Windows 8.1: Are You Ready to Switch?

Is it finally time for small businesses to migrate to Windows 8? With the Windows 8.1 update currently in preview and expected to ship in October, many small and mid-sized businesses should be asking this question.

If you’ve been putting off a move to Windows 8, here are three reasons why you may want to make the switch once Windows 8.1 is released.

3 Reasons for a Windows 8.1 Upgrade

1. More Desktop-friendly

One of the criticisms leveled at Windows 8 when it first launched last year was that desktop users found its tablet-centric approach jarring and counterproductive. This hit businesses especially hard, given that the majority of workers spend a significant amount of their time working at their desks.

Microsoft responded to that criticism by making a number of tweaks in Windows 8.1, such as allowing Windows 8 to boot directly to the desktop and by adding a Start button. The Start button makes it easier for mouse-wielding desktop users to jump to the new Windows Start page although, if you prefer, you can choose from a growing list of free Start Menu replacement apps—such as Classic Shell and Start Menu 8.

2. Better SkyDrive integration

SkyDrive receives a radical overhaul in Windows 8.1, morphing from a mere cloud-storage service into a veritable extension of the local storage drive. For example to maximize cloud storage, Win 8.1 will not store uploaded documents and photos locally. However, they will be cached in such a way that they take up very little space on the hard disk drive, yet remain searchable.

Thumbnails of pictures will be automatically scaled to the best resolution for the current device; the full resolution image will be downloaded only when required for editing.

SkyDrive’s integration with Windows will also be much deeper, according to Mona Akmal, group program manager for SkyDrive in a new blog entry. “In Windows 8.1, SkyDrive is built into the file picker—so every Windows Store app can save files directly to SkyDrive without any extra work,” writes Akmal. “And the files will quietly get uploaded in the background so you don’t have to wait around.”

3. Faster and more stable

Even detractors who disliked the tablet-centric Modern UI have nothing to say about the general speed and stability of the Windows 8 operating system. Indeed, new Windows 8-based Ultrabooks sold today boot up significantly faster than the average Windows machine purchased just a year or two ago. This alone may be a good reason for small businesses to consider switching to Windows 8.

The impending release of Windows 8.1 will mark the one-year milestone of Window 8’s release, which means that more apps and device drivers than ever would have added support for it. Ultimately, Windows 8 represents the future of the Windows platform, and small businesses would do well to acquaint themselves with the new OS sooner rather than later.

Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.

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