Back in 2014 when Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would be the final version of Windows, many people questioned how this would work. Since that time, Microsoft has done an excellent job at keeping Windows 10 up to date by pushing out updates on a regular basis. These updates are used to add in new features, modernize interfaces, update security, and much more. While overall most people agree that the transition to Windows 10 has been a good thing, it has made managing updates much more important.
Microsoft does a good job at making sure that their updates will not cause problems for the vast majority of computers. Given the fact that there are endless different configurations of hardware and software that Windows 10 operates on, however, this can be quite a challenge. For business owners that rely on their computers being up and running at all times, this means it is critical to have a good strategy in place for managing the rollout of every Windows update. The tasks found on this page will help you to plan for every update that becomes available so that they can be installed without causing problems.
Implement an Effective Backup Policy
This step is important for every business, whether you are planning for Windows updates or not. Having an effective backup and data retention plan in place will allow you to recover from any type of problem with your computer systems much more quickly. While Windows updates generally do not cause major data loss, it is always important to have a way to recover should something go wrong.
3-2-1 Backup Strategy Best Practices (infographic)
Keeping a Calendar of Updates
Microsoft typically releases two major updates to Windows 10 per year. In between these larger releases, however, they push out many smaller updates and changes. New features and significant changes are reserved for the major updates, which will require additional planning. The smaller updates will typically only be patching bugs, updating security to address new threats, and other similar things.
Microsoft almost always announces when each update is going to become available well ahead of time. They also let everyone know how long they have to install the updates before it is required. Keeping a calendar of all upcoming updates will help you to plan out how and when to have them installed on your systems.
Checking for Known Conflicts
While rare, there are times when a Windows update will not be compatible with certain types of hardware. This may be because the hardware is to old and no longer supported, or it could simply require a firmware update in order for the hardware to operate with the latest version of Windows.
Hardware manufacturers will typically test their equipment for conflicts before the Windows update rolls out. Confirming that there are no known conflicts with the type of hardware you have is a critical step to take before installing any updates. This can typically be done by checking the support page of the type of systems your company uses.
Deciding When to Roll Out the Updates
Once an update becomes available from Windows, you need to decide when it is appropriate to have it installed on your systems. For some companies, installing the updates as quickly as possible makes sense because it will ensure they are using the latest patches, security updates, and features. This, of course, comes with the added risk of having problems that had not yet been discovered.
Other companies would rather delay the updates for several weeks, or even months, in order to let other people and companies verify that everything is working as intended. This will help you to avoid unexpected downtime related to problems with a new update.
Deciding when to install an update should be done on a case-by-case basis. For example, if Microsoft releases an emergency patch to protect systems against a newly discovered vulnerability, it is important to install it as soon as possible. On the other hand, an update that is just to fix a small bug with a Windows feature that your company never uses can be delayed as long as needed.
Creating an Early Release Team
For larger updates, one of the most important things you can do to avoid problems is to have an early release team. This will be people in your company that have the updates installed earlier than the rest of the employees. Having a small group of people install these updates will help to ensure everything goes properly for the update itself, and will also give them a chance to find any problems ahead of time.
The early release team will also be able to help provide any needed training to other employees when it is finally rolled out to them. In general, it is best to have your early release team consist of people who are comfortable with computers and will be able to test out all of the essential systems that your business uses.
Staffing for Major Windows Update
Once you are confident that everything is ready for a major Windows 10 update, and it has been tested by your early release team, it is time to schedule the full rollout to all your systems. In a perfect world, all employees would be well-aware of the upcoming changes, and everything would go smoothly. In reality, however, it is important that you are prepared for an increased number of reports of problems or complaints.
Having as many people as possible available to answer questions and provide support will help to minimize any downtime and frustrations that employees experience after an update. Taking steps to support the end-users will not only help to ensure the current update goes smoothly but will also build confidence for future changes.
The above-mentioned strategies will help you to streamline the rollout of all Windows updates (they can also be used for other system updates!) Simply putting these ideas into your policy, however, is not going to be enough. Since every company is unique, and every update is unique, it is important to constantly be learning from the process and making improvements for the future. Always look for specific ways that you can make your IT patching and updating process more seamless for your end-users.