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Are you ready for Microsoft Edge?

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Introduction

“Microsoft Edge is the future of browsing on Windows”. This is the guidance Microsoft is giving all its enterprise customers. If you haven’t already heard this drumbeat from Redmond, you will very soon. Given this Microsoft push, Edge Readiness must be a core component of your Windows 10 migration strategy. Are you Edge-ready? Odds are you’re not, but that’s okay. There’s still time, and now there are great tools to help you get Edge-ready and remove one of the key blockers to a successful rollout of Windows 10.

Read on to learn why Edge is vastly different from Internet Explorer and how these differences block your migration in ways you may not expect. You’ll also learn how Browsium gives you the tools and guidance to ensure your organization’s web applications will continue to work as designed once you’ve deployed Windows 10 with Edge to your end users.

How is Edge different?

Microsoft has made a significant departure from the Internet Explorer architecture with their new Edge browser in Windows 10. Edge was created for the modern web, and, by design, excludes support for many legacy technologies such as Java, ActiveX controls, Toolbars, BHOs, VBscript, Binary Behaviors, and more. If your enterprise has any web applications that rely on these technologies (and nearly every enterprise does), they will break when run in Edge.

Even if you don’t make Edge your default browser (which Microsoft strongly recommends and typically resets with each Windows 10 feature update), your end users will still have access to it. Microsoft provides no supported method of disabling or uninstalling Edge from Windows 10. Edge does have some built-in settings to help with inevitable compatibility issues, but they primarily involve invoking IE11 for sites with known issues. This is necessary, but not sufficient, to deal with the complexity of the mixed legacy and modern web application environments common to today’s enterprise organizations. Specialized tools are needed to assess your web applications for Edge readiness. Specifically, they need to manage your client environment to ensure web applications are always paired with the most compatible browser, with the specific settings required for that application. Browsium’s browser management suite does exactly this.

How can Browsium help?

Browsium’s software suite – Proton, Ion, and Catalyst – help identify and solve compatibility problems that arise during any OS or browser migration project. But they’re particularly well suited for Edge readiness as part of your Windows 10 migration project. For the remainder of this post, discussion of the capabilities of Proton, Ion, and Catalyst will focus on this one scenario. But it should be noted, the software suite has a broad variety of uses in today’s browser-based enterprise application environments. Read our Browser Management Primer to learn more.

For an Edge readiness project, Proton is used to assess readiness of your web application estate, whereas Ion and Catalyst are used on the client endpoints (aka Windows 10 PCs) to solve the compatibility problems that arise during the Windows 10 deployment. The features discussed below already exist in Browsium products, or are planned for delivery in the next few months, so you can greatly benefit from starting your Edge readiness assessment right away. It all begins with a web application inventory.

Web application inventory

Proton is the browser and web application telemetry module in the Browsium suite. It monitors all navigations in each browser, detecting, collecting, and reporting all of the browser activity across your enterprise. One of Proton’s core functions is building an inventory, with comprehensive usage statistics, for all web applications used throughout your organization. This information will not only help you make a list of line-of-business web applications that need to be tested for Edge readiness, but will also give you insights into their priority by providing metrics about the number of unique users and frequency of use for each application.

Document mode detection

Another function of Proton that will help you with a Windows 10 migration is its ability to detect the document mode invoked by Internet Explorer for each web application. Legacy document modes were introduced in IE8 to force a web page to display using older rendering engines. This maintains compatibility with pages developed and tested on older versions of Internet Explorer. Any legacy document modes detected by Proton  are migration red flags, as those web applications may fail when loaded in Edge, because it only supports the most current IE11 document mode.

If a web application uses a document mode other than IE11, it must be opened in IE11 on Windows 10. Neither Edge nor Chrome nor Firefox are capable of rendering legacy document modes. Catalyst is the solution for this issue, as you can easily set a rule to always open legacy document mode-dependent web applications in IE11, regardless of where the link originated (in another browser, in Outlook, or from a shortcut on the desktop). Any further navigation to another web application, without document mode dependency, will be automatically and seamlessly redirected back to your default browser. Today, Catalyst enables redirection between Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox. In the coming months, Catalyst will support Edge, so you can set Edge as your organization’s default browser. With Catalyst, IT controls which browser opens each web application for every end user.

It’s possible that a web page was forced into a legacy document mode upon detection of a known compatibility problem. This is particularly challenging if your organization was not yet using IE11 on Windows 7 when you began your Windows 10 migration. At this point, there are two options for your IT team:

  • Use Ion to force the incompatible web application in the right document mode.
  • Invest in tracking down the owner of the web application to address the compatibility problem at the source web application.

Ion is almost certainly the easier choice, as many organizations don’t have access to the developer of a legacy web application or can’t access the application’s source code.

Detection of Java applets and ActiveX controls

Yet another key Proton feature vital to your Windows 10 migration project is its ability to track Java and ActiveX usage. Proton automatically collects an inventory of all Java versions and ActiveX controls installed on client PCs throughout your organization. It then tracks each web application accessed by those clients over time, correlating the Java and ActiveX inventory with specific web page calls to detect and report the list of web applications that rely on Java and ActiveX technologies. Once you have this report, Catalyst can be used to redirect all web applications that require Java and ActiveX from your default browser to IE11 to ensure business continuity, as only Internet Explorer supports Java and ActiveX. And, equally important, Catalyst will redirect all other web applications back to your default browser so users do not need to keep track of which browser they’re using. IT centrally controls the browser for each web application, in a process that is invisible to users, maximizing compatibility and security. Again, today you can enable this scenario for Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox. Edge support is coming soon.

Detection of script errors

One of the most common challenges of a browser or operating system upgrade is when scripts present on web pages that used to work fine, but start producing errors immediately after the upgrade. These errors could be the result of an unsupported or deprecated feature in the new browser, or sometimes because of a race condition that occurs only in the new browser or on the new operating system.

Proton’s next release includes the ability to detect script errors to better monitor the web applications enterprises like yours depend on. The following are some examples of problems that manifest as script errors on web pages:

  • VBScript not supported – IE11 in edge mode and the Edge browser no longer support VBScript scripting languages, thereby breaking web pages that rely on that legacy technology.
  • The Internet Explorer compatibility cookbook has a documented list of Internet Explorer compatibility changes by version. These changes can manifest themselves as script errors that Proton can detect.

Once you’ve detected the script errors in your web applications, you can use Ion to run those web applications in IE11 using a legacy document mode and then use string replacements to remediate specific script errors.

Other incompatible web applications

No matter how much preparation you do up front, you’re very likely to discover some web application compatibility issues post-migration that cause workflow interruptions for your end users. Browser management will enable you to discover the root cause, plan your remediation effort, and act to re-configure the browsers on end user systems to quickly address these issues.

Conclusion

Windows migrations in the enterprise are nothing new. Your organization has likely been through at least five major migrations, from Windows 3.1 through to Windows 7 (or even Windows 8 for some of you). What has changed is the makeup of the line-of-business applications your organization relies on. They’re now primarily web applications, and this creates a new set of migration challenges which requires a new type of management tool to streamline and manage the migration. Browser management is the answer and Browsium’s software suite has been enhanced to help you get ready for Edge, with more capabilities coming soon. Please contact us to learn more about how our solution can assist you with your Windows 10 migration plans.

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