Windows 7 End-of-Life Has Come and Gone: The Risks of Using an Unsupported Operating System
January 14, 2020 marked 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 here and it’s time to make 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.
Yet, many individuals and businesses are still using Windows 7.
Even though this operating system (OS) software went "end of life" more than a year ago, it's still being used by people and companies who don't see anything wrong with out-of-support software. It may appear that their computers are working just fine, and they don't see the point of upgrading to Windows 10. They may also want to avoid the hassle and costs associated with transitioning to a new OS.
Unfortunately, continuing to use Windows 7 may escalate into more hassle and costs than the upgrade would involve because out-of-support software presents risks that could materialize into a crisis at any time.
Risks of Using Windows 7 for Business
When Windows 7 went out of support back in January 2020, Microsoft stopped releasing software patches and service packs. A patch provides a fix or improves the software in some way. A service pack gives you a bundle of updates to improve performance or add functions, and may include previous patches.
Without these updates, you’re at risk of becoming an easy target for a cybercriminal; penalized for falling out of regulatory compliance; and out of luck when you need IT support.
1. Major Security Risks
When a developer like Microsoft releases a software product, cybercriminals immediately look for vulnerabilities that they can exploit as an entryway for malware. The manufacturer knows that the bad guys are scouring their software code for vulnerabilities, so they release updates and patches to close up these holes.
When cyberattackers find a hole in a popular software, they go in for the kill.
Remember WannaCry, the widespread ransomware attack in 2017 that plagued companies worldwide? These cybercriminals took advantage of a software vulnerability on computers running older or unpatched Windows systems operating systems. They were able to encrypt data and demand ransom payments.
These attacks are attempted and successful every day. If you’re still running Windows 7, it’s only a matter of time before you become a victim. This alone is enough reason to stop employees from using Windows 7, whether they’re working in the office or from home.
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 Will 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, GDPR, and CMMC have strict data security requirements.
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 automatically puts you out of compliance.
3. Unfixable Issues and Downtime
Unsupported software like Windows 7 is likely to become unstable, especially if it’s being run on old hardware. Eventually, there will be a day when you’ll have an unfixable issue or a downtime event that causes a big disruption in your business.
Microsoft discontinued support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. Your internal IT department or outsourced managed IT services provider is still 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.
IT best practice is to update both hardware and software on a regular basis. The speed and predictability that you can expect when you use modern technology will actually present better overall cost savings than trying to limp along with old technology.
Windows 7 End-of-Life: What to Do Now
You probably already have some of your computers running on Windows 10. That's a good starting point, however, you need to make a complete transition. Updating to the latest operating system may trigger some hardware purchases if you've been trying to run your computers until they die.
The good news is that in addition to being more secure, upgrading your workstations and laptops will actually help your employees to be more productive because they won't have interruptions and frustrations to deal with anymore. Detailed planning for your move to Windows 10 will give everyone the best experience possible.
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.
Accent Delivers Proactive Managed IT Services
Here at Accent, we follow IT best practices for keeping software updated and hardware refreshed on a regular basis. We’re proactive when it comes to keeping IT systems running. After all, if your technology is unpredictable and you spend your time fixing problems, you never get to the point where you can leverage technology.
Contact us to schedule a FREE IT assessment and get an objective perspective on your technology situation.
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.