Businesses small to large are evaluating their options for deploying the new Microsoft Windows 11 operating system, due in late 2021. For those organizations that already have Windows 10 PCs in their corporate IT mix, the prospect of rolling out a major operating system update in just a few short months can seem daunting.
Tip: Evaluate your organization’s PC hardware
There are two new system requirements in Windows 11 of which IT managers planning an upgrade should be aware: The first is that 4 GB is now the minimum amount of RAM your PC must have for Windows 11. The 4 GB RAM minimum is related to Microsoft’s shift to making Windows 11—and other Microsoft software—take advantage of 64-bit architecture. Users who have bought a new laptop in the past two years will likely think 4 GB is a small amount as most PCs from vendors such as HP, Dell, and more all come standard with 8 GB RAM. However, Amaxra realizes that there are legacy devices in use at small to midsized businesses (SMBs) with 2 GB of RAM and a 32-bit version of Windows 10. Maybe it’s a print server on the factory floor or in some cases it’s a Windows 10 tablet used for taking customer orders. The bottom line is that these devices with less than 4 GB RAM will be incompatible with Windows 11 and must have their RAM upgraded. If these older devices’ RAM can be upgraded but are still on a 32-bit Windows 10 OS, you cannot perform an “in-place upgrade” to Windows 11 on those devices. As such, you’ll have to back up all user settings, applications on that legacy device with a 32-bit OS first then install the pure 64-bit OS of Windows 11 on it as if this was a new device.
The other new system requirement for Windows 11 is cybersecurity related that IT managers should embrace: an embedded Trusted Platform Module 2.0 or “TPM 2.0” for short. The TPM 2.0 is designed to provide hardware-based cybersecurity for Windows 11 laptops, tablets, and desktop PCs. A TPM chip is a secure crypto-processor that is designed to store biometric user info and other unique identification data on your device for password-less security. Devices with a TPM can help IT ensure users of those devices are who they claim to be when accessing sensitive corporate data in the cloud from a remote location—which is a must have now that so many are working remotely in a hybrid working environment.
Although there are lots of other blogs and YouTube channels spreading fear about the lack of TPM, we think this is overblown. If your company has purchased any business-oriented Windows 10 device from a major vendor since 2019, then you likely already have TPM 2.0 installed. Amaxra consultants are all 100% remote with a variety of Windows devices that were purchased either by the company or by our employees as part of our “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy over the past four years (including a personal desktop PC that one of our employees bought from Costco more for a drone video editing hobby than for Microsoft 365 document creation) and literally all of those devices already had TPM.
Aside from TPM and memory, the good news is that most of the existing accessories and their associated drivers your organization currently uses with Windows 10 are expected to work with Windows 11. So, you generally don’t have to be concerned that your company-wide Windows 11 upgrade will break the Windows Hello-compatible webcams and new Bluetooth headsets your organization purchased for remote workers to use with Microsoft Teams last year.
Tip: Leverage the cloud for your Windows 11 upgrade
There are several tools that Microsoft makes available to IT managers and SMBs to simplify the rollout of a Windows 11 upgrade:
- Windows Autopilot– IT managers use Windows Autopilot as a centralized tool that automates the rollout of Windows 11. Think of Autopilot as a “one to many” distribution method where you install Windows 11 and all of the various business apps your employees use such as Microsoft 365 productivity apps, Microsoft Teams for collaboration, and more onto one PC that acts as a template for broad distribution to all devices
- Cloud configuration– While the Autopilot tool is best for on-site Windows 11 upgrades, the Cloud Configuration tool is great for IT managers to distribute the OS upgrade plus apps template to employees directly from Microsoft’s global secure cloud infrastructure. Amaxra recommends Cloud Configuration for SMBs that are very cloud-focused with limited legacy needs and have a significant number of remote workers
As previously mentioned, overall software application compatibility between Windows 10 and Windows 11 is excellent. With few exceptions, the applications your employees use on Windows 10 work on Windows 11. However, Amaxra still encourages IT departments to download Windows 11 “Insider Builds” from Microsoft to validate your most-used apps in your corporate environment—paying particular attention to the non-Microsoft apps to ensure that they function as expected on Windows 11.
Observation: Windows 11 upgrades on a post-pandemic corporate network
Even with verified-compatible PCs and cloud-powered deployment tools, upgrading the OS on every corporate PC is a big job. The prevalence of hybrid work policies in a post-pandemic world and distributed workforces means many employees never go into the office—which in turn means your company’s internal IT department will have to deal with the fact they might never have an employee’s laptop, tablet, or even desktop PC in hand to perform OS upgrades. Factor in a remote worker with spotty home internet performance and your IT department’s Windows 11 upgrade tasks just got much more complex. Faced with these circumstances, your organization’s IT department could be dreading the Windows 10-to-Windows 11 upgrade.
Amaxra’s early testing of a 100% remote corporate network where users have PCs running both Windows 10 Pro and Windows 11 have yielded no show-stopping issues. In terms of cybersecurity, Amaxra cybersecurity experts recognize in our testing that the secure boot and zero trust access afforded by the TPM hardware in Windows 11 will be significantly better than Windows 10. But we also think today’s Windows 10 PC with Microsoft 365 can be adequate for hybrid workers when configured with multi-factor authentication and other common-sense protections. Even though our testing is very early in the process when it comes to corporate app compatibility and IT management, we’ve found both Windows 10 and Windows 11 PCs work very well together so far.
So, if your organization has a hybrid or mostly remote workforce, an IT department with limited resources, and are dreading the Windows 11 upgrade process, we recommend consulting with a company like Amaxra that has real-world knowledge about avoiding the new issues of upgrading an OS in our brave new world.
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