The biggest threat to infrastructure and productivity in any organisation using Windows 10 in the workplace is a lack of forward-planning or awareness around the product support lifecycle.
End of life (EOL) is just around the corner for businesses running on Windows 10 Enterprise & Education editions on Version 1607, with the extended 6-month support period officially ending on April 9, 2019 and the key question still remains: Does your business have a plan to ensure your upcoming Windows 10 servicing is seamless?
EOL marks the end of support for unsupported versions of Windows 10, meaning no more automatically delivered bugfix patches, security updates, or customer service.
With monthly updates and cumulative patches, it can be easy for Windows 10 Enterprise users to unintentionally forget about looming EOL dates without a managed services partner in place to keep you ahead - and we often see businesses put off necessary upgrades due to application and workflow dependencies. And yes, while your Windows 10 environment won’t abruptly stop working after the support period expires, the potential operational consequences of preparing too late can be problematic.
Higher operational expenses: Costs for your applications and workloads running on unsupported versions of Windows will potentially rise, and you'll have to invest in other complex workarounds just to keep them online, secure and functional past the EOL date.
Miss out on new software features and improvements: Those shiny new capabilities and that helpful bugfix patch everyone’s talking about? You’ll miss out on them without updating to the latest version, potentially stifling workplace innovation and efficiency.
Security and viruses risk: If your devices are out-of-service, you aren’t getting those convenient, automatic security bug fixes and updates delivered to your machine direct from Microsoft - meaning your workplace will face unnecessary security risk and higher vulnerabilities to malware, unforeseen bugs and random system lockups.
In this article, we briefly explain how the modern era of Windows servicing - also known as Windows as a Service (WaaS) - works, hows its heavily streamlined model makes it easier to prepare for EOL scenarios, and how combined with the right managed services partner, businesses can keep their Windows 10 workplace updated seamlessly.
What is Windows as a Service (WaaS)?
Windows as Service (WaaS) is essentially the new, heavily streamlined way Microsoft now update and service our Windows 10 workplace environments.
In the past, Windows updates were delivered to us every three to five years. With WaaS and Windows 10 Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) model now governing the update life cycle, businesses receive continuous updates for Windows 10, categorised as two distinct types: feature updates and quality updates.
Feature Updates: Also referred to as versions or upgrades, these updates are delivered in March and September each year and contain new capabilities and functionalities for the Windows 10 operating system - for customers facing EOL in April 2019, that would be Version 1607 (Anniversary Update), which is over 3 years old.
Quality Updates: These are the cumulative servicing updates that are delivered to our OS monthly to provide our workplaces with the latest bug fixes, security patches and stability updates that ensure Windows 10 devices remain reliable.
Each feature update is cumulative and builds upon the update that preceded it; you must install the latest update before your current version reaches EOL to ensure you are properly supported by Microsoft and have all the new features and fixes. Each feature update is also backed up by regular quality updates for 18 months after its original release, meaning the general servicing dries up too once the end of service date occurs.
Why staying current with Windows 10 and WaaS is important
While April 2019 is still a few months away, any business unfamiliar with WaaS or without an Windows servicing plan in place face unnecessary business risk and stress.
There are many self-explanatory reasons to stay on top of your Windows as a Service feature upgrades in order to avoid complicated, last-minute update deployments.
Improved management, performance and stability
Enhanced security against modern threats and zero-day attacks
Latest hardware support from Microsoft
Automatic Microsoft 365 application updates
Many widely available use cases have demonstrated it takes months to properly test business-critical applications and pilot feature upgrades before rolling them out across the organisation - don’t fall into the costly and completely avoidable trap of leaving it too late to properly prepare your organisation.
Common pain-points of being unprepared for Windows 10 EOL
For starters, updates aren’t guaranteed to always work on all devices, and your Windows 10 devices may not be able to receive updates if it’s incompatible, lacking the right drivers, or it is outside the original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM) support period.
While Microsoft has made clear improvements with WaaS and the Windows 10 Semi-Annual Channel (SAC), ensuring organisations using Windows 10 get both cumulative updates and feature updates (new versions) delivered to their devices far more smoothly than in years past, keeping up with all these new updates, terminology and unannounced changes to the Windows Lifecycle fact sheet is a complex task that requires ample research and preparation long before the EOL date is on the horizon.
That’s also not factoring in when certain WaaS feature updates, like last year’s Windows 10 October 2018 Update (Creators Update) don’t go according to plan - and end up being delayed due to mass system instability and file deletion fiascos for those unlikely to update without external support to guide them through unforeseen problems.
The reality is even with the new, improved and streamlined Windows as a Service model helping non-IT users understand Windows 10 servicing easiers, problems still occur. Drivers might not work, hardware might be incompatible with new versions, critical applications might require compatibility updates themselves, while in the worst cases like the Creators Update, system corruption can abruptly ruin plans if you’re not thoroughly prepared as an organisation for every potential IT nightmare scenario.
How can Managed Services help with WaaS?
To ensure a successful upgrade to the latest Windows 10 version and enable continuous updates and patching capabilities, you need to remain intimately familiar with the WaaS process and equipped with the right intellectual properties that deliver a smooth upgrade experience.
Managed Service Providers (MSPs) take away the stress of facing end-of-life challenges with Windows 10. They provide an extra layer of support whenever your business faces the next looming EOL deadline, and are particularly helpful for organisations that need a seamless upgrade or need it to be handled by an external partner.
Waiting long periods without new features no longer has to be the default scenario. If your business would like assistance in preparing for Windows 10 EOL and ensuring you stay current, or you just need more assistance in understanding how Windows lifecycle servicing works, Xello can guide you through the in’s and out’s of WaaS.