It's no secret that Windows 8/8.1 was a dismal failure when it came to businesses adopting that version of Microsoft's OS, which debuted back in October of 2012. A 2014 Statista report showed lackluster adoption rates of Windows 8 compared to 7. And after 15 months, Widows 8 only grabbed slightly more than 10 percent of the market.
Most saw the operating system as a negligible upgrade from Windows 7 that brought nothing new or innovative to the table. Migration issues, lack of functionality for old or proprietary hardware and a steep learning curve were just some of issues that hindered business migration. (We're not even going to go into the Start Button fiasco.)
While Windows 7 is still the most widely used OS for small businesses, Windows 10 comes in at a strong second and is continuing to rise, according to Net Market Share. That's likely due to the fact that Windows 10 actually fixes 8.1's shortcomings. Before your small or medium business makes the transition, you'll need to decide which version of Windows 10 is better suited to handle your overall needs and applications.
There are nine versions of Windows 10: Home, Pro, Education, Pro Education, Enterprise, Enterprise LTSB, Mobile, Mobile Enterprise and several IoT versions. However, Home, Education, Mobile and the IoT versions lack a few features businesses tend to rely on, including some security and management applications. Therefore, we will focus on the two top contenders that have a focus on business: Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise.
Windows 10 Professional
Windows 10 Pro, which is a bit more tricked out than the Home system, is a great solution for small businesses looking to upgrade their outdated OS with increased functionality and features. It provides everything from an easy migration process to increased security and everything in between. Deployment, upgrading and migration are easy and can be done using the Windows 10 MDT (Microsoft Deployment Toolkit) or ADK (Assessment and Deployment Kit), which can be used to create reference images (via Windows Imaging) or as a complete deployment platform via domain controller and server.
Windows 10 Pro productivity and management features are attractive to businesses as well. Most notable would be the Universal Windows app functionality that allows for apps to be accessed from multiple devices. In fact, Windows 10 Pro comes with slim-downed versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and OneNote, all of which can be accessed and shared between devices without the need for multiple accounts. Group Policy management, Business Store and the ability to join Microsoft's Azure Active Directory, which lets users access cloud-based apps, all use a single login.
On the security side, Windows 10 Pro is equipped with new features, including VBS (Virtualization-Based Security), which isolates certain parts of the OS from being modified by viruses or malware. Additionally, Microsoft kept its popular encryption app, Bitlocker, which allows users to encrypt hard drives and removable storage devices using several authentication modes. Microsoft also included Windows Hello, which uses biometric data (fingerprint and facial data) along with a simple pin code to grant access to the OS and subsequent applications (for local use only).
The user has a few other security tools for their protection: Passport (single sign-on authentication), Credential Guard (protects authentication broker and user credentials), Device Guard (protection for applications and scripts) and Enterprise Data Protection (provides persistent file-level encryption and basic rights management). This version of Windows 10 will set you back $199 (direct from Microsoft) for a single license; however, Volume Licensing programs are also available for five copies and up, starting at $187 per user/per year totaling $935 per year.
Windows 10 Enterprise
Windows 10 Enterprise is nearly identical to Pro in terms of feature set and functionality. It targets medium to large businesses, and Enterprise can only be distributed through Microsoft's Volume Licensing program. The OS actually requires a base-installation of Pro, as well. As far as prices are concerned, 10 subscription-based licenses for Enterprise cost $130 per user/per year, translating to $1,300 per year.
That being said, Enterprise does have several additions that Pro does not offer. The shining difference would be DirectAccess, which allows remote users to access an internal network over a VPN-like system that instantly establishes a bi-directional connection when connected to the internet. Enterprise also has AppLocker, which allows administrators to restrict access to certain apps on any number of devices, essential for any company with a mobile workforce.
Several features build on to the security set in Enterprise. Managed User Experience lets you manage everything connection settings to user accounts, and Microsoft Application Virtualization manages app virtualization and streaming, while Microsoft User Environment Virtualization provides virtual device migration using the same OS settings.
Bottom Line: Which is Better?
Both Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise will work for both small and medium businesses with the only difference being the additional security and IT features the latter offers. Keep in mind, your business does not need to use the additions inside Enterprise to use the OS. Both are strong on deployment and migration, both offer the same functionality in terms of application and management, and they both can be used over multiple devices.
Small business is often less formal, and many smaller organizations would benefit from starting with the Pro version, since most do not need the large server-based networks that bigger companies and corporations rely on. For these small businesses, it makes more sense to upgrade from Pro to Enterprise once they expand and grow, needing intense security measures in their operating system to go along with their new-found success. This makes the Volume Licensing route more attractive, and Enterprise actually becomes cheaper when more licenses are needed.