Upgrading from Windows 7 is an important business decision
It’s been a good run, but Microsoft is pulling the plug on Windows 7. As of January 14, 2020, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates or support for PCs running Windows 7, starting the end of life (EOL) phase of the OS.
Windows 7 is still hugely popular for personal and business use. According to Net Applications, at the end of 2018 Windows 7 was still the OS of choice for 37% of all Windows users. Considering about a billion people use some version of Windows, that means somewhere around 370 million people will be affected by Microsoft’s decision to phase out Windows 7.
What does this mean for your business? Quite simply, it’s time to upgrade — and the sooner the better.
Why should I upgrade from Windows 7?
Security. Security. Security.
Once Microsoft stops providing updates and security patches, Windows 7 becomes a liability to your entire network over time. It will still operate, but without support and security patches, the quality of operation decreases as the risk to your network increases.
You might not notice anything different at first — besides all the push notifications that the end is nigh — but eventually, users will begin experiencing incompatibility with new versions of other apps, slower performance, and an increasingly unsatisfactory user experience.
While the above can be frustrating, that’s just the tip of this particular iceberg. Underneath the decreasing performance and incompatibility issues lurks a massive security risk. Without Microsoft monitoring vulnerabilities and producing security patches for Windows 7, your entire enterprise is at risk to hackers.
In the past, Microsoft has released massive security patches just before an end-of-life date to extend an app’s integrity a while longer, but you’re running on borrowed time at that point. Once an EOL date is announced, hackers will wait until after that date to start searching for vulnerabilities. Why bother finding ways to exploit an app while it’s still being supported if you know you’ll have free rein in a few short months?
But what if I don’t want to upgrade?
Upgrading your Windows 7 machines is your choice, of course, but you’ll need to weigh the risks of running an unsupported OS against any perceived cost and time savings.
Here are the most significant risks:
Security vulnerabilities: We’ve already seen what happens when an OS is no longer supported. Without Microsoft monitoring security bugs and issuing security fixes, EOL versions of software like Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP have become minefields of security hazards. This is reason enough to prioritize updating Windows 7. No matter how robust your firewall and anti-virus, they are not sufficient protection against unpatchable vulnerabilities in an OS. Hackers will exploit those vulnerabilities easily and without hesitation.
Software incompatibility: New software and software updates are optimized for the most recent OSes. If you continue to use an EOL operating system, you will likely encounter glitches and compatibilities with new and updated versions of software. Or, you simply won’t be able to upgrade to the newest versions, so you’ll have to continue using legacy applications that are probably also EOL or close to it.
Compliance issues: If you’re operating within industries like healthcare and e-commerce where you deal with a lot of sensitive customer data, you have certain regulations to follow to secure that data. Choosing to entrust your critical information to a decade-old OS or an unsecured application runs the risk of data security lapses and could result in big fines, company shutdowns, or even jail time. These are the headlines you don’t want to make.
High operating costs: Once the manufacturer stops supporting an application, the costs of maintaining and bug-fixing it rises sharply. Paying Microsoft to patch an EOL operating system can be considerably higher than the price of replacing Windows Server 2003. And what if a mission-critical app fails? Is continuing to use post-EOL software worth the cost of lost data, lost reputation, fines, etc.?
Poor performance and reliability: If you’re still running EOL apps and outdated versions of Windows, then you probably have some aging hardware in the office as well. Servers, workstations, networking devices - if you’re using out-of-warranty devices, they’re probably prone to breaking down which opens you up to more risk. The downtime alone could be more costly than an upgrade, not to mention sourcing outdated, hard-to-find parts and potential safety concerns from degrading electronic components.
How can I upgrade?
Transitioning to Windows 10 will require strategic planning to ensure every device is updated with minimal downtime. Your in-house IT manager or your managed IT solutions firm can help you create the optimal upgrade schedule for your company.
Your first step is to do a cost analysis to decide whether it’s worthwhile buying a new computer with Windows 10 already installed or simply upgrading your OS. If you’re running Windows 7 on decade-old devices, it’s probably time for the full upgrade. Work with your in-house IT manager or your managed IT solutions firm to determine which option is best for you.
What we try to suggest here at CONNECT is a 20% refresh; so if you have ten computers, you would refresh two per year.
You may be able to upgrade to Windows 10 free of charge and with a full Windows 10 license depending on when and how you purchased your PC with Windows 7
Windows 10 Minimum Specs
Processor: 1GHz process or faster
Memory: 1GB of RAM for a 32-bit installation and 2GB of RAM for a 64-bit installation
Hard Disk Space: Up to 20GB of space
Graphics Card: A screen with a resolution of 800 by 600 or higher, and a DirectX 9 graphics chip
Connectivity: Internet access
Your managed IT solution or in-house IT support personnel should be able to tell you whether your computers meet the requirements and set up a schedule for upgrading or replacing devices as needed.
A note of caution: If you need to purchase a Windows 10 product key, make sure you do so from a reputable source. If a key is free or nearly free, then it’s probably not legitimate. A product key purchased off the grey market puts you at risk not just for fraud but can also make you vulnerable to hackers.
Likewise, no matter where you purchase your product key, you shouldn't download Windows 10 from anyone besides Microsoft. As noted on Microsoft’s website: “When buying Microsoft software as a digital download, we recommend that you avoid auction sites and peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing sites. At the moment there are a limited number of sites where you can legally purchase digital downloads of Microsoft software.”
Windows 7 had a long, wildly popular run. But as with all things tech, the march forward continues and the Windows 7 era is drawing to a close. Plan ahead and be ready to send Windows 7 off into the ether come January 2020, confident in the knowledge that your network, devices, and data remain secure.
Building on 30 years of local connections, there’s one company to call for expert Telecom and IT services. CONNECT offers full computer network support, desktop, server and hardware sales, installation, and on-site service. Future focused, we’re excited to provide expert, high-quality IT and Telecom services backed by our industry-leading written guarantee.
Contact CONNECT, and we’ll clearly demonstrate how you can reduce risk, reduce costs, and increase profits by working with a trusted IT consultant on a project or a fully managed solution.