One year later: What we’ve learned from migrating customers to Windows 10

By now you are likely looking at or already planning your migration to Windows 10. Each new Windows transition ushers in a unique set of challenges and opportunities, and this final transition to Windows 10 is no different. I’m excited to share what we’ve learned in helping customers through the process. This first post in a series provides an overview; watch for additional blog posts where I’ll dig into the details of each topic.

Windows 10 brings with it a different set of challenges which are, in reality, great opportunities. There are three main areas I want to focus on: key new security features, automating deployment and preparing for regular Windows as a Service (WaaS) updates.

New Levels of Security

Windows 10 has a whole host of new security features, some of which are more relevant than others. The two most important features are Secure Boot and Credential Guard. In brief, Secure Boot protects the firmware from malware attacks while Credential Guard protects the operating system (OS) from pass the hash attacks. Both require upgrading legacy BIOS to UEFI.

That’s not a problem for new computers which come with UEFI, but what about older computers still running BIOS that aren’t old enough to warrant replacement? You can update to UEFI manually or you can automate part or all of that updating process. In the next blog I’ll provide details on these options and my recommendation for how to proceed.

Increased Automation for Easier Migration

There are four issues to consider during the migration process: BIOS/UEFI settings, applying your IT standards, installing user-specific applications and data migration.

First, you need to apply your custom BIOS/UEFI settings using OEM-provided tools. Dell recommends applying those BIOS settings during manufacturing for new computers and integrating the BIOS tools into an automated task sequence for in-place upgrades.

Then, you need to apply your standard image, including the OS, drivers, customization settings and core applications. In today’s multi-device world we see more customers adopting cross-platform imaging technologies like Dell ImageAssist and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) that allow a single image to work across multiple computer models which dramatically simplifies this task. Dell can help build and factory install static, ImageAssist or MDT images.

Microsoft’s new Windows Image and Configuration Designer (ICD) tool takes a totally different approach. It applies your standards on top of the OEM OS load and drivers. This enables a much smaller “image” (provisioning package in ICD terms) that works on any system and can simplify the process.

Next you will have to address applications and data migration. Dell recommends using discovery tools (like Lakeside Systrack) to determine which applications users need, then packaging your common applications for automated deployment through tools like KACE, System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and MDT. Data migration is often the most time consuming step for both your IT staff and end users. Dell automates this process using Dell Migration Tool (DMT), which is Microsoft’s free User State Migration Tool wrapped with our own technology to make it much easier to use.

Dell has spent the last decade developing our ability to automate PC and OS deployment. We now help customers deploy over 11M computers every year. We are the industry leader in this area and, not to brag (ok, it’s a brag), but in each of the last six years we have won a variety of Microsoft Partner of the Year awards, largely due to our expertise on Windows client deployments.  Most recently, in July 2016, we were named worldwide Windows 10 Deployment Partner of the Year by the Microsoft Enterprise Partner team. So, if you are still looking at this and need help, Dell is ready.

Planning for Windows as a Service Updates

We’ve talked about how to migrate to Windows 10, what’s next? This last one is a big deal. Windows 10 will be the last full OS upgrade from Microsoft. Yes, really. There won’t be a Windows 11. Instead, Microsoft is releasing new features on a regular semi-annual update schedule. This means no more expensive mass Windows migrations every few years, and this turns migration into a predictable and continual process. But it also introduces new issues that you need to plan for, including implementing a lab testing program of critical applications in advance of updates and piloting these updates on systems before pushing them out to your users.

Our recommendation is to identify critical applications and begin lab testing (with tools like Dell ChangeBASE) as soon as updates are released to Insider Preview. I will go into greater detail on this and what you need to know to be ready and be successful in my follow up piece. For now you should know that Dell’s WaaS Planning Services can help you with testing, organizational planning, network readiness and SCCM readiness.

There’s more to come

I trust I piqued your interest in learning more about each of these areas! Watch this space for the next blog in the series: a deep dive into security. I’ll also be discussing Win10 at Dell EMC World session MT-113, “Migration Doesn’t Have to Hurt: When Win-10 Wins.” Please join me if you are attending. It would be great to meet you and discuss these issues real time.

Dell can help plan and train your IT team to meet these challenges and support you as Windows 10 updates come out. To learn more about how we can help, talk to your Dell representative or visit this website.

About the Author: Jefferson Raley

Jefferson is responsible for intellectual property development and strategy for Dell's client consulting and deployment business. He leads a global team developing new tools, processes and methodologies that consultants, technicians and project managers leverage to drive efficiency and productivity for our customers.