Back in May before Windows 10 was generally available, Microsoft executives promised a new set of features for the new OS that would make life easier for business users—particularly corporate IT managers.
This was important at the time if only because Windows 8.1 was almost universally ignored by business users. Finally, it seemed, the company had gotten past its fascination with touch screens and was paying attention to the boring but critically important business users with their mice and keyboards.
But when Microsoft released Windows 10, those promised features were nowhere to be seen. What PC users got was an OS that was more stable than pretty much everyone expected.
However, the new operating system contained some things that IT managers really hated, including mandatory updates with no good way to test them before they were implemented on their systems. But, once again, Microsoft executives promised that those much needed business features would arrive with the next major upgrade.
This time it happened. Microsoft has released what’s generally known as the November Update, but which Microsoft calls Version 1115 (for November 2015). This new system upgrade began showing up via Windows Update on Nov. 10, but because of the size of the update and a number of other factors, not everyone will have it right away.
In fact, my calls to some Windows business users have yet to reveal any who have received and installed the new version of Windows 10.
Windows enthusiasts will be happy to know that the new version of Windows 10 does a lot to tweak the interface and to add some new capabilities. The Edge browser has become more useful.
Some menus have changed, and you can now change the colors of the top border from the default white. Microsoft says that the Cortana digital assistant has become smarter, but that’s not a very high bar to clear.
For IT, the important changes are inside the covers. Perhaps the most important for day-to-day use is that administrators can now delay Windows updates so that they have time to test them before installing them.
Depending on your settings, those delays can last as long as eight months. Administrators can also set delays so that they wait until busy periods, such as holidays for retailers or tax time for accountants, are over. Windows Update for Business can stagger deployments, create device groups and scale deployments to minimize the impact on the business.
It’s worth noting that some updates, such as critical security updates, will take place automatically, regardless of the setting.
Microsoft Delivers Promised Business Features in Windows 10 Update
Windows Store for Business is also here, and it offers a version of the now familiar app store with applications from Microsoft and third parties that are intended for use in business and enterprise settings.
In his blog post announcing the new upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft Executive Vice President Terry Myerson also provided insight into several other features important to business. One of those, mobile device management, might not be especially useful because it appears to only support Windows mobile devices, which don’t have large installed bases so far.
But some of the other changes could be very important indeed. One, an anti-breach feature called Credential Guard, prevents the hash passing frequently used in data breaches. This feature keeps credentials in a hardware-based virtual container that’s supposed to thwart a number of breach attempts.
A related feature called Device Guard uses a trusted boot process that is designed to prevent bad guys from installing malware that persists after a reboot. Myerson also pointed out that Windows Hello, which is a biometric identification feature, means users can do away with passwords.
Larger IT environments may find the new Azure Active Directory Join useful for maintaining a single directory and giving users a single sign-on. AAD will also allow users to shift their system settings and data across all of their Windows 10 devices, according to Myerson.
Myerson also announced that Microsoft will release a new enterprise data protection feature that separates corporate and consumer data. Enterprise data protection is currently in limited testing and will be released to a broader test regimen later.
What may be the most welcome news for some IT shops that have been delaying a move to Windows 10 due to security concerns is that Microsoft is now allowing enterprise users to turn off all telemetry data if they choose.
Myerson said that the company hopes these shops won’t do this because they need the data to make Windows “more delightful.” But for organizations where security is paramount, this change is critical.
The November upgrade contains much more than what you’d normally find in a Windows Update. It effectively replaces your Windows 10 installation with a new one and in the process improves security and performance. The download is huge—about 3 gigabytes—and the process takes a little while. But when you’re done, you seem to get a lot for your trouble.
I’ll detail the changes in a future column, but for most business and enterprise users, this new version of Windows 10 should be very welcome news. Maybe now is the time to make the move.