What does End of Life for Windows 7, coming January 14, 2020, mean for your business? In the technology world, End of Life means the end of support for either a piece of hardware or a software program by the creator. The product will continue to work, but the developer will no longer be providing any fixes for security flaws or bugs, nor will their be any improvements made on the product. You can continue to use the product, but you do so at your own peril.
End of Life on software is a challenge in that many customers of the product have woven the software into the fiber of their company. Their employees are all comfortable with how it works, how it feels and how productive they can be with it. This is especially noticeable when it comes to operating systems. If you or your company are using a Windows-based operating system, you know how you have become accustomed to where the buttons are, how to navigate your system with the tools provided and who to contact for support. Every few years, Windows creates a newer, upgraded version of this classic software. And when the new version is released, the old version begins to wind down its lifecycle. When this happens, Microsoft announces the end of support for the older version of the operating system, and they do so with a long window of time to allow for users to make the transition to the new operating system.
Consider that when Microsoft ended support for Windows XP in 2014, it affected 40% of the world’s computers. 40% of one BILLION computers. And here we are 5 years later, and there are still people using Windows XP. Why are businesses and users slow to adapt and upgrade? Often times, it’s expensive and time-consuming to update and upgrade all computers, especially in small to midsize businesses that have limited IT resources. Often the company is running legacy systems or software, these items require the older version of the operating system. Also, older hardware and equipment may be in use, and it could simply not function with the new system requirements needed for the operating system upgrade. What’s more is training an entire company’s employees on this new system is more time and expense. You could see why businesses would be reluctant to switch. Software manufacturers warn users well in advance that continuing to use the unsupported system can be detrimental to security and performance, and the timelines placed on software upgrades are large to give businesses the opportunity to plan and implement accordingly. And now it is time for Windows 7 End of Life.
Currently, Windows 7 is still being used by nearly 40% of businesses according to a recent article by Net Applications. That means many companies still have a lot of work to do to navigate the impending end of life deadline. Review of the company’s current infrastructure and identifying all items that need updating to move to Windows 10 will help to create a better picture of the situation at hand and allow for your Managed IT provider or in-house IT staff to generate a plan for a smooth transition. The sooner you can begin this process, the more strategic you can be with regards to budgeting and roll out.
Many organizations have asked if they can still use Windows 7 once the End of Life date has passed, and the simple answer is yes. The operating system won’t stop working, and your computer won’t stop functioning. But that yes comes with a caveat, and that is your operating system will be highly vulnerable to exploits by cyber attacks and bugs. This is because there won’t be any new patches or security upgrades to Windows 7 once the deadline has come and gone. Microsoft has stated that they will provide extended support beyond the End of Life for Windows 7 Enterprise and Professional. The cost for this will be on a per-device basis but no hard numbers have been announced. But if you can imagine you have 200 computers in your business, and the cost is $100 per month per device, you could be paying upwards of $20,000 for a month of support. And this support won’t include the addition of any new features, it will just provide access to the patches to keep the system safe.
So what does your business need to do to prepare at this point if you’re still using Windows 7? Here’s a list of items to consider:
- Identify all machines that need to be upgraded or replaced. This likely isn’t just computers, but other hardware that you use with your computers. Think printers, MFPs, scanners. All of these need to be considered when an operating system upgrade is to be made.
- Identify all legacy systems you are currently using that use older operating systems and consider replacing those with updated technology that will work efficiently with a new operating system.
- Develop a budget and a timeline for all of the upgrades and replacements that need to be made. Prioritize what is most important to maintain functionality and keep your business up and running.
- Implement a security plan to separate critical systems you may have in place from any Windows 7 devices that you can’t upgrade or remove.
- Plan employee training sessions to help your staff get a firm grasp on the new system.
The good news in all of this is that with the introduction of Windows 10, Microsoft adopted a new policy for the sustainability of their products known as Windows as a Service (WaaS). What that means for your business is that moving forward, businesses using Windows 10 will remain up-to-date with all patches, security fixes and bug fixes. You also won’t ever need to upgrade to a completely new operating system again. WaaS will provide updates to the operating system as they occur, meaning changes will be incremental, and there won’t be major changes to systems in one shot.
The likelihood that Windows 10 will look the same today as it does 5 years from now is low, but with WaaS, these changes will be done on a smaller scale so that users can adapt new features incrementally. If your business is still using Windows 7, Fraser highly recommends to begin planning to transition to Windows 10. Our Managed IT group is fully equipped and ready to help you implement solutions that will ensure a smooth changeover to a more modern and easily supported operating system. Contact us today to learn how we can help!