Numerous federal agencies are in the midst of a major transition to the Windows 10 operating system (OS). And one thing is for sure – DoD CIO Terry Halvorsen is a big fan of the upgrade.
In fact, he was so positive in his comments regarding Windows 10 that a software trade group complained they constituted a product endorsement. Late last year, the DoD said they’d have roughly 4 million computers upgraded by the start of 2017.
The agency did not achieve that goal, but the prioritization was clear and the pace is now accelerating:
“Our stance was aggressive. That usually gets people’s attention,” says Randall Conway, DOD deputy CIO for information enterprise. “We’ve got everybody on board. Everybody understands the need, and they’re off and running.”
The reason for the excitement is that Windows 10 delivers an operating system that can better support federal security and mobility. For example, the Windows Defender anti-virus protection can run in tandem with other endpoint security solutions, and will disable itself if a competing AV product is added by the end user.
So unlike earlier versions of the OS Windows 10, it automatically protects itself from the moment it gets installed. And Windows 10 comes out of the box with “baked-in” security features such as secure boot hardware, TPM support, biometric authentication, conditional access and device health attestation.
Windows 10 also offers stronger support for post-breach detection and mitigation, something that has never been done before as a core operating system function. With government agencies constant targets of advanced persistent threats, this added security is critical for when a threat does slip through. Windows 10 provides this added protection through its Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection program, Advanced Threat Analytics and Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection.
Windows 10 supports the federal migration to mobile because it integrates smoothly with end-user computing (EUC) technologies such as VDI and application virtualization while maintaining traditional PC Lifecycle Management functionality. For the first time core functionality supports methods of virtualization by way of enterprise mobility management (EMM) and delivery technologies like application publishing that lend themselves well to workforce mobility and productivity initiatives. This means that agencies can apply the same virtual management and security philosophies to mobile devices running Windows 10–including laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Here are some important factors to consider as agencies prepare for the Windows 10 migration:
- Understand which applications won’t transfer
Many agencies have created customized applications that are compatible with an older version of Windows or older web browsers, and some of those apps may be mission-critical.
- Have a fall-back plan
When moving forward with a Windows 10 deployment, agencies should determine if, in instances where data cannot be transferred, they need to retain the data on the older Windows OS.
- Training – for both end users and support staff
In deployments like these, the human element can be the biggest challenge. There will be resistance and “change fatigue” – leadership must make clear this upgrade is a priority.
- Proper budgeting
Initially, moving to a new OS will leads to higher costs. These can be due to new licenses, labor costs for the migration, training and lost productivity during the transition. Yet since agencies typically refresh a percentage of their software annually, these higher costs can be contained, and the increased security and productivity should produce savings down the road.
Halvorsen’s comments may have raised eyebrows, but he’s hardly alone in his high opinion of Windows 10. At a recent cybersecurity conference federal CIO Tony Scott said to an interviewer he uses it on all his devices:
“I love Windows 10, actually,” Scott said, after the interview brought up Microsoft’s perceived security challenges. “It’s one of the most secure operating systems there is.”
Windows 10 is an important step in improving the federal IT posture around security, and better enabling productivity and flexibility for an increasingly mobile workforce. Agencies should look to the example being set by leaders such as Halvorsen and Scott, and prioritize this deployment.