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Windows 11 for Small Business: What We Know So Far

As you may have heard, Microsoft has officially announced its new operating system, Windows 11. This is, appropriately enough, the operating system following Windows 10. Which, while expected, cannot be assumed since they skipped from Windows 8.1 directly to 10. More important than Microsoft’s naming policy is how this change will affect your business. Unless rounded corners or the ability to install Android apps will make you more productive, the announcement doesn’t mean much to you. But this update will be a significant thing you need to be preparing for.

Windows 10 will no longer be supported

Microsoft won’t support its operating systems forever. Microsoft no longer supports the popular Windows XP and Windows 7 operating systems, for instance. So while you can still use them, Windows will not issue any updates for them.

Many people ask why this is important. The tech news space constantly reports on botched Windows updates as it is. This makes it seem like updating your computer should be avoided. However, as I’ve previously written, keeping your computer updated is extremely important. Not only do these updates often include bug fixes and new features, but they also fix security vulnerabilities. The most straightforward task you can do to help protect yourself against hackers is keeping all of your devices and software up to date, and the most important thing to keep up to date is your operating system.

Windows 10 will reach end of life in October 2025. That means that unless Microsoft extends support after October 2025, you will no longer receive those security updates. Not only is this dangerous from a security perspective, but it also makes it challenging to keep compliant with PCI and HIPAA. Being caught out of compliance can mean a significant fine. Therefore, by October 2025, you should upgrade or replace any devices running Windows 10.

You’ll be able to upgrade to Windows 11 for free

The good news is that you’ll be able to upgrade from Windows 10 for free. The bad news is not all computers will be able to run Windows 11. Just over the past week, Microsoft has changed the posts system requirement for upgrading, and they have said it may change again. If you have a compatible system, whatever that ends up being, you should be able to upgrade by the beginning of 2022.

Microsoft is a little cagey about the system requirements because they are trying to focus on security. It is almost assured that Windows 11 will be able to run on systems that are not officially supported. But those unsupported systems are most likely older, less secure systems. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft will allow you to install Windows 11 on a less secure system, using a “soft floor” of recommended requirements and a “hard floor” of systems you won’t be able to use at all.

If you have a newer computer, you will most likely be able to upgrade. If you have an older computer, you may be able to upgrade. The best advice I can give at this point is to hope for the best, but plan for a budget allowing you to buy a new computer before the 2025 EOL deadline.

New computers should start rolling out this holiday season

Computers should start shipping with Windows 11 installed this holiday season. This is excellent news if you need to upgrade your machines by the 2025 EOL date. If your needs are a bit more immediate, this isn’t such great news. You don’t want to buy a computer just for it to hit end of life soon after, but you also can’t keep using equipment that doesn’t work. Since Microsoft won’t commit to a requirement list, you can’t be absolutely positive that Windows 11 will be supported.

Sooner than the holiday season, you should start seeing computers listed as Windows 11 compatible. Microsoft won’t commit to requirements to the general public, but they will let their partners that build computers know. If you buy a computer that is Windows 11 compatible from a well-known company such as Dell or Lenovo, you can rest assured that you will be able to upgrade your computer.

Android apps may increase your productivity

The biggest news coming from Windows 11 is support for Android apps. If you already have business solutions implemented in Windows, this probably will not be a big deal. However, more and more developers are taking a mobile-first approach to programming. As a result, many of the most innovative advances are coming in the world of mobile apps rather than on Windows. It also increases working flexibility. Instead of learning a completely different set of tools based on what environment you are working in, you can know one and use it everywhere. Phone, tablet, and PC can all use the same apps.

The downside to this announcement is that Windows is going to use the Amazon app store. If you have any of the Amazon Fire tablets, which run a modified version of Android, you know how lacking the app store can be. Notably missing are any of the Google apps, but many third-party apps also don’t bother with the Amazon store. Hopefully, the increased user base of Windows users will incentivize more developers to release their app on the Amazon store.

Microsoft has said you will be able to sideload apps. This involves going to a website and downloading an APK file, much like you download EXE files now to install Windows apps. This enlarges the pool of available apps but also has its own downsides. For one, it’s a lot harder to be sure the app you are downloading is legitimate. In addition, there are a lot of hacked apps out there that will infect your device with malware. The other major downside is the ease of updating. Since Android apps rely on the store to issue updates, it won’t be automatically updated if you sideload an app. There are ways around this, such as installing a different store, but you will be manually updating sideloaded apps for the most part.

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