What Does the End of Windows 10 Mean for Users?
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It's official. On June 24, 2021, Microsoft announced the release of Windows 11 in late 2021, which solidifies Microsoft's decision to stop the support of Windows 10 in 2025. What does that mean for businesses? Will Windows 10 updates continue? Should end-users be concerned? How can organizations prepare for the change? To answer these questions, we spoke with industry experts about what the future holds for users of Windows 10.

What Does the End of Windows 10 Mean?

Initially, the impact on the end-user should be minimal, according to Ilan Sredni of Palindrome Consulting, Inc. As he points out, this isn't the first time Microsoft has ended support for an operating system. In fact, one of the best ways to prepare for the end of Windows 10 is to look at the end of life for Windows 7. 

Michael Anderson of 365 Technologies recalls the compatibility issues between business applications and moving from Windows 7. That's why he suggests talking with software vendors about their plans for Windows 11 as early as possible. Microsoft provides developer platforms that enable vendors to work with the newer operating system before its initial release. There's no need to wait until 2025 before asking about timelines and test plans. Although Microsoft may offer extended support options beyond 2025, there is no guarantee, and they will come at a higher price.

"End users often forget that Windows 10 has had many versions of itself that have been released and expired," stated Nick Martin of Mainstreet IT Solutions. "IT professionals and end-users alike should understand that several Windows 10 versions, beginning with 1507 to 1909, have already expired. If updates have not been applied to these versions of Windows 10, the devices are operating without critical patches that ensure operational security."

The move from Windows 10 to Windows 11 is a reminder of how quickly technology moves. Although 2025 is four years away, that's equivalent to 40 years in the velocity of technology.  -- Nick Martin

Will Windows 10 Continue to Be Updated?

The short answer is yes. Microsoft will continue to provide updates and security patches until October 14, 2025. After that date, the company will no longer address vulnerabilities with patches or updates. Kenny Riley of Velocity IT outlined a typical scenario.

Computers using Windows 10 will continue to work after October 2025; however, the device will become more insecure with time. If bad actors find a weakness that can be exploited, no patch will be available to fix the problem. That leaves businesses open to viruses, malware, ransomware, and other forms of cyberattacks. Eventually, software applications will no longer work on Windows 10.

Should End-Users Be Concerned?

Having a 2025 end of life for Windows 10 is a positive move for both consumers and Microsoft. Keeping technology for over ten years limits innovation and growth. It also plays into Microsoft's bigger strategy, says Carl Fransen of CTECH Consulting Group. Microsoft doesn't want a PC in from of everyone; they want their operating system on every device that is in front of everyone.

Windows 10 is limited to only Windows devices; Windows 11 is to be compatible with desktops, laptops, and tablets. It will also run an Android-based application. The goal is to be device agnostic, so anyone can choose any device and successfully have all their documents, data, preferences, and applications work. Don't be surprised if Windows 11 will be backward compatible with Windows 10 applications.

On the other hand, new releases of Windows operating systems have not always gone well. Even Windows 10 had its issues at the initial release. Ashu Singhal of Orion Networks suggests that businesses evaluate their migration carefully. They don't want to wait until the last minute to move to Windows 11, but they may not want to be the first to move either.

How Can Companies Prepare?

In the past, the lifecycle of a personal computer was two to three years, primarily because of the exponential development of better hardware. Applications were quick to use these added resources, which necessitated faster hardware. Now, desktop applications are moving to web-based applications. Data storage has moved to the cloud, and hard drives are SSD, making hardware last at least five years. 

Mark Veldhoff of Envizion IT recommends that organizations develop a lifecycle management plan so they do not find themselves repeating the mistakes of Windows 7 migrations. Because Windows 7 did not reach its end of life until February 2020, companies delayed making the necessary upgrades and found themselves struggling to find capital and resources to upgrade to Windows 10. With the release of Windows 11, organizations will be faced with a similar situation. If they don't plan for the move to Windows 11, businesses will be faced with replacing hardware that has not reached its end of life in order to run the new operating system.

Moving to Windows 11

Based on the preliminary information on Windows 11, organizations will have an operating system that takes full advantage of the advances in PC hardware. However, the complexity of today's IT infrastructure demands a better lifecycle management plan. Companies will need to balance infrastructure integrity and security with the cost in time and money to upgrade an entire enterprise.

Businesses will need a migration plan that minimizes operational disruptions. Mission-critical applications need to be tested before placing in production. A timeline needs to be established for when devices will be upgraded that ensures business continuity. A cybersecurity assessment should be part of the migration plan, as hackers will be ready to exploit the chaos that can result from changes to an operating system.

Corporations should plan on a loss of productivity as end-users become familiar with the new operating system and applications. While the migration is underway, businesses should not launch new initiatives or make additional changes to the infrastructure. Giving employees the opportunity to become comfortable with Windows 11 will minimize stress and expedite the return to full productivity. 

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