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Windows 10 - An End of Year Review

Date Tuesday, 08 December 2015 Marc Whittingham , In: Technical

Windows 10 - An End of Year Review

Windows 10 has been out for a while now, and has not been without controversy. We have been using it here and there for review purposes, personal use, testing and various other functions, and are slowly getting into a position to offer our considered opinion on the utility within business environments.

The first thing to realise is that Windows 10 is an inevitability and, we suspect, something that will be forced upon people sooner rather than later (if you have not already experienced this). I think, in the context of past operating systems, the XP 10 year lifecycle will be shown to be a thing of the past. Windows 10 has already been downloaded, without user consent, onto many people’s hard drives so if, over the last several months, you have experienced a period of having a “slow” computer, you may well have Microsoft to thank for that as it has downloaded several GB of data onto your machine without you knowing.

One of the primary controversies surrounding Windows 10 (and now Windows 7 and 8 retrospectively) is that it has been shown to be “spying”, in several forms, on your activity through the use of “telemetry” and Cortana (the Windows version of Apple’s Siri ). This is not without truth, but perhaps is not as intrusive as some reports may lead you to believe. While it is true that your activity online, your shopping activity and various other activities, are monitored and used to direct targeted advertising to you, this is no more intrusive than activities undertaken by Google, Facebook and a multitude of other organisations.

It is also true that, despite claims that the data includes no “personally identifiable information”, and maintains that this is ‘only metadata’, the fact of the matter is that the data included in this tracking is more than enough to be personally identifiable when taken into context within the entire dataset, and subject to even a little basic analysis would fully identify you as an individual and associate you with your activity.

"Metadata is extraordinarily intrusive. As an analyst, I would prefer to be looking at metadata than looking at content, because it's quicker and easier, and it doesn't lie." – Edward Snowden

Given Microsoft’s affiliations with intelligence agencies, and the state of personal privacy in the US and UK as revealed by Edward Snowden, it is not inconceivable that this data could be shared with other organisations without your knowledge, as clearly indicated within Microsoft’s own End User License Agreement for Windows 10.

That said; to mitigate this there are several freely available applications designed to limit this ability (“Spybot anti-beacon”, “O&O Shutup10” and several others). Further, Enterprise N editions (available through volume licensing programmes) allow you to prevent the diagnostic service sending log information back to Microsoft. Further mitigating steps can be taken at a network level by blocking a list of URL’s and IP addresses that should prevent the majority of the logging from taking place.

Further controversy has arisen with upgrades to Windows 10 from previous versions of Windows causing Microsoft Outlook to break, requiring a process to be run on the machine to fix the problem, compatibility problems with legacy hardware and the usual set of issues that crop up whenever operating systems get updated.

However, visually and in terms of performance and many other aspects, Windows 10 is a good, solid operating system and, according to Microsoft is the ‘last Windows operating system you will ever own’, as Microsoft are planning to continually update Windows 10 rather than releasing further versions, in much the same way as Apple have done with MacOS X.

So – Windows 10 is an inevitability, with some privacy concerns, and not without some compatibility issues – which will most likely be ironed out over time. The question many business users will be asking is whether you should, as a business, upgrade; simply the answer is yes – definitely … and here comes the “but” … you should setup a single machine with Windows 10 and test ALL of your business applications and hardware, assess the implications of the above for your specific business, take necessary steps to mitigate against these and, if you are happy to accept the current situation, upgrade to Windows 10.

Blue Frontier have developed a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of Windows 10 and we are well placed to advise you on this, so please feel free to get in touch for further advice and assistance.

Marc Whittingham

Marc Whittingham

Technical Director

Our Technical Director, Marc, has been working at Blue Frontier since 2007 and is a major asset to our team. Recognised for his skill and hard work, Marc joined the board of directors in 2016. In addition to his role as Technical Director, he also holds the positions of Data Protection Officer, Quality Assurance Manager and Security Manager.