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The Plain English Guide to: Microsoft LTSC (Long-Term Servicing Channel)

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Microsoft
Image credit: Volodymyr Kyrylyuk / Shutterstock.com

Executive Summary

  • The Microsoft LTSC, or Long-Term Servicing Channel, is a branch of Microsoft products (including Windows 10, Windows Server, and Office) designed for static systems which cannot, or will not, be updated for years at a time.
  • LTSC is another option for businesses compared to SAC, or Semi-Annual Channel, which is the version of Windows products most of us are familiar with.
  • LTSC versions of Microsoft software are updated every three years, rather than every six months, and so are only recommended for very specific business setups.

Introduction

For something that started out as an incredibly basic bundle of applications in 1985, Windows has come a long way.

Today, with Windows 10 and its previous iterations, Microsoft boasts a whopping 77% of the operating system market – and that includes MacOS, too.

But did you know that there are actually two different branches of Windows 10 available for businesses? The one we’re all familiar with, known as Semi-Annual Channel (SAC), and a lesser-known – and far more niche – version called Long-Term Service Channel, or LTSC.

If you’re unfamiliar with LTSC, (and we wouldn’t blame you), here’s the complete lowdown.

What is Microsoft LTSC (Long-Term Servicing Channel)?

The Microsoft Long-Term Service Channel is an update delivery method for Microsoft products, including Windows 10, Windows Server, and Microsoft Office.

Unlike more conventional methods (which we’ll get to shortly), LTSC is designed for a very specific type of business.

Windows 10 LTSC offers the standard 10 years of support you’d receive with other versions, but it has one key difference: feature updates are delivered every three years.

Why, you ask? It’s simple: Windows 10 LTSC is expressly designed to be installed on machines which require a totally static feature set for a prolonged period of time. For example, you might have computers connected to heavy machinery on the factory floor, or even medical devices such as MRI machines, and they need to work consistently and reliably.

Feature updates are usually a good thing, especially for businesses. They generally mean new or improved ways to get things done, and that can only be a good thing. But… if your computers are being used for an important purpose for which consistency is important, these feature updates might actually be disruptive. The user interface could change, certain features might even be deprecated, and that can cause trouble in these cases.

LTSC is the answer.

Rather than major feature upgrades being delivered every six months, LTSC rolls up all of these updates into a big update package every three years. At that point, the business admin has the choice to either update to the new bundled features, or continue using the initial version via LTSC.

Importantly, LTSC products still receive security patches and hotfixes, so they’re just as secure as the latest updated version — they’re simply not as feature-complete.

The Semi-Annual Channel vs. LTSC

Now that you’re familiar with the Long-Term Servicing Channel, let’s consider its more mainstream counterpart: the Semi-Annual Channel, or SAC.

Whether you know it or not, if you’ve been using either the Professional or Home versions of Windows 10, you’ve been utilising SAC. Every time you see a big update for Windows 10 throughout the year — new features and all — that’s the SAC in full swing.

So what is the Semi-Annual Channel exactly?

Here are the headlines:

  • The Semi-Annual Channel is ideal for business users looking to take advantage of the latest and greatest additions to the Windows 10 operating system.
  • SAC delivers two major operating systems per year, every six months.
  • Regular hotfixes and security patches will still be delivered as soon as they become available, multiple times per year.

Along with LTSC and SAC, there’s technically a third service channel for Windows 10: the Windows Insider Program. That’s a topic for another article, but, as the name suggests, the insider program delivers users brand-new features from the next update early in order to preview (and effectively test) them.

Should your business make use of Microsoft LTSC?

If you want a simple answer to whether or not your business should use Microsoft LTSC for either Windows 10 or Microsoft Office, the answer is probably not.

As we covered earlier, LTSC is really designed to be used by businesses which have very specific purposes for their hardware. This could be computer systems on a factory floor, in a hospital, or any situation which requires consistent and reliable performance.

For most businesses, having the latest feature updates installed via the SAC channel is the best choice. It’s always a good idea for your IT support team to test out feature updates before rolling them out across your computer fleet, but new features are generally a good thing for “regular” business use — i.e. the apps bundled in Microsoft 365, Windows 10 Professional, and so on. In such cases, staying updated is a matter of keeping up with the competition.

That said, if you have any Microsoft systems which need to remain totally static in terms of feature set for up to 10 years, LTSC is the way to go.

No strategy for your IT hardware? Talk to Get Support

Understanding topics like LTSC is time-consuming and complex for any business, and – let’s face it – as a business owner, you have better things to do than work out how to manage the nitty-gritty details of your IT hardware.

That’s why we invite any UK business to ask us about our IT support agreements. Each one includes a custom IT strategy designed just for your business, including expert recommendations on exactly which hardware configurations are best for your company.

Want to know more about LTSC or SAC versions of Windows 10 or Office? Call our expert team today on 01865 59 4000 or fill in the form below.

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