QUESTION: I’m buying a new computer for my small business. Should I be considering Windows 10 Pro, or is the regular Windows 10 good enough?
ANSWER: At first glance, it’s easy to assume that Windows 10 Home is for home users and Windows 10 Pro is for business users, but that’s not necessarily the case.
The decision should be based on the differences in the features, the technical level of the user and the network environment in which it will be used.
The general functionality and user interface are the same for both versions, so the day-to-day usage will be the same. What Windows 10 Pro provides is additional tools that address security and system management.
Windows update for business
One of the biggest reasons that some people choose to pay the extra for Windows 10 Pro is for the control over Windows Updates.
Most Windows 10 users have experienced those inconvenient moments when an automatic update has to complete its process, causing your system to be relatively unresponsive.
In addition, updates gone wrong or compatibility issues, once an update has been completed, are frustrations that many have experienced.
In a business with a lot of users, these issues become amplified, so Microsoft allows a lot more control over when and which updates are installed in the Pro version.
Feature updates can be delayed up to 365 days, while operating system updates (security patches, critical items, etc.) can be delayed up to 30 days. This can provide critical time needed for testing the updates where older hardware peripherals or software programs are mission-critical to the business.
Another major difference in the Pro version is that it provides an encryption tool for your data files, which gives your business a higher level of security if a computer is lost or stolen.
Once the files are encrypted, they can’t be accessed unless you have the decryption key, which is seamlessly activated when you type in your password. This protects against attempts to access the files by removing the hard drive and connecting it to another computer.
There are free third-party encryption options, but none of them will be as tightly integrated in Windows as BitLocker, so it’s more user-friendly.
This type of security can be important, especially if your business has deployed a lot of laptops to their employees.
If your business has a lot of users that connect to a central server, the various management tools available in Windows 10 Pro are extremely valuable.
Tools like Remote Desktop, Group Policy, Assigned Access, Dynamic Provisioning, Hyper-V and Sandbox are all designed for larger corporate settings, but can be useful for individual users in some cases.
These management tools are most valuable to network administrators and IT managers as they do require technical knowledge to make use of them.
If you’re buying Windows directly from Microsoft, there is a big price difference, but if you’re buying a new computer pre-loaded with Windows 10, it can be less.
If you decide to switch from Home to Pro later, the upgrade will cost you $19.99. Even though you may not make use of the extra options today, having them available as your business evolves should be a serious consideration and will save you money in the long run.