Windows 7 End of Life: What You Need To Know

14 January 2020 sees the end of one of the most successful operating systems of all time: Microsoft Windows 7. Since its release in 2009, the popularity of Windows 7 has led to it becoming the most used operating system in the world on desktops and laptops. As of 2019, it remains the most used operating system, despite the release of Windows 8 in 2012 and Windows 10 in 2015. Many businesses skipped the upgrade as they saw no extra benefit to it. In fact, 70% of organisations worldwide still use Windows 7. However, 2020 sees the biggest reason why a business owner must seriously consider upgrading their systems.

Every Windows product launched has a lifecycle which begins with its release before ending through withdrawal of support. The typical lifecycle of a Windows product usually lasts anywhere between five and ten years - although this depends on the product. A lifecycle also contains two service periods: mainstream support and extended support.

Mainstream support includes all current security patches and new features over several years.
Extended support is when Microsoft has decided it is no longer developing for the product, with updates only focused on keeping the product safe and secure. 

End of life for a product starts once the extended support offered by Windows is stopped. 

From 2020, Microsoft is bringing Windows 7 to its end of life. This means the OS will no longer receive security updates, bug fixes and any other support. For the rest of 2019, Windows 7 will be patched and kept up to date but this is part of Microsoft phasing the system out. Paid support for Windows 7 remains in operation but all complimentary updates included with the product licence ceased in 2015. 

Why has Microsoft ended support for Windows 7?

Microsoft has to end support for Windows 7 as part of their policy for how a product starts and ends (as outlined above). The operating system lifecycles give Microsoft and their customers a clear start and end date so both can focus on newer systems when the time arrives.

As a business, Microsoft is always looking at developing and selling new products. To do so effectively, older systems must be laid to rest. That way Microsoft can show users, business owners and organisations the benefits of using newer operating systems such as Windows 8 and Windows 10.

Why should you upgrade?

There are various reasons why your system needs to be upgraded from Windows 7 once it has reached its end of life. Upgrading to a new system such as Windows 10 comes with the usual benefit of a newer and faster operating system. However, there are a few vital reasons for upgrading that will not only benefit the business but also protect it from possible security threats. 

Potential cyber threats and ransomware

Any business using an outdated operating system leaves itself at the mercy of cyber attacks. Once a system or product reaches the end of its life, hackers can easily find exploits they know will never be patched. Imagine the consequences of this if your business was still running an outdated system. A hacker could get access to confidential data and sensitive information and do with it as they please. They could also cripple your systems with ease, knowing that nothing will be done to stop them doing this time and time again.

The most infamous event where an exploit of an old operating system took place was the WannaCry ransomware scandal in May 2017. With an estimated 7% of the world’s computers still using Windows XP , despite its end of life taking place on 8 April 2014, it was inevitable such an attack would happen. 200,000 computers in 150 countries were affected. One of the biggest organisations to suffer significant problems was the NHS. Up to 70,000 devices  were affected including computers, MRI scanners and theatre equipment. This led to services in England and Scotland being cancelled and ambulances diverted from certain locations. Global companies such as FedEx, Nissan and Hitachi were also affected by the ransomware attack.

With production halted and services affected, it is hard for any business to operate successfully with such dangers. Ransomware attacks have the ability to cost an organisation vital profits through loss of work, which can be detrimental to a business. With cyber attacks such as ransomware most common because of human error (from files downloaded from email or the internet), it is vital to understand the importance of cyber security awareness.

Take advantage of new OS features

With older systems vulnerable to ransomware, Windows 10 has a variety of new features and tools to help thwart it.

To combat ransomware and malware, Windows Defender Exploit Guard is able to scan and quarantine threats in Windows 10. Other tools included prevent zero-day attacks, block and quarantine programs on the network considered malicious, and can also isolate computers on the network that are infected. This is beneficial for a business in the event that an employee unwittingly downloads an infectious file which gains access to your files and takes down your system. With attacks so easily possible due to human error, Windows Defender Exploit Guard is able to protect your business effectively just in case.

With the introduction of Windows 10, Microsoft created a new policy which aimed to create better sustainability with their products. Introduced as Windows as a Service (WaaS), it adopts continuous updates and support for all current products, including Windows 10. 

With an upgrade to Windows 10, your business can benefit from an operating system that will remain updated with the latest patches and fixes. You won’t need to upgrade to a new operating system or have trouble deciding which system better fits your organisation. Any switch between iterations of an operating system is made smoother thanks to WaaS. No matter how Windows 10 will look in a decade from now, incremental updates will happen without any upheaval in systems.

Finally, with the use of Windows Autopilot, you can set up system configurations that can be downloaded from the cloud onto your business’s Windows 10 computers. All an employee has to do is use a new computer, connect to the office network and settings will be configured automatically. Configurations can also be created specifically for particular individuals. 

Why consider Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 is a more comprehensive package which empowers individuals to work together in one place but retain the familiarity of the Office desktop applications they are used. However from a system management perspective, you get the reassurance that all applications are kept up-to-date with the latest fixes and features.  Another key consideration is that Microsoft 365 includes Enterprise Mobility and Security features which protect your workplace from potential threats.

How to Prepare for Windows 7 End of Life

Despite the advantages of upgrading operating systems and the very real threat from hackers of running an outdated system, some businesses are comfortable with not upgrading. The expense of upgrading computers, combined with the time-consuming nature of the work, means it can be too much for some - especially small and medium-sized businesses. These businesses are likely to have legacy systems that require an older operating system to run. It could also be that you are using hardware that could not handle the process of upgrading systems.

Upgrading to a new operating system isn’t an easy job and takes time and careful planning to complete successfully. For every business, the amount of machines and systems that require access will differ - usually the bigger the business, the more devices. To complete a smooth transition from Windows 7 to a new operating system you must:

Identify all machines that need upgrading or replacing
Consider replacing all legacy systems using older operating systems and/or software with newer technology
Set your timeline and budget for upgrades and replacements
Activate security controls which separates critical systems from Windows 7 if they cannot be upgraded or removed from the business
Plan new employee training sessions so they can learn how to use the new system

As a business owner, you want to have the easiest upgrade path to a new OS such as Windows 10 or complete new solution such as Microsoft 365. That is why you must consider looking for IT experts to support in the upgrade. As a Tier 1 Microsoft Partner, OGL can help make this happen with expert care, giving your business what it needs for the future.

When an end of life is announced for any operating system, the first thing considered is whether your computer still works. Can you still use Windows 7? The short answer is yes, even without future updates and fixes, your PC with Windows 7 will continue to work. However, it will be vulnerable to exploits and issues from 14 January 2020. 

Windows Server 2008 End of Life

Support for Windows Server 2008 ends on the same date as Windows 7. Built with the same code as Windows Vista, Server 2008 has been used by businesses since February 2008. As one of the most popular operating systems used worldwide, a lot of servers are going to be affected by this change.

If your server has an outdated operating system, there’s a possibility of your business becoming a subject of non-compliance. If you are required to have independent audits, an out-of-date server operating system could mean you fail the inspection. This could affect whether another company wants to do business with you. Does your business accept credit cards? Without compliance from PCI, credit card companies could refuse to work with you. With regulations such as GDPR and Cyber Essentials certification, your company could face huge fines if steps aren’t taken to provide a reliable and secure data infrastructure.

How to Prepare for Windows Server 2008 End of Life

Firstly, upgrade the operating system. It is wise to consider an infrastructure update which takes advantage of new virtualisation features in modern systems. However, this takes time and requires precise planning and execution. Time should be allotted for any inevitable delays and troubleshooting. 

Windows Server 2008 is safe to use until the extended support expires. However, your data centre will miss out on the excellent virtualisation features which provide a server performance boost in newer editions such as Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2019. For some data centres, these features alone make the upgrade worthwhile. 

With expected delays and possible issues, it is recommended that your upgrade should be planned at least six months before 14 January 2020. This gives your business enough leeway to get it right without a loss of data and any possible security threats. To ensure this is done properly, consider bringing in expert IT providers to have the smoothest of transitions. 

Upgrading your operating system is vital for maintaining the safety and security of all data in the business, but also keeps the company efficient during day-to-day activities. By working with expert IT providers such as OGL, you can prepare your business for life without Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008. 

The easiest option is to upgrade your operating system to Windows 10 but there are other options available, which OGL’s solutions experts can explore with you. Whether you’re looking for a Microsoft 365 package or a virtual desktop infrastructure, OGL can help. 

OGL can also discuss a migration strategy for your servers and offer advice on the best options available. No matter what you need, contact us today.

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