For many IT pros, the words "Windows migration" induce more than a slight sense of dread as they consider all the desktops, laptops, servers, virtual machines and maybe even tablets they'll need to upgrade. Windows 10 installations recently passed 825 million, but that likely leaves over 700 million to go. There's another device category that IT departments must also pay attention to...embedded systems. Unfortunately, these devices often slip through the cracks of even well-planned OS migrations. That can be a big problem.
Hardware manufacturers have long used versions of the Windows operating system to run all manner of "non-PCs," such as point-of-sale (POS) terminals, ATMs, self-service kiosks, digital signage, industrial control systems, and even medical devices. As an old-school IT pro, I always get a kick out seeing Windows error messages pop up on the random screens I see as I travel.
Embedded systems running unsupported Windows systems are a security risk
Unfortunately, not all Windows OS problems are as benign as a few lost game tokens. Machines running older versions of the Windows operating systems are a significant security risk. Especially in critical areas like healthcare, where a May 2019 study by Forescout, found that many medical devices still run outdated or soon-to-be-outdated versions of Windows.
Inventory the embedded devices on your network: If you don't already have an accurate, up-to-date list of all the devices on your network, this is the place to start. And even if you do have a recent inventory, there's always a chance a user connected a rogue device to the network since your last scan. If your network management solution doesn't provide this capability, there are plenty of paid and free tools for finding out what's on your network.
Contact the technology vendor or manufacturer(s): Unfortunately, migrating the operating system on an embedded device can be more difficult than installing Windows on a traditional Windows PC. The devices often have legacy hardware and software dependencies that make upgrading to the latest version of Windows a challenge. In many cases, Microsoft says it's not possible to migrate directly from certain older version of Windows Embedded to Windows 10. Depending on the type of device and the service agreement your company has with the vendor, upgrading the operating system may be a task they must complete. You'll need to account for their migration plans as part of your overall migration strategy.
ZDNET'S MONDAY MORNING OPENER: The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.