Microsoft set the end of life date for Windows 7 years ago now, but as we get closer to that date – January 14th, 2020, more and more businesses are starting to look at what they need to do with the Windows 7 End of Life announcement. As of May 2019, Extreme Networks still has just under a third of our customers running Windows 7. Why? Because Windows 7 is a very reliable and stable Operating System. This is part of the reason why Microsoft have a Windows 7 End of Life date, it is to drive sales for those who haven’t had a reason to upgrade to a newer Operating System.
What does Windows 7 End of Life mean?
Every month, Microsoft releases patches for all of their Operating Systems and Applications. After January 14th, it will no longer issue patches for Windows 7. This means that there will be no improvements to the code base, it will stay as it is.
Can you stay with Windows 7?
As great as Windows 7 is, there are some solid reasons to migrate.
- Security – Many of the updates cover vulnerabilities that are discovered in Windows 7. After the 14th of January, unless you pay a large fee to Microsoft (a lot more than a small business can afford), you will not get these security patches. The Operating System will become increasingly vulnerable to viruses and hacking attempts.
- Reliability – Some of the patches improve the reliability for the Operating System. These also will no longer be available, so the Operating System may become less stable over time.
- Directors Duties – Many companies have requirements around data protection, security, privacy or uptime. If the Operating System is not compliant, it may be a logical step to state that the company has not taken all of the steps required, so it can be an issue that needs to be discussed at Board level. A risk assessment needs to be conducted to determine risks and likely consequences of a breach or other issue.
- Application support – Over time, application manufacturers will stop providing support for their application when it is running on an old OS. This may mean that your line of business applications may reach a point where it can no longer be upgraded as well, which may increase support costs, or mean that your application runs without support.
Every business should look at the risks with staying with 7 and create a plan to move when possible.
When shouldn’t you upgrade to Windows 7?
There are a range of circumstances when you mightn’t be able to migrate away from Windows 7. The most common is if an application that you use is not supported under Windows 10. This is a fairly common situation, especially in manufacturing. In fact, there are a number of Windows XP machines still running because the software on them hasn’t been upgraded for many years.
What if you can’t migrate from Windows 7?
If you can’t migrate to Windows 10, the best practice is to isolate the machine off the internet if possible and decrease the number of applications running on it to the bare minimum. If the hardware is old, the OS can be virtualised and run on a new machine. This decreases the risk of the old PC having a hardware failure, but the risk of the old OS not being resilient against cyber attack remains.
What should you migrate to?
There are 4 options that you can consider. The one that will be right for you depends on your users, your applications and your budget.
- Microsoft Windows 10 – This is the most expensive solution, but maintains your users and your applications with a Microsoft Operating System.
- Linux – A free operating system. It can be a little clunky for users, and application support can be a significant problem.
- Apple – Application support is less of an issue, but it is still a factor, as is user training.
- Chromebook – This option works well for business that are entirely cloud based with browser based applications.
Which one is right for your business? It depends on the users on the network. Some businesses are able to use Chromebooks or other devices to access the internet, especially if they have a cloud based approach to their applications. Some businesses with a small number of applications can easily use Linux and others may prefer to move to Apple, however most businesses are expected to stay with Microsoft.
Should you upgrade the hardware or get a new PC?
The question about whether to get new hardware depends on a range of issues. Firstly, there is the age of the machines involved, if they are over 3 years old, then you need to look at your upgrade plan for your hardware. Som businesses roll over machines every 3 years, but it is now much more common for businesses to look for a 4 to 5 year program. Do the laptops and desktops have a current warranty? Five year warranties became increasingly popular around 5 years ago, so many businesses may have machines that are still under warranty. The big question is how old the machines are and when were they planned to be replaced. There are 3 options.
- A fresh install of Windows 10. Machines that aren’t too old can have their data backed up (although this is risky – users have a habit of hiding data away!) and a fresh installation of the operating system installed. The data needs to be restored and applications reinstalled. This can be a time-consuming process.
- Upgrade the Operating System. This involves converting it from Windows 7 to Windows 10 – this is a cheaper option as it is a simpler process, but the machines tend not to work as well as a fresh install. Operating Systems collect data over time as applications are installed. This can slow the computer down.
- New machines. The Operating System is bundled with a new PC and this is one of the cheapest ways of getting the OS. This is the best solution for PCs that are close to needing to be replaced.
If you are considering an upgrade or fresh install, make sure that the PCs meet the minimum standards, at least, and ideally more, especially with RAM.
The process for migrating away from Windows 7 can be quite complex, with a lot of factors to consider. If you need help ensuring that you business will experience the minimum disruption, and gets the rights solution for your business and budget, please call the team on 97857162.