidence that suggests the upgraded operating system is behaving as expected.
What’s Windows 11 Got That I Don’t Got?
Here are the most notable changes:
- it looks a bit different (more Mac-like, per cnet.com)
- you can have easier virtual desktops for different kinds of projects, games or whatever (more Mac-like, per cnet.com)
- widgets (mini applications) are accessible from the taskbar
- monitors can be plugged and unplugged without losing your window configurations
- groups of windows and applications can be snapped into the taskbar for better productivity
- Android apps will be able to be run natively, for a more integrated experience phone-to-tablet-to-PC
- Microsoft Teams is better integrated into the OS for easier virtual collaboration
- improvements to touchscreen functionality
How to Have a Happy Upgrade
People in businesses tend to view their computers as tools, so an upgrade is not always welcome. For some it’s more like an intrusion. But whether the new features excite you or make you dread having to make changes to the routines that have been working, the upgrade path is inevitable (Windows 10 will be supported four more years).
The first thing to do is plan for the upgrade. Planning should include all of the steps necessary to ensure a successful upgrade throughout the organization; it is particularly important to discuss and review all relevant applications, older peripherals, and the impact on end-users.
First check the Microsoft Windows 11 upgrade requirements. These include a 1 GHz or faster 64-bit processor with two or more cores, 4 GB or greater RAM, 64 GB or greater available storage, and a graphics card compatible with DirectX 12 or later with a WDDM 2.0 driver.
Next, if the upgrade does not work with existing applications, something’s got to give. With compatibility issues choices include:
- upgrade the application to its latest version (works if the application vendor has upgraded it to work with the new OS).
- launch the application from within the OS in compatibility mode (this does not work for all applications; the app should be thoroughly evaluated and tested).
- delay the OS upgrade (doesn’t solve anything, but might give time for the application vendor to upgrade, or you to find a new app).
- replace the application with a compatible application (a difficult choice, particularly if the application is organization-wide; might be welcome if the existing application is dated and under-performing).
Peripherals are controlled with manufacturer-specific device drivers (small applications). For compatibility with a new OS, the driver is typically upgraded. However, if the peripheral is old or the overall need for compatibility is limited, a manufacturer might choose to not upgrade a driver.
End-user peripherals (like printers) are often cheaper to replace than upgrade. But large-scale equipment (like CNC machinery) will need to be tested and the compatibility verified.
End-users will need to be informed and trained before deployment.
Deployment schedules and dates should be discussed and considered:
- Do we upgrade everyone at once, or upgrade department-by-department?
- Can we schedule individual upgrades during the day or should they be performed (at greater expense) after-hours?
If you need assistance in addressing your organization’s path to upgrade to Windows 11, please email ITExperts@Bryley.com or call 978.562.6077.
Lawrence writes about networking and security. He’s written for Bryley since 2015.