Simplifying the OS Migration and Managed Settings Processes for Windows 10

According to a recent survey, involving 500 organizations residing in over 30 countries covering multiple industries, more than 45% of organizations are in the planning or pilot stage of a Windows 10 migration/deployment endeavor. There are a number of reasons to migrate your workstation devices to Windows 10.

  • Microsoft will no longer support Windows 7 starting January of 2020
  • Companies want to take advantage of the new features of Windows 10
  • IT staff want to take advantage of the Windows-as-a-Service delivery of Windows 10

Because the Windows OS migration process is such an arduous and time consuming process, companies are embracing the strategy of a continual development cycle of Windows 10 over the lethargic release schedule of major OS upgrades in the past that were highly disruptive. In fact, for companies with over 5,000 employees, only 13 percent report that their implementation is complete.

Many ways to Deploy Windows 10

In the past, organizations were dependent on third party imaging solutions in which a “golden image” was created and deployed. According to the aforementioned survey, most image deployments take 2 to 5 people anywhere from 25-52 hours per-person to build and test an initial image. This process is complicated further by the fact that with the exception of small business, most companies juggle and maintain multiple images to accommodate multiple needs. Fortunately, there are a growing number of deployment solutions making this process more palatable. Microsoft has directly released a number of solutions:

  • Microsoft Deployment Toolkit – MDT is a free tool that can be downloaded from Microsoft. Rather than deliver a single image, it uses a series of task sequences to better granularize the process. Task sequences are basic XML files that call on a series of scripts to run parameters chosen by an administrator. Different deployment options can be delivered based on AD parameters or location.
  • Windows Image and Configuration Designer (WICD) – WICD provides the ability for users or support staff to install a customized Windows 10 image with a basic USB stick. Administrators use WICD to create provisioning packages using a guided wizard. The provisioning package is then saved to a USB. Simply double click the package file and the installation process begins.
  • For those enterprises that use Azure, Microsoft now offers Windows Autopilot, a new cloud service from Microsoft that provides you with a zero-touch experience for deploying new Windows 10 devices. Like WICD, you can give new devices to your end users without the need to build, maintain, and apply custom operating system images to the devices. You can even coordinate Autopilot deployments with many computer manufacturers.

Of course, there are many deployment and migration solutions offered by third party companies as well as Microsoft SCCM. Thanks to all of these solutions, the task of migrating to Windows 10 is simpler and more flexible than past Windows OS migrations.

Not Everything About Windows is Simplified

The migration process may have been simplified but there remain some real challenges to managing the post-migration stage.

  • Managing application file associations is a real challenge in Windows 10. Anyone who has opened a PDF file after a default install is aware of this. More than two-thirds of all organizations, regardless of size, have experienced some kind of file association issue during their migration.
  • More than half of organizations are struggling with the challenge of standardizing the Start Menu and Taskbar during and after their migrations. The customization of these desktop areas can better streamline user productivity.
  • The anguish of what to do concerning the allocation of local admin rights to users remains a constant deliberation internally with IT departments. On average, 57 percent of organizations assign local admin rights to a subset of users. Unfortunately, this may be assigning these same rights to a subset of hackers and malicious perpetrators.

How Can You Ensure Flexibility After the Initial Migration?

While modern day imaging and deployment solutions offer far more agility to the migration process today, the process of modifying and altering your initial delivered settings remains laborious. Baking new changes into an image takes time. On average, organizations devote 17-40 hours per-person to repeat the OS deployment with successive images. While there are some automated managed setting delivery tools such as Group Policy, Intune and others that can modify your initial settings, all have their limitations.

And then, There is PolicyPak

PolicyPak can help you overcome the inherent challenges of the Windows 10 Migration process. It provides you the granular control to manage settings, the agility to modify the Windows 10 desktop and the flexibility to accommodate your various dynamic changing environments. Whether your devices are domain or non-domain joined, whether they are on-premise devices or reside in MDM environments, PolicyPak delivers simplified management and automated agility to overcome any of the inherent challenges of Windows 10.

Jeremy Moskowitz

Founder & CTO, Microsoft MVP in Group Policy, Enterprise Mobility, and MDM

Jeremy Moskowitz founded PolicyPak Software after working with hundreds of customers with the same problem they couldn’t manage their applications, browsers and operating systems using the technology they already utilized.

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