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Should your business upgrade to Windows 11?

With Windows 10 reaching end-of-life in 2025, businesses may not feel it’s worth taking the Windows 11 plunge just yet – but a raft of new features might turn heads

Microsoft’s latest flagship operating system (OS) first hit digital shelves in October 2021, but businesses weren't too keen to upgrade to Windows 11 on day one, instead favouring a cautious approach. Given the good health of Windows 10, and seemingly little differences at launch, many questioned whether the upgrade was worth the time, notwithstanding the perceived risks in any major system upgrade. 

The fact Microsoft touts that 1.4 billion devices use both platforms each month means the tech giant still sees both Windows 10 and Windows 11 as very much in tandem in the market. Windows 10, however, has a concrete expiration date, and businesses will, sooner or later, need to take the plunge. There are a handful of reasons it might be too soon to upgrade to Windows 11, but several great new features and processes might tempt many as we tick over into 2023. 

Counting the costs of upgrading to Windows 11

The first reason to not upgrade to Windows 11 at this time is the sheer amount of friction inherent in moving your business’ systems over – at least if you’re doing it at scale. PCs and laptops need to meet a minimum specification that includes TPM 2.0 and secure boot support. Your bottleneck here is likely to be your motherboard or CPU. Make sure you check not only using the PC health check app – which Windows will remind you to use on the OS’ update screen – but also by  checking against Microsoft’s own lists of supported processors

If you’re having to shell out large amounts of money to spec out newer systems, then you may want to upgrade in waves, or commit significant budget towards a future upgrade. This will be less of a concern if you are working with a small number of machines, or if your equipment is ready to go. 

To get a better sense of where you might be on your journey, Microsoft recommends checking in with Microsoft Endpoint Manager to “understand your organisation’s compatibility at scale”. The tech giant has also provided a checklist to consider before you commit fully.

If you do decide to upgrade your device fleet, we recommend having a look over our best Windows laptops list, which will give you an idea of what's available.

Windows 10 still has legs until 2025

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This leads us to another reason why you may not want to change over to Windows 11 just yet. Microsoft is known for giving long lead times for final updates to its operating systems. Windows 7, which was released in 2009, saw its final update in January 2020. Windows 8.1 will follow in 2023 and Windows 10 won’t be phased out until 2025.

Although we’re mostly over the new operating system jitters – less early adoption catastrophes to see here – it’s understandable if you’re looking to wait. Maybe an app that’s core to your business processes isn’t fully compatible with Windows 11, like we saw with Apple’s M1 architecture. Perhaps, even, committing to an upgrade will involve your staff putting in valuable working hours they just can’t spare. There’s also the question of whether your business can commit to training staff up on the new operating system. For such businesses, it’s probably better to delay any mass upgrade until a medium-term timeframe.

Windows 11 will require a little getting used to

On training, many of Windows 11’s most obvious changes – to regular users anyway – are aesthetic and user interface (UI) based. A refresh in the way the Settings are organised and behave, the increased availability of focus tools that don’t require third-party interventions – like pomodoro timers – and a deeper integration and update of Microsoft Teams are all reasons your staff may either jump for joy, or yearn for previous iterations of earlier operating systems.

Even though adapting to change may come like second-nature to those more technically minded, many among us need a little more hand-holding when it comes to digital systems. Something as simple as the taskbar being centralised rather than justified to the left can throw a certain user out of the loop. Be prepared, like with any large-scale shift of this type, for a fairly substantial level of simple training to get people reoriented. Now, if your team is tech-savvy this is less of a concern, but buyer beware if your workplace employs a mix of people from all kinds of backgrounds and levels of technical aptitude.

Upgrading to Windows 11 means you’re on the front line of innovation

There’s something to be said for being on the bleeding edge of tech. Marketing overuse of that phrase aside, there is tangible value to knowing that you have the latest updates available for your operating system – in terms of feature upgrades and security patches. There are two major areas where the value of Windows 11 shines through: its user-side features and its tangible focus on security.

Newer features with Windows 11

There are a handful of exciting new features in Windows 11 that can improve your workflow and the day-to-day productivity of employees. The OS does have tangible quality of life improvements over its predecessor, including those as subtle as softening the noise environment. The dings and beeps that alert you to notifications, for instance, are much less harsh right out of the box. Focus and dark mode integrations, too, are a boon for users who are zeroed in on productivity, while increased security protections are bound to be a keen selling point for system administrators.

Microsoft also believes a deeper integration with tools like Microsoft 365, and power automate, will be a plus for those who choose to upgrade their systems. Windows 11 boasts a robust compatibility mode and the ability for some to even use select Android apps. If you’re concerned that an application may not behave as it is supposed to, Microsoft also suggests using their App Assure programme.

Better security with Windows 11

Unlike previous generations of the OS, Windows 11 requires the use of the TPM 2.0 framework and Secure Boot. This, in fact, seems to be one of the biggest blockers preventing businesses from upgrading to Windows 11, although it’s been implemented in order to add a guaranteed layer of hardware-level protection to systems making that jump. 

With the malware attacks in the first half of 2022 recorded at 2.8 billion – and with significant ransomware attacks and data breaches hitting a swathe of companies – it’s no wonder Microsoft is focused on integrating ‘security by design’. This is especially true for the way the company is attempting to market Windows 11. Part of that marketing includes better Windows Hello integration for business, although businesses will need to make sure users have the correct hardware to run the feature. Not just any webcam built into your laptop will allow you to unlock your device through facial recognition. There’s also the added benefit of integration with Microsoft Azure, an authentication platform, and a commitment to a process that adheres to zero trust. With people often touted as being the weakest points in a business’ cyber security posture, Windows 11 is designed to save its users from themselves. 

Ultimately, the shift from Windows 10 to Windows 11 mostly centres around evaluating whether the small quality of life improvements are worth the cost. Windows 10, indeed, is still effective, although Windows 11 offers a new wave of productivity benefits. Depending on what business you’re running, different niche changes – like a redesigned Windows store or an updated clock that allows for focus timers – might mark a significant change to your workflow, or might be irrelevant. The biggest plus, for all businesses, is a stronger security foundation, but if you’re happy with your current solution, and your CEO isn’t dying to have the latest and greatest, it may just be worth waiting a little longer to transition. 

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