Windows is ending support of its Windows 7 operating system as of January 14, 2020.
Any time an OS reaches its End of Life, there can be serious implications to your business. We’re going to explain why it’s important, how you can determine how much it will affect you, and what you need to do to stay ahead of the drop dead date.
First, What Are We Talking About?
According to Windows itself: After January 14, 2020, “technical assistance and automatic updates that help protect your PC will no longer be made available for the product. Microsoft strongly recommends that you move to Windows 10 sometime before January 2020 to avoid a situation where you need service or support that is no longer available.”
Okay, so that leaves almost a whole year, right? What’s the urgency?
Your security and your budget. There are a lot of factors to consider and not a lot of time when we’re talking about potential upgrades or new hardware for your business.
ComputerWorld reported in January 2019 that 37% of all PCs finished 2018 running on Windows 7. Odds are, you have some in your business. Now imagine if everyone waits until November or December of this year to decide how they want to handle their Windows 7 machines. Then, during the time of year when people are already out of the office more for holidays, that’s when everyone’s quotes will need to be issued and approved, purchases made and shipped, new machines prepped, and installation set and completed.
On the flip side, if you plan now, you can determine your needs, spread out any spending, and get first-choice installation scheduling. Those other people can stress. Not you.
What is the Impact of an OS ‘End of Life’?
Everyone knows that ‘all good things must come to an end.’ Whether you consider Windows 7 good or not is a separate issue, but this is what it means for an operating system to have its support end.
Does the end of support mean your computer that runs on Windows 7 will not boot up on January 15, 2020? No. Your computer will work normally.
What it means is that any machine running on Windows 7 will:
- no longer receive automatic updates when bugs are identified,
- no longer get updates that introduce new features, and
- most importantly, your machine will no longer receive security updates.
That last one’s the big one. Security updates patch the holes Windows knows about. Meaning weaknesses that have already been exploited by someone. Keep in mind that hackers and cyber criminals are constantly coming up with new ways to attack our networks. That’s why there are advanced security options out there now that use behavior-based and sometimes predictive methods rather than the standard pattern-identifying protection that patching covers. But you can learn more about specific cyber security issues here.
The risk of no longer receiving security updates from Windows—in addition to making you non-compliant if you’re subject to HIPAA, PCI, or other privacy standards—is that your computer becomes a big, red target. An unsupported machine can open a gateway into your network, in essence negating all the other security measures you have in place.
What’s more is that once Windows stops supporting its own software, other software and hardware companies will, too. It won’t happen right away, but a browser like Firefox or Chrome will continue making their own updates and eventually stop including the ability to work on the old OS. Similarly, new hardware will come out that is incompatible with Windows 7. It may be something entirely new like a virtual keyboard that can only be used with your fingerprints, or it may just be a next generation mouse made out of a stress ball that someone buys you for your birthday.
So What Do I Need To Do?
The most important thing is to make a plan with your IT partner. You’ve got some options, which they should help you weigh, and we’ll give you our recommendations here.
- Determine how many of your machines will be impacted.
If you’re a client of ours, we can pull this information for you. In fact, if you’ve had your Technical Business Review meeting recently, you may already have this info.
If you’re with another company, ask them to get that information for you.
If you want to check your own computer, it’s easy. Click on the Windows/Start button (lower left corner). Type in “This PC” or “My Computer.” (Windows should return this result if you type ‘computer’ or a variety of other related terms.) Right-click on “This PC” or “My Computer” and select Properties. A new window will open, and the very first thing listed is the Windows edition. If it says Windows 7, it will be affected.
- Once you know how many machines you have to deal with, you can figure out costs.
Costs will vary depending on whether you want to upgrade existing machines to Windows 10 or whether it makes more sense to buy new machines. Upgrading will typically cost less. However, not every machine running Windows 7 has enough RAM or hard drive space to handle an upgrade to Windows 10. Warranty expiration dates should also factor in. It may not make sense to pay for a warranty extension and pay for a Windows 10 license for an old machine that you end up replacing 6 months later. Your IT partner should help you with all of this.You may also find this is a good opportunity to assess whether your hardware is meeting your employees’ needs. For example, some businesses take a waterfall approach to computers, letting the most senior employees get the new hardware and passing theirs down to newer staff. If you get a new computer for a supervisor and then hire a new graphic designer, however, your new employee might need more RAM to run those creative programs, and the supervisor might be just fine analyzing reports and managing staff with an older or less sophisticated model. Check in with your staff, and then ask your IT partner for recommendations. Together you should be able to get the most bang for your buck.
Another option to seriously consider is renting or leasing your hardware. Dubbed Hardware-as-a-Service, or HaaS, this kind of agreement is well-suited to technology with its ever-changing landscape. In general terms, a fixed rate per month gets you computers you never have to worry about upgrading again. If a machine breaks, you don’t get hit with the cost of a new purchase; it is replaced under the terms of your agreement. When OS updates like this come up, you will automatically be scheduled to receive the machines you need to stay compliant and protected. And with most businesses storing data on their servers and in the cloud, switching out user machines becomes quick and seamless as well.
- Schedule your purchases.
Once you know what you’re looking at, you can determine the best timing to buy new licenses or machines or move to a HaaS agreement. Will it benefit your business to have costs hit the books at a certain time of year? Do you have any projects coming up that would be easier if this happens first? Keep in mind the other steps of the process such as shipping, prepping, and installation, and work backwards from your ideal date. By working with your IT partner to figure this all out now, you’ll be positioned to sail into 2020 when others are scrambling to catch up.
Now that you know the what, when, and why, take the first step by talking with your IT partner. You can reach us in a variety of ways here, and we’re happy to help answer your questions even if you’re not a client.