The End is Near for Windows 7: Start Planning For Windows 10 Now
January 14, 2020 marks the end of support for one of the most popular operating systems for businesses – Windows 7. It was released in 2009 and has served us well, but the end is near and it’s time to start planning your transition.
Why is this happening?
As technology evolves, every piece of the puzzle has to keep up – including the operating system. When Microsoft (and many other developers) create software, there’s a defined lifespan. This lifespan is typically published when the operating system is released, that way you and your IT support team can plan your technology purchases accordingly.
People often ask, “What happens if I don’t upgrade by the end-of-life date?”
Good question. Your computer will still turn on and continue to work as you expect it to, but there are a few things behind the scenes that put your organization at risk.
Here are three things that will happen on January 14, 2020 if employees are still using Windows 7 machines:
1. Major Security Risks
When Microsoft stops supporting an operating system, they stop releasing security updates or patches. If any machines on your network are running Windows 7 after January 14, 2020, your business will be in a vulnerable position.
As I mentioned earlier, this support timeline was made public several years ago – which means hackers are well aware of it too. After January 14 will be prime time for hack attempts and viruses targeting those who have decided not to upgrade.
Remember WannaCry, the unprecedented ransomware attack from 2017 that plagued companies worldwide? These cybercriminals used a known vulnerability in older or unpatched Windows systems operating systems to encrypt data and demand ransom payments.
Think about the applications and data that your employees access on a daily basis. If their computer is running an unsupported operating system, that could be used as the gateway for hackers to access your accounting information, client records, inventory system, and any other sensitive data that user has access to.
2. Your Business May Be Out of Compliance
Continuing to run Windows 7 past its end-of-life date will put many businesses out of compliance.
Many regulations, such as PCI, HIPAA, and GDPR, have strict data security requirements.
Typically, they require that reasonable measures be taken to keep data secure. Since running an unsupported operating system is a known security risk, running Windows 7 past its end-of-life date will cause many businesses to be out of compliance.
3. An Unplanned Upgrade May Come
Microsoft will discontinue support for Windows 7 after January 14, 2020. Your internal IT department or outsourced managed IT services provider will still be able to troubleshoot, but sometimes issues require help from Microsoft to be resolved.
If your computer ends up in one of those situations, you will be out of luck and will be forced to make a change at that point.
It is best to proactively plan the migration and update your systems on your own terms, instead of waiting until you have no other choice.
Test Windows 10 Before Rolling It Out Organization-Wide
If your organization doesn’t have any Windows 10 machines yet, it would be best to test it on one machine first to make sure it will work with your existing systems.
Once your IT support team has confirmed that it’s compatible with your existing line of business applications, anti-virus solution, VPNs, hardware, etc., it can be rolled out to rest of the organization.
This thorough testing will minimize the risk of downtime and other disruptive technical issues.
Whether you choose to upgrade now or later, having the right IT team manage the projects is critical for a smooth transition. If you need assistance with IT planning, budgeting, or project management, have a conversation with your trusted IT consultant.
About Courtney Casey
In an industry dominated by men, Courtney Casey, Director of Marketing for Accent Computer Solutions, Inc., is making her mark on the world of information technology. Courtney has been immersed in the IT field most of her life and has been molded into the tech savvy expert she is today. She began working for Accent while earning her Bachelor's degree from California State University, Long Beach. Known in the Inland Empire as the "Tech Girl," Courtney is a regular columnist for the region's newspaper of record, The Press-Enterprise. Her columns address topical news trends, new technology products, and offer advice on how to embrace technology or avoid common IT pitfalls.