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Get Ready for Windows 7 End-of-Life

How to Avoid Disruption and Data Breach by Planning Ahead

 

What Happens When Windows 7 Support Ends?

When Windows 7 support ends on January 14, 2020, anyone using that operating system will be at increased risk for cyber attack because Microsoft will no longer be patching security vulnerabilities. Additionally, depending on the software that you use and the equipment that you have connected to your Windows 7 computers, you may be in store for disruptions and downtime. The only way to mitigate these negative scenarios is to plan ahead for your Windows 10 transition. When you finish this article, we hope that you'll understand why you shouldn't ignore Windows 7 End-of-life, and that you'll know the steps you should take to begin your Windows 10 transition.

Before we get into those details, we’d like to help you understand exactly what “end-of-life” or “end-of-support” means.

 

Operating System Updates Get a Bad Rap

Windows updates can be annoying“Windows updates seem to always mess something up on my computer. Whenever there is an issue our IT tech asks me if the computer had a recent update. AND it updates when I am shutting down my computer for the day and I have to wait forever for the shutdown to occur. I know I could just leave it, but I have come back the next day before and it got hung up. Then what? It says not to power down.”

That’s a real quote from a Windows user. While this scenario could have been avoided by changing the settings for updates, this story is all too common. People see Windows updates as an annoyance and disruption. When Microsoft sends out updates, they are actually doing us all a huge favor by supporting their software with improvements that enhance the function or experience. The purpose of the patches and service packs are to help the software perform better and to close potential security holes.

What is a software patch?

A software patch is designed to fix a specific problem. A patch might fix a bug in the software, address stability issues or make improvements.

 

What is a service pack?

Service packs contain many updates in one package, including previously released patches. These are the updates that can take a long time to install, and require you to restart your computer.

 

Software Vulnerabilities Are Like an Unlocked Back Door

Software vulnerabilities are an unlocked door for cyber criminalsIf you need one reason to act on Microsoft’s announcement that the Windows 7 operating system will no longer be supported, this is it. Cyber criminals are looking for all of the ways that they can break into your business by finding your weak spots. Finding holes in your software, or vulnerabilities, is a tactic that lets hackers come in through an unlocked back door.

You might wonder why these back doors aren’t locked in the first place. Reality is that developers can’t imagine all the ways that the bad guys will try to exploit their software, so after it’s released they do their best to lock these doors when they are found. This isn’t just speculation that this can happen. It’s happened. An example of a huge attack that happened because of a Windows vulnerability was the WannaCry cyber attack in May 2017.

Related: Watch an on-demand webinar to discover if you are unknowingly making decisions that create gaping security holes at your organization.

 

Why is Microsoft Pulling the Plug on Windows 7?

Microsoft is pulling the plug on Windows 7When any Microsoft software reaches a certain age, they stop supporting it with patches and service packs. The life cycle has three different levels of support.

General Support – this is early in the life cycle, and while the software has already been released, they’re still developing new features and providing broad support.

Extended Support – this is when Microsoft stops creating new features but they continue to support the software from a troubleshooting and security patching standpoint.

End-of-Support – this is the last phase when Microsoft stops releasing fixes, changes or updates of any kind.

This last phase is what we’re approaching with Windows 7 - and Server 2008 coincidentally -- in January 2020. It is imperative to upgrade to Windows 10 in order to manage the obvious risks of cyber crime.

 

Potential Implications if You Don’t Upgrade to Windows 10

More and More and More Security Holes

You and I know that Windows support is ending, and hackers know that, too. Attempts by hackers to find vulnerabilities in Windows 7 will not decrease because they know that whatever they find after January 14, 2020 will never be closed with a patch. Cyber criminals are lying in wait for an internet landscape full of Windows 7 computers knowing that it’s going to be a whole lot easier to break in when the back door isn’t just unlocked, the windows are, too.

 

Old Hardware Will Drag Your People Down

Modern software is created to work best on modern hardware and while it may be physically possible to install Windows 10 on your old computers, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work well, if it works at all. In fact if you do this, you can expect your employees to encounter issues and stalls that can greatly diminish their productivity. If going to Windows 10 means you need to replace some computers, then be ready for your employees to thank you when they finally get the speed and capability they need to do their jobs faster and perhaps better than they could previously.

 

Connected Equipment Could Go Dark

As you are looking at your hardware, look also at everything that is connected to your computers. This includes printers, scanners, machinery and any other equipment that is connected to your systems. Just imagine that you update all of your workstations with Windows 10 and suddenly no one can print. In some cases you might just need to make sure that you update the drivers or the software specific to the piece of equipment. In other cases you might actually have to replace the connected equipment.

One Day You’re Compliant, the Next You’re Not

If you are required to be compliant with industry regulations such as HIPAA, PCI, PHI, ITAR -- or any variety of regulations for financial and government organizations, the minute that you have unsupported software in your network, you automatically become noncompliant. The repercussions, in addition to increased risk for a data breach, can involve fines and legal fees. A security breach could be disastrous to your organization.

 

Software Won’t Play Nice Anymore

If you have been staying current with your business software and don’t upgrade your operating system to Windows 10, you may find that it doesn’t work so well anymore. Software developers write their programs to run on the latest operating systems, so there’s a chance that the software you currently use will also be updated as well and you’ll discover that it will run poorly, or won’t run at all on Windows 7.

 

Time to Put Legacy Software Out to Pasture

If you are running very old software that hasn’t seen an update in years, there’s a good chance that it won’t run on Windows 10, and it’s probably time to put it out to pasture anyway. It could be custom software, or perhaps the company that developed the program doesn’t exist anymore. Whatever the case, it’s very probable that it will run poorly or not at all on a modern operating system. It’s best to look at this situation as an opportunity to shop around for something new that can perform the functions you need. You might even be surprised to find better options and you’ll end up asking yourself why you didn’t make this change sooner.

 

Considerations for Your Windows 7 to 10 Journey


How Much Will it Cost?

If you haven’t been on a proactive schedule to update your computers, along with their operating systems and software, then you could be looking at a considerable investment as you face Windows 7 end of support. Depending on the incompatibilities that you discover, you may have other connected equipment to update at the same time. The general price for the Windows license is $199 for the business version, but depending on your situation you may be eligible for volume discounts.

 

The Cut-Over From Windows 7 to Windows 10

Although it’s technically possible to install a new operating system on a pc remotely, this really isn’t the best way to go. Having technicians onsite to do the upgrade is best. This means that if you don’t want your people and operations to be disrupted, you’ll want to schedule the work outside of business hours, which brings us to our next point.

 

IT Support Scheduling Limitations

It would be great to schedule all of your upgrading work to be done on the weekends, but as the January 2020 date looms closer, you’re going to find that IT support help will be increasingly limited. In fact, some IT companies anticipate that any projects that are put in motion past the 2nd quarter of 2019 may not be guaranteed to be completed before Microsoft’s deadline.

 

There’s Always a Learning Curve

You’ve probably got some folks at your company who love new software and will be eager to explore all of the new capabilities that Windows 10 offers. You also have those who will view this change with trepidation and fear. It’s best to provide training opportunities for those who want and need it and cut them a little slack as they slowly make the new interface their comfort zone.

 

The Biggest Mistakes You Can Make When Upgrading

If you’ve read all the way through this guide, these next two points should be obvious, especially since one of them is in the subheading at the top of this page. The biggest mistakes you could make when transitioning to Windows 10 are -- lack of planning and waiting to get started.


Lack of Planning

Avoid mistakes when transitioning to Windows 10Don’t skip the planning process. Just because you have the capital to purchase all the licenses, hardware, software and other equipment, doesn’t mean you should do it all at once. Recall the potential incompatibilities discussed previously. When you take into account all of the factors that play a part in the work, you can plan the correct sequence of activity and make the transition as smooth as possible.

Depending on the size of your upgrade project, you might need to space out activities, giving yourself enough time to make sure all of the interactions work correctly so that your employees aren’t disrupted. A project might potentially take one or two weekends but work could stretch out into several weeks if the planning process doesn’t thoroughly take into account all of the related factors and a delay could really get you into trouble.


Waiting to Do Something

Businesses that put off getting their Windows 10 project planned and scheduled will most likely encounter problems with backlogs. The software itself is delivered digitally, but if you need hardware and equipment that everyone else needs, you might find yourself standing in line. As previously mentioned, IT support companies are quickly already getting Windows 10, and Server 2016 projects booked and no one has an infinite amount of capacity.

Related: Need to communicate the importance of upgrading your Microsoft operating systems to your team? Access our on-demand webinar about Windows 7 End-of-Life.

 

What to Expect with Windows 10

If you have avoided upgrading to Windows 10 because of the horror stories about Windows 8, fear not! Windows 10 is solid. Microsoft brought back some of the features that they had removed in Windows 8 and they expanded in a direction that gives users more functionality in Windows 10.

Here are some reasons to get excited about Windows 10:

 

Is Your Business Headquartered in Southern California?

Accent Computer Solutions, Inc. is a managed IT service provider headquartered in Rancho Cucamonga, California. We help businesses with 30 - 500 employees throughout Southern California strategically use IT to meet their business goals. Read our client success stories to learn more about how we empower companies with technology.

If your business is headquartered in Southern California, contact us today to schedule a consultation. We would be glad to learn about your specific situation and provide you with recommendations for how we could facilitate your Windows 10 upgrade.

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