What will really impact IT in 2013?

Windows 8 was released at the end of October 2012.  And, as with any new operating system, you probably asked:

  • Should I upgrade to this?
  • What features does it offer?
  • What benefits will it give me?
  • What is the cost of implementation?
  • What is the downside?

 

Let’s answer these questions one at a time.

 

Should I upgrade to this?

In technology, there are no hard answers.  Businesses need to have a proper analysis of their IT environment to determine if changes need to be made.  There is also the early-adopter vs. late-adopter approach to technology… you are less likely to be comfortable moving to a new operating system if you are a late-adopter.

 

What features does it offer?

The number of upgraded features to Windows 8 could easily fill several of these monthly newsletters… here are the ones that are most important to the user…

 

The new desktop is user friendly and dynamic.  The tile-based grid interface will be extremely comfortable to those users who have used the iPhone or iPad interfaces.  A simple tap on the touchscreen or click of the mouse on your desktop opens the application.  Further, you can customize the grid by arraigning the application tiles, adding new apps, and removing unused ones.  The dynamic part of the desktop is that the tiles are able to display real-time information through the tile itself.  The weather app can update itself to show current temps, the IM tile can update with the most recent comment by a friend, and news apps can stream breaking news items and you don’t have to open the app… the tile simply displays the new info.

 

There is a new user account system that is linked to your Windows ID.  Windows 8 still supports the old user account system where your account is on a single device (e.g., desktop).  However, the new system pulls in information from SkyDrive, Xbox, Hotmail/Outlook and all of the cloud services that Microsoft offers.  A Windows ID linked account also syncs your Windows settings across all your Windows 8 devices… this means that your self-configured tiles on your desktop will be duplicated on your laptop, Windows phone, Surface tablet, etc.  These setting are easily changed so that if you have personal files on your laptop, you can easily tell the system not to sync these files to your work computer.  You can even log into someone else’s computer with your Windows ID and access all your synced files without downloading them to that computer.

 

Windows 8 has a really fast boot time.  Microsoft was able to do this by using a technique to hibernate the system kernel when you shut the computer off.   This “partial hibernation” creates a memory of your previous session and there is little waiting when you want your computer running again.

 

Windows Defender is back… and tossing out that upstart Windows Security Essentials.  Windows Defender is “baked” into Windows 8 meaning that the security is seamless and it automatically plugs whichever security gaps need filling… antivirus or anti-spyware.

 

File History… this can be a life saver for any enterprise.  Windows 8 keeps track of previous versions of your important files.  This built in function allows the user to retrieve accidentally deleted documents and corrupted files (such as pictures).  The only “gotcha” here is that you need to enable it and have a separate hard drive available (external, internal, or networked) as a backup location.

 

One hardware upgrade that will have everyone buzzing is the new native USB 3.0 connections.  This allows significantly faster data transfer.  Combine the USB 3.0 with the near field communication ability and sharing and communicating between devices has never been simpler.

 

Finally… for those of you who have kids who are constantly asking to use your tablet or laptop… the integrated Family Safety software allows parent to be proactive about their children’s online behavior.  This program monitors where the user goes and how long they spend there.  An activity report is sent to the parent; and, using this report, choices can be made about where the kids can go and what they can see.  Setting these levels of permission and changing the settings is extremely simple and user friendly.

 

What benefits will it give me?

The primary benefit of Windows 8 is the simplification of the IT eco-system in your enterprise.  The BYOD wave has created a complex and non-secure environment for your business.  There are security holes between different operating systems that you could drive a truck through.  IT costs are bounding upward as IT teams struggle to plug holes and support a myriad of different devices running different OS.  With Windows 8, each device runs the exact same operating system and are designed to work seamlessly.  This allows for much more difficult penetration of your security and lower costs for IT as each devices runs the same software and support is all in the same software environment.

 

What is the cost of implementation?

Again, there is no hard and fast rule about the cost of upgrading your environment.  A thorough assessment needs to be done in order to determine if the ROI is there for you.  However, one rule of thumb is that you should upgrade your software every three years to keep costs down, keep security tight, and take advantage of the advancements in productivity tools.

 

What is the downside?

This is probably the most critical question (along with cost) that each decision maker struggles with.  The main issue that most users are going to have to come to grips with is retraining.  Since the release of Windows95, computer users in the workplace have become accustom to the interface that Microsoft has offered.

 

One of the biggest complaints of Windows 8 is the lack of a Start Button.  The Start Button has been in the lower left of your computer screen for what seems like forever.  It is gone… but not really.  This is one of the retraining issues.  In Windows 8, when you are on the tile-page, you can still move your mouse to the lower left and right click to get a stripped down version of the start menu.  From here, you can look at Programs and Features, Control Panel, Power Options, Device Manager, Task Manager, and many others.  You can even Search from this hidden menu.

 

It is the small things like this that seem to frustrate some users.  However, once the user has adopted the new style, they will find that the new operating system is much easier to use, more stable, and responds much quicker.

 

Our conclusion…

Windows 8 is a game changer.  IT departments will want it for lower costs and better security.  Management will want it for its ability to “go anywhere” with the Windows ID functionality across the cloud.  Users will want it because (once they get used to the new interface) they will find that using different devices has become simple, easy, and similar regardless of the device they are using.