Windows 10 - How was that for you?

by Liam McNaughton

Firstly, a congratulations to the staff at Dental IT Ltd who pulled this off. We had a lot of work in June and July to meet the deadline of the free Microsoft 10 upgrade, and we managed to nail this successfully. No-one got left behind! (Of those that actually wanted to take the upgrade). We could also be allowed some satisfaction that none of our customer networks suffered downtime or significant problems as a result of Windows 10. Whilst other IT suppliers were wailing about the "forced" Microsoft Windows 10 upgrades and disruption, in reality Windows 10 was only being pushed out where networks had not been configured properly in the first place. If you design networks to be like home networks rather than proper business networks, you can hardly be surprised when problems arise down the line. We were able to plan and implement the migration in a managed fashion, and the vast majority of updates took place out of hours to avoid disruption to customers.

Our recommendation to upgrade was clear (where it was technically possible and appropriate), and my sense that this was the right advice got stronger as we rolled this out to our customer base. Whilst there were technical difficulties that arose, there were very few major problems. Most customers took easily to the new interface; it does seem that, with Windows 10, Microsoft has struck the right balance between the look and feel of Windows 7, with the touch, mobile oriented and modern style of Windows 8.

The biggest surprise, however, was the general feedback that Windows 10 is noticeably faster than Windows 7; not only at startup and shutdown (which is a great deal quicker) but in general use as well. I think this payoff significantly helped with user acceptance of the change.

For the technically interested, I will discuss the main issues we had to work through (anticipated and not anticipated). The less techy could skip to the summary!

The biggest problem was third party software and drivers. We knew this was coming of course, and carried out extensive research to see what dental and other software would work with Windows 10, which would not work at all, and which required update to work. Respect due to SOE Exact, SfD, and DOIT - all of which worked on Windows 10 without any issues at all. Carestream R4 was more problematic, because this has "classic" and "Clinical+" versions, and only the latter will work with Windows 10. DI (Digital Imaging) software was, as so often, a whole other can of worms. Manufacturers in this sector are typically slow to develop new software and driver upgrades; some x-ray systems will still only work on Windows XP let alone Windows 10! Schick UK support were helpful as ever, and clear on what is and isn't supported. We were advised not to risk upgrade where Sirona hardware was used. Satelec's Scanora and Digora software worked depending on the version; this was also the case with Planmeca's Romexis, Duerr's DBSWin, and Vatech's Easydent. Vixwin and Carestream Imaging also needed modern versions. In some cases we left xray PCs on Windows 7 Pro whilst updating the rest of the network to Windows 10. Sooner or later DI manufacturers will need to catch up - it is no good selling the latest CBCT and other imaging hardware and not then providing ongoing development so that the business investment does not suffer in years to come. I imagine customers buying digital imaging hardware might reasonably expect it to last 5-10 years at least. But my experience suggests that some manufacturers effectively stop development just a few years from the product release - the customer is potentially left with a white elephant - hardware that cannot work with the latest operating systems, and is unsupportable.

Other issues were less significant, but caused some trouble. Printers that were shared from a PC generally lost the setup and had to be set back up again. Windows 10 installs a whole host of new programs that come with the Operating System that take over various functions, including picture viewing, handling PDFs, and the internet browser. And these were not always the appropriate application for our customers; so changing the default programs for customers had to be done with a lot of setups. Finally, we found that the hardware drivers installed by Windows 10 for various hardware - including printers and scanners and especially graphics cards, was not always the best, and this had to be changed in some cases.

With almost all new machines now coming with Windows 10, it really feels like Windows 7 is entering its twilight years. Whilst Microsoft are committed to supporting Windows 7 until 2020, I have no doubt that Windows 10 is where new development will be happening, and where IT business networks should be.

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