The Seven Keys to Successful Windows 10 Migrations

With Windows 7 reaching the end of extended support in 2020, the pressure to move users to Windows 10 will continue to increase over the next two years. Many organizations are fast-tracking the migration to take advantage of the notable improvements in Windows 10, such as improved security and better enterprise-level performance. If they haven’t already, all businesses need to plan for the end-of-support dates for older Windows platforms. The good news: the move to Windows 10 should prove easier than the painful migration from Windows XP that most businesses experienced a few years ago. But tech refresh and data migration projects are always a headache. Careful planning is the key. Here are seven items to consider before making the switch.

  1. Can your infrastructure support Windows 10? It seems obvious, but you need to start your planning by making sure all technology is compatible. Check the hardware, software and applications against Windows 10 specifications. If you discover aging technology that’s not compatible with Windows 10, it’s probably time to replace those machines. This is also a good time to conduct application rationalization—update core applications and eliminate unnecessary or redundant applications to support consistency across your users.
  2. Will you migrate gradually—or in bulk? Successful migration planning starts with an up-to-date picture of your device landscape. First, determine the breakdown of the devices in your organizations. What is the mix of desktops versus laptops? What is the breakdown of operating systems in your organization? You also need to consider your “natural” refresh timeline—will this allow gradual migration as old devices are replaced?
  3. How will you strategically schedule migration phases? With a well-considered schedule, you can reduce the burden on both users and IT. Determine if migration phases will be based on department, physical location, device type or other criteria. Determine migration times that minimize productivity impacts for each specific user group. Engage users in migration scheduling to help minimize the IT burden of missed and rescheduled appointments.
  4. Is endpoint data backed up? Are you sure? Many companies end up losing data during a tech refresh/data migration project. There are a few ways to reduce the risks of this happening. Don’t rely on user-driven backup (i.e., requiring users to back up endpoint data to an external server), as users can be unpredictable and error-prone. Don’t substitute cloud collaboration platforms for endpoint backup, as they fail to capture all endpoint data and can expose data to security threats. Do ensure automatic, continuous backup of all endpoint data—whether executing an in-place or wipe-and-reload migration. Finally, make sure to enable continuous data access for users while their primary device is migrated. Keeping the data on employee devices protected during migration can be critical to your business. According to upcoming research from Code42, security and IT leaders estimate that 39 percent of their organization’s data is held exclusively on endpoint devices. What would happen to your business if such a large percentage of corporate data was lost?
  5. How are you handling user settings and profiles? When people buy a new phone, their apps and settings migrate seamlessly to their new device. They expect the same with their laptop at work. Users get back to work faster when device settings and user profiles—the things that allow users to work the way they want to—carry over to their new machine. For a Windows 10 migration, leverage the Microsoft User State Migration Tool (USMT) to save and transfer user profiles and settings. Make sure your endpoint data backup integrates with USMT to back up user profiles and settings. Ensure the reload includes user profiles, eliminating the user and/or IT burden of reconfiguring settings.
  6. Will you deploy an in-place or wipe-and-reload migration? Choose the option that’s best for your organization. An in-place migration can be faster and easier on IT resources, but it may limit enabling the full suite of Windows 10 security features and may not be suitable for devices nearing the end of their life cycle. This user-driven approach is also prone to user error. A wipe-and-reload migration remains the best path to enabling all Windows 10 security features and can minimize post-migration IT costs. It can, however, result in data loss if it’s not paired with automatic endpoint backup. This method is also typically slower and more expensive than the in-place option.
  7. How scalable is your migration plan? Assess where your organization fits on this spectrum today—and where you’d like to be. Consider technologies that can help you move toward the next level. One-to-one migrations, where IT works individually with each user, place a heavy burden on IT. The process is slow and increases IT costs. One-to-many migrations—classroom-style, where IT migrates several users at once—have a lighter touch, reduce scheduling issues and costs, and speed enterprise-wide migration projects. User-driven migrations have hardly any IT touch and offer the fastest path to migrations, as well as the most convenience for users and the smallest hit to productivity.

Answering these seven questions before starting a Windows 10 migration can greatly reduce the cost and disruption of your project. Not all of the answers will come easily, but there is little downside to rigorous preparation and a lot to gain. As the great Spanish writer Miguel De Cervantes said, “The man who is prepared has his battle half fought.”