A guide for configuring Windows 10 small businesses and enterprises. Learn about versions, upgrades, features, and security here.
Since Microsoft discontinued Windows 7 support in January 2020, many businesses made the switch to Windows 10, ensuring they had the latest operating system to securely manage their programs, apps, and files.
With the latest performance and security features, Windows 10 continues to grow in popularity among small and medium business owners alike. However, there are still many businesses that are yet to upgrade Windows, despite Microsoft no longer supporting Windows 7.
Whether you’re a small business or an enterprise, this guide explores why Windows 10 is beneficial for businesses and how you can configure Windows 10 as your new operating system.
Key features of Windows 10 for business
There are many advantages to upgrading to Windows 10 across your business network. For example, Windows 10 allows easier access to Office 365 files and offers cloud storage through OneDrive. Most of the benefits available are due to the new operating systems’ key features.
One of the main features of Windows 10 is Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-controlled assistant software. Cortana can be a useful tool for companies as it can search Office 365 files, speed up data requests, access lost information, launch PowerPoint presentations, and more. Company-wide adoption of this feature could improve productivity through more efficient processes.
Edge web browser
Another perk of Windows 10 is the new Edge web browser. Integrated with Cortana, Windows 10 Edge browser allows users to search via voice control. You can also use Edge to annotate and store web pages on OneDrive. These annotations can then be shared with other users.
The Edge browser also features a ‘Reading List’ and a ‘Reading Mode’ function. The first feature syncs content between devices while the latter strips out the formatting to allow easier reading. While the Edge browser lacks some of Google Chrome’s features, it is fast and efficient and integrated into Windows 10.
Even better, the Edge Browser is also designed to defeat most web-based threats. While this is not a replacement for antivirus and antimalware, it is an added layer of protection, making Windows 10 a highly secure system for business users.
Microsoft also brought back the Start Menu for Windows 10 – a feature very much missed by Windows 8 users. When you open the Start Menu for Windows 10, two panels appear: the left column shows pinned, recently, and most-used apps; the right column displays a selection of tiles that users can customize, resize, and organize.
With all these features, the new and improved Start Menu for Windows 10 allows ease of access and organization for businesses while also allowing a safe level of personalization for employees.
Businesses can also benefit from Windows 10’s virtual desktop feature known as ‘Task View’, which allows you to easily switch between multiple desktops. This enables employees to effectively manage a multitude of open windows and apps while allowing them to enjoy extra screen space - this is especially beneficial for small businesses without multi-monitor setups.
The ‘Task View’ feature also allows you to access the Windows timeline, which shows recent activity in supported apps. This can be very useful for staff trying to navigate a particular web page or document, again improving efficiency across the business.
Besides all the functional and performance-boosting features, Windows 10 also offers Microsoft’s latest security features and is set to be the primary focus of its security efforts in the future. This means that regular patches and updates will be available, forming an essential part of a multi-layered security strategy.
What are the advantages of Windows 10 over other operating systems?
As a business operating system, it’s hard for older versions of Windows to compete with Windows 10. However, comparing Windows 10 with macOS for professional use is tricky as the operating systems are strikingly different in terms of performance, usability, security, and more. Below, we review some of the most common comparisons.
Windows 7 vs Windows 10
Both businesses and individuals alike favored Windows 7 for its familiarity and useability. However, as Windows 7 is no longer supported by Microsoft, technical support, software updates, and security updates will no longer be possible. This can leave your business vulnerable to data breaches and cyberattacks.
If the lack of software and security updates are not enough to persuade you to change from Windows 7, there are many new features and improvements for you to consider. For example, Windows 10 features a dedicated notification center, known as the ‘Action Center’, that organizes all notifications in one place. Notifications for Windows 7 on the other hand, would appear in the Taskbar and can be distracting to staff trying to focus on their present task.
Not only does the Windows 10 Action Center show notifications about important system information and emails, but it also features quick toggle switches for screen brightness, sharing files, network settings, and more.
The integration of Cortana for Windows 10 improves search experience as the voice assistant also searches the internet as well as any files to provide the user with helpful information.
Windows 8 vs Windows 10
One of the biggest complaints with Windows 8, as previously mentioned, is the lack of a Start Menu. Instead, it features a Start Screen with live tiles that are not so user-friendly on desktop or other non-touchscreen devices. Windows 10 Start Menu is more organized, allowing easy access to recently and most-used apps.
Windows 8 features touchscreen-friendly Windows Store apps, which are all full-screen and can be awkward to use on a standard desktop. With Windows 10, apps are run in a clear windowed mode, which reviews show are far more desktop-friendly. While Windows 10 is still able to run the touch-friendly apps created for Windows 8, it is better designed for desktop apps too.
Another major step up from Windows 8 to Windows 10 is the introduction of the new Edge browser. This replaces Microsoft’s long-standing web browser, Internet Explorer, and offers speedier browsing and a wider scope for extensions.
Windows 10 vs macOS
While it’s difficult to compare such strikingly different operating systems, there are a few standout benefits to using Windows 10.
While both systems allow you to create multiple virtual desktops, Windows 10 combines the desktop switcher with a timeline feature in the ‘Task View’ screen. This can be very useful if you're trying to navigate a particular web page or document.
In terms of security, both systems offer secure and advanced login options. For example, with macOS, you can sign in using your fingerprint if you have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar. With macOS, you can also log in with an iPhone or Apple Watch if they are within proximity to the computer.
The Windows 10 sign-in system, known as ‘Hello’, offers several biometric login options including facial recognition and fingerprint identification. For added security and simplicity, you can also sign in with Windows 10 via a PIN, security key, picture password, and of course, standard password.
There are many different versions of Windows 10 available, which can make it difficult to determine which edition best suits your business. To help you make an informed decision, here’s a quick summary of the key differences between the Windows 10 versions.
Windows 10 Home vs Pro
Windows 10 Home is the most standard version of Windows 10 and can be upgraded for free if your business is operating on Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1. Windows Home 10 is designed for computers, tablets, and 2-in-1s, and features Cortana, the Edge browser, a touchscreen-friendly mode for tablets, plus all of the biometric login options.
Windows 10 Pro is more tailored to small businesses, as it features extra security measures and device management options such as Windows AutoPilot. It also offers the same features as the Home edition and is designed for PCs, tablets, and 2-in-1s.
Some of the major security features of Windows 10 Pro include BitLocker (built-in data encryption), Remote Desktop, and more in-depth access to cloud technologies. If your business currently operates Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows 8.1 Pro for Students, you are automatically upgraded to Windows 10 Pro free of charge.
Windows 10 Mobile
As the name suggests, Windows 10 Mobile is best suited for smartphones and smaller, less fully-featured tablets. This edition offers great features for security and productivity, plus compatibility with desktop devices running Windows 10, but with a layout and functionality better suited for small touchscreens. It also features the Windows Continuum function, which allows you to use your mobile device like a fully-fledged desktop when you connect it to a large screen.
While this version may not be a good fit for businesses primarily operating on desktops, it could be useful for businesses or individual staff members who regularly use smaller devices, perhaps for remote working purposes.
Windows 10 Enterprise
Windows 10 Enterprise is designed for large companies that require a complex security system for a high volume of devices. This version offers all of the features of the Pro with some added capabilities. For example, Enterprise allows system administrators to block certain apps and pop-ups, secure intranet connectivity, and domain-based credential protection.
Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise
The Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise edition is suitable for large-scale businesses with staff that regularly use tablets and smaller devices as part of their day to day routine. It includes the same features as Enterprise with the useability of Windows Mobile.
Why Windows 10 is good for small businesses
Thanks to the main features listed above, such as Cortana integration and the ability to use virtual desktops, Windows 10 offers many benefits to small businesses, including:
Collaborative working capabilities
Efficient, user-friendly interfaces and processes
Easy deployment of new devices, when using Pro or Enterprise
Built-in protection and security to complement your antivirus software.
Another major reason is universality. Windows 10 successfully recreates the familiar Windows experiences for users, perfect for businesses used to working with Windows operating systems. The shift to cloud-based applications and storage such as OneDrive also enables businesses to access data easily and effectively.
With a variety of versions and editions available, the universality of Windows 10 ensures top-tier performance, usability, and security.
As mentioned briefly, improved security is one of the main business benefits of using Windows 10. Some of the many security features for Windows 10 include Windows Hello, Windows Defender, Secure Boot, and Device Guard.
Windows Hello offers several biometric login options, including facial recognition and fingerprint identification. Windows 10 Secure Boot and Device Guard helps prevent zero-day attacks and other exploits, while all apps from the Windows Store are trusted and signed.
Another base layer of security is the Windows Defender Device Guard, which includes both kernel-level and code integrity–level protection for processes and services. However, questions are still being raised about whether Windows Defender offers enough protection overall.
Compatibility with third-party security software
Ensuring online data is safe and secure is essential for any business, which is why having third-party software that secures all business endpoints is imperative. While it’s good to know Microsoft offers a realm of built-in security options, these tools can protect you and your business against malware, phishing attacks, Wi-Fi vulnerabilities, and more.
Windows 10 built-in tools can also be demanding to run and do not include broader features that could benefit a business environment, such as email scanning. This is why having extra protection against online threats is important.