Warning – Embrace Windows as a Services now or feel the pain later
By Michael Trachtenberg, CTO, MDS
A recent trend has popped up where organizations are turning to Microsoft’s Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) as a means to not have to deal with staying up to date with Windows 10.
Why are organizations turning to the Long Term Servicing Channel - LTSC?
Microsoft recently changed everything we know about Windows updates for Win10 and has transformed it into a new Windows as a Service model. Microsoft now releases 2 major updates to Windows 10 each year, one in the spring and one in the fall, this is called the Semi-Annual Channel (SAC). There are still monthly patches that update security components, but they don’t add anything else. Once a device is on Windows 10 under SAC, that release is valid and supported up until 3 additional channel releases are released (approximately 18 months).
LTSC does not operate in this fashion. Windows 10 devices with LTSC NEVER receive feature updates but do receive the monthly security ones.
In a traditional sense that sounds pretty good to the IT team that wants to keep the OS as is for 3-4 years and not support changes or introduce anything new that would require additional support or reconfiguration of a very controlled desktop environment that has been meticulously cultivated and systematically delivered to a large user base. LTSC for the win!
So, IT professionals have gravitated towards LTSC believing they would make their lives easier as opposed to adopting what seemed like a major update\rollout process every 6, 12, or 18 months.
Why is this a bad idea?
LTSC was never intended for this use. As Microsoft has said from its release, LTSC is for purpose dedicated devices. Air traffic control systems, POS systems, medical equipment, or similar items that do not see people collaborating or working on them. Since LTSC was not intended to be used this way, basic items such as Microsoft Word and the Office ProPlus suite will not be supported. Yes that is correct, ProPlus (Soon to be the only way to deploy office) will not be supported on LTSC https://partners.office.com/news/article/announcing-changes-to-office-and-windows-servicing-and-support
Aside from Office, the Edge browser will not work on LTSC (No personal love lost there really) and a host of other Windows 10 features, and this trend will continue. LTSC will include and support less and less of what a productivity user uses because it is not intended to be used by a productivity user.
This is also a bad idea for the very fact that this practice is in direct contrast to the direction of the way the operating system is being developed. It goes against the entire idea of how the mobile OS world has already moved, and how IT professionals should be thinking. We should embrace the new Windows, warts and all (which I must admit this time around there are very few).
I am already deploying LTSC, what do I do?
1. Start reimaging those endpoints now for SAC. However far you got, start over as that is the only option. There is no method or process for converting LTSC to SAC or vice versa.
2. Take the time to really understand Windows 10 and come up with an actual Win 10 strategy.
3. Understand how to control, manage, and release the Windows 10 feature updates in SAC.
4. Remember you are a technology professional and you do not keep lights on, you innovate and embrace change, because tech is the fastest moving field in the world, and what we saw 6 months ago, isn’t how today is, nor will it be the same 6 months from now.
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