All posts by Heather Bicknell

How Can IT Teams Catch Incompatibilities Before Systems Are at Risk?

Millions of PCs currently running Windows 10 will lose feature support in 2018 due to incompatible drivers according to ZDNet. The issue affects systems with certain Intel Atom Clover Trail processors that were designed to run Windows 8 or 8.1, but were offered free OS upgrades as part of Microsoft’s Windows 10 push. The support loss is due to incompatibility with the Windows 10 Creators Update and the devices in question will not receive further Windows 10 updates from Microsoft as of the time of this writing. [Update: As reported by The Verge, Microsoft has said that the devices will continue to receive security patches through 2023, but will not be included in feature updates.]

The affected PCs are consumer-level devices and enterprises are therefore unlikely to be impacted by this loss. However, there is no guarantee that other devices won’t lose support due to similar circumstances in the future. The ZDNet article cites Microsoft’s device support policy for Windows 10 that contains a footnote stating, in part, “Not all features in an update will work on all devices. A device may not be able to receive updates if the device hardware is incompatible, lacking current drivers, or otherwise outside of the Original Equipment Manufacturer’s (‘OEM’) support period.”

Determining the hardware specifications of a system is easy on the individual level, but how can companies ensure that their employees aren’t at risk of continuing to run unsupported hardware now or with future Windows 10 updates?

A workspace analytics solution, such as Lakeside Software’s SysTrack, collects and analyzes data about systems and user behavior that fast-tracks the discovery process. With this functionality, IT can easily answer questions such as whether any of the unsupported Intel Atom processors are running on their Windows 10 systems.

SysTrack view of Intel processors on different systems in an environment

As we’ve seen with recent ransomware outbreaks, running an unsupported version of an OS puts systems at greater risk of attack. Upgrading incompatible hardware in your environment before it loses support will likely be a critical part of Windows 10 management strategies moving forward.

Assess Your Environment’s Compatibility with Windows 10

2017 Commuter Challenge Win

For the past several years, our Ann Arbor office has enthusiastically participated in a Commuter Challenge, where employees of downtown businesses compete for prizes by logging alternative commutes throughout the month of May. In previous competitions, we were neck-and-neck for first place with other medium-sized organizations, but this year we’re happy to announce that we’ve finally brought home the win! With 100% participation, our employees biked, walked, bused, carpooled, and telecommuted to the tune of 1,773 miles traveled, 27,917 calories burned, and 684 total trips with an average of 27.4 per employee. Good job, team!

A big thank you to the Ann Arbor getDowntown Program for organizing the challenge and to Tíos Mexican Cafe for catering.

GetDowntown has reported a record year for the Commuter Challenge, with 2,474 participants from 280 organizations, in total saving 133,400 lbs of CO2 and 323,400 car miles. Congratulations to the other winners and to everyone who participated!

What You Need to Know About GPUs for Windows 10

Dedicated GPUs aren’t just for gamers and designers anymore. The modern workspace is experiencing increasingly vivid and interactive software that is challenging entrenched beliefs about the nature of corporate work. Back in the day, IT supplied users with hardware and software that far exceeded anything employees interacted with in their off-time. The field has changed, and now users are the ones setting the pace for technology needs and adoption. Virtual assistants like Cortana have piqued user interest in AI and intuitive software experiences, which users now expect to follow them across locations and devices. Business leaders are looking to harness this evolving demand to accelerate the implementation of technology with the aim of enhancing employee engagement and performance.

We see growing awareness of this shift in conversations with our clients, who are looking for smarter ways to manage hardware and software transformations. One of the most discussed projects in this space is Windows 10 adoption. Many CIOs have yet to upgrade their users to Windows 10, but are gearing up for a transition in hopes of improving end-user experience and productivity. While we’ve been talking to IT professionals about the differences between Windows 7 and Windows 10 since the Windows 10 launch in 2015, recently we’ve noticed an uptick in questions specific to graphics requirements. “How will my Windows 7 users be affected by Windows 10 graphics demands?” is a fair question, as is “What can I do to prepare my VDI environment for Windows 10?” We knew that the user-focused features available in Windows 10 would demand increased GPU usage, but to answer the question of degree, we turned to data supplied by our customers to achieve an accurate view of graphics needs in Windows 10. Our analysis of customer data focused on GPU and CPU consumption as well as user experience, which we quantify as the percentage of time a user’s experience is not being degraded by performance issues.

Key findings from our assessment include:

  • The amount of time users are consuming GPU increases 32% from Windows 7 to Windows 10
  • Systems without dedicated GPUs show higher average active CPU usage
  • Windows 10 virtual systems with GPUs consume 30% less CPU than those without

  • Presence of a dedicated GPU improves user experience with either OS on both physical and virtual machines

Overall, we found sufficient evidence to recommend implementation of discrete GPUs in both physical and virtual environments, especially for Windows 10 virtual users. Shared resources make the increased graphics requirements in Windows 10 potentially damaging for VDI because high CPU consumption by one user could degrade performance for everyone; however, we found that implementation of virtual GPU could allow IT to not only avoid CPU-load issues, but actually increase density on a server by 30%. Scaled, increased density means fewer servers to purchase and maintain, potentially freeing up resources to direct towards other IT projects.

Whatever stage you’re at in your Windows 10 transformation or other software projects, SysTrack can help you anticipate your users’ graphical needs. As developers continue to release software that enables users to have greater flexibility and creativity in the way they work, IT teams will need to ensure that users have adequate tools at their disposal to power a tech-charged workforce.

Ask SysTrack: Be the Hero Your End Users Deserve

Citrix Synergy was once again a resounding success for us at Lakeside Software. We relished the opportunity to engage directly with industry insiders, to answer your insightful questions, and to witness the field of exceptional products showcased at Synergy this year.

We are excited to announce that the editors of TechTarget’s SearchVirtualDesktop.com™ have selected Ask SysTrack as a Best of Citrix Synergy 2017 Awards Finalist in the Desktop and Application Delivery category. This award is a continuation of the positive feedback we’ve received since launching Ask SysTrack last year, and we are proud that the hard work we’ve put into delivering this feature has paid off as real utility to users. After all, a mission of any workplace analytics software should be enabling detailed forensic capabilities for IT without sacrificing ease of use.

The concept behind Ask SysTrack is simple: modern users can answer virtually any question through an Internet browser search—why shouldn’t the answers behind how a computer is performing be just as easy to find? For too long, IT has had to fumble around any new monitoring software to access the views they need to manage their environment. What’s the point of delivering great metrics if they’re impossible to locate? Ask SysTrack comes to the rescue by offering an intuitive, natural language search capability powered by IBM Watson cognitive services.

With Ask SysTrack, you can easily find answers to important questions, such as

  • How are my servers performing?
  • What is the health of my users?
  • What are the critical errors of [insert system]?

The enthusiastic response we received after offering this user-friendly search capability inspired us to expand Ask SysTrack to integrate with our partners earlier this year. At Citrix Summit, we unveiled our plugin integration with Citrix Director, which allows users to answer Citrix-related questions through the Ask SysTrack interface. The plugin also displays SysTrack information within the Director Interface, including a user experience trend chart that shows what quality of experience users have been getting in relation to the data presented in Director.

The plugin effectively links SysTrack with Citrix Director to make it easy for IT to find the answers they need in order to efficiently oversee their environment. Ask SysTrack helps drastically cut down on the time between a performance query and meaningful action, facilitating proactive monitoring and ultimately improving end user experience.

We are encouraged by the positive response that Ask SysTrack for Citrix Director received at Citrix Synergy 2017 and we are continuing to explore further Ask SysTrack possibilities. IT is often the unsung hero behind any great enterprise; reveal your true powers and start using Ask SysTrack today.