Choosing a Windows release branch

Windows 10 was first released back in 2015 and with it came two release branches. At the time of release, they where called Current Branch and Long Term Servicing Branch. Both of which later changed name to Semi Annual Channel (SAC) and Long Term Release Channel (LTSC) respectively.

There is still debate online on if you should deploy LTSC releases as the primary version in an enterprise environment. The general thought behind this is sound, as it includes arguments such as “we get longer support” and “there is less wierd/consumer stuff in it”. As I often end up in these discussions with organizations, even if they are not as common they still happen. There are a couple of things you should consider before you even think about running LTSC.

What about Office / Microsoft 365 Apps

The first point to address is generally Office / Microsoft 365 Apps. More and more organizations have already or are moving to Microsoft 365. IF! you are going to be using Microsoft 365 Apps, this becomes a important point. Microsoft changed the usage rights permissions for ProPlus and LTSC making ProPlus unsupported on LTSC. More details can be found here https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/windows-it-pro-blog/changes-to-office-and-windows-servicing-and-support/ba-p/151509

Office 365 ProPlus

What about hardware

The second point to quickly become a question is on what hardware to run on. Let’s assume you picked LTSC 2016 to run as your primary version, officially this has 10 years of support so given todays date, you are still supported. However the devices you can now buy are no longer tested and nor supported by the hardware vendor on that version of Windows 10. As all hardware vendors are keeping up with the new release cadence, which also means they will drop support for older versions as soon as they can.

To get any sort of stability using LTSC you would need to pre-buy and stock all the devices you are going to need over the next 2-4 years. Now don’t get me wrong, I have customers who are doing this with great success. But for them it doesn’t matter if the devices is slightly older when its put into production. As a contrast, try giving your C-level staff a 3 year old device and see how happy they are when comparing devices at the golf course.

What about features

One a third note, I often hear “we don’t need new features”. My first question is then “Who is we?”. The general response is either our users don’t know how to use the new features or the IT persons I’m talking to says “I don’t use them”.

In the first case, the answer is not you don’t need new features the answer is you need to educate your users. This can be a simple video, a short guide or a simple picture showing a new feature, making the users more productive.

When I hear the second case I get a bit frustrated. I really could not care less if YOU need a new feature or not. In most organizations the IT staff is not the people generating money for the organization. The only ones we really should care about is the productive staff and they can really use new features. It helps them do a better or faster job.

What about security

With more and more security breaches every year. Opting out of new security features is overall a terrible idea. Granted there are some features that may be difficult or very time consuming to implement. But if you opt to use the LTSC version you will also always be limited to which security features are available to you.

This tends to lead to a less secure environment and making you a more likely target for threat actors. Don’t be the person to make that your reailty!

Summary

Picking the right release branch should for most organizations not be an issue at all. Most organizations should use SAC and not even have a discussion about it. There are of course scenarios when LTSC is the right choice. The primary example of the correct time is machinery with a PC connected. It’s not really a PC anymore, it’s just a part of the machine. It will also stay the same way for the next 5 years.

Always think through your decisions through. Don’t pick something because someone is lazy!


By Peter Löfgren

I am a positive, hands-on, consultant with a passion for innovation who thrives on opportunities to be on the cutting edge of technology. Splitting my time between trainings, workshops, and consulting has allowed me to gain unique insight and perspective for my clients. My 10+ years of expert Windows knowledge and experience allows me to guide my customers to achieve new client platforms. By using all new Microsoft technology, I help my customers build and maintain production solutions for years to come.

Some of my notable accomplishments are:
Being chosen to present at Tech Days
Being a trusted advisor for US companies
Deployed a new platform for a large bank in Sweden