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Microsoft risks IT ire with Windows 10 update push

Ryan Faas | Nov. 9, 2015
Its OS-as-a-service could create headaches for shops used to a slower upgrade pace.

10 reasons you should not upgrade to Windows 10
Credit: PeteLinforth via pixabay

Microsoft has made it clear that it will take on a greater role in managing the Windows update process with Windows 10. The company has also made it clear that it will aggressively push users -- both consumers and businesses -- to upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8 to its latest OS. With that in mind, it's hard to image either predecessor hanging around anywhere near as long as Windows XP.

The decision to not only push updates out, but also ensure that all Windows 10 devices receive them in a timely fashion, fits well with the concept of Windows as a service. The change may even go unnoticed by many consumers. IT departments, however, are keenly aware of this shift -- and many aren't happy about it.

Managing Windows updates -- old vs. new

Traditionally, Microsoft has given IT the final word on patches and updates. While most departments do roll out critical patches and major updates, they do so on their own time frame and only after significant testing in their specific environment. This ensures that an update doesn't break an app, a PC configuration or cause other unforeseen issues. If an update is required that could introduce problems, IT can then develop a plan to address the issue in advance of deployment. Some updates might even be judged as unneeded and never get deployed.

With Windows 10, Microsoft is adopting a service-and-update strategy based on a series of tracks known as branches. In this model, both security and feature updates are tested internally and made available to Windows Insiders. When Microsoft feels the updates are ready for primetime, they're pushed to the Current Branch (CB). CB devices, predominantly used by consumers, receive the updates immediately through Windows Update.

Businesses and enterprises typically fall under the Current Branch for Business (CBB). Like CB devices, CBB hardware will be able to receive updates as soon as they are published, but can defer those updates for a longer period of time. The rationale for this extra time is two-fold. First, the updates will have received extra scrutniy because they have been tested internally, by Windows Insiders and by consumers via the CB so any issues will likely be resolved, or at least identified, during that time. Second, it gives IT shops time to test the updates and develop strategies to deal with potential problems before those updates become mandatory.

Complicating the situation: There are still unknowns about how IT departments will handle the CBB update cadence and process. Microsoft has yet to complete Windows Update for Business (WUB), a set of features and tools that will be made available to organizations that have adopted the CBB update pace. There is also the possibility of using other tools, including Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager (dubbed "Config Manager"), or a third-party patching product that can handle longer postponements.

 

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