Microsoft has announced Windows 7’s end-of-life (EOL) date, and it will be on January 14, 2020. At the moment, Windows 7 is still at an extended support phase, but once that’s done and EOL kicks in, Microsoft will stop releasing updates and patches, and no longer offer help and support to the millions of users who may still be using Windows 7. This includes security patches that protect the operating system (OS) from breaches, threats, and exploits. Hence, Microsoft released an update, KB4493132, that will repeatedly notify Windows 7 users about EOL and urge them to upgrade to Windows 10.
At this time, it is estimated that 37% of all PCs around the world have Windows 7 installed. With so many vulnerable systems, EOL can be a massive cause of chaos that will disrupt businesses. And continued use of Windows 7 after the EOL date will be a big incentive for hackers to unleash malware onto business users. Third-party developers will end support of Windows 7 updates in their apps as well, presenting other doors for attack.
To prepare for Windows 7’s EOL, your business needs to know its options. It can either stick with Windows 7 or change to another operating system.
Plan for Windows 7 expenses
You may think that upgrading all your company PCs to Windows 10 and retraining staff in its use is an expense you’re not ready for. January 14 may be ample time to plan for a budget or you may choose to stick it out longer with 7.
Windows 7 will still continue to operate after its EOL. You can still install it on devices and use it for your offices and business. Given the state of cybersecurity threats upon businesses — data breaches, phishing, and ransomware being the most common and notorious — continued use of Windows 7 is a risk that may seriously derail or even end your business. And if there’s a glitch that prevents your devices from booting, Microsoft may not be able to help you like it used to. Be sure, then, to back up files and documents regularly.
Microsoft, however, will not be leaving Windows 7 users high and dry. Users can still get Extended Security Updates if they pay Microsoft for them. For Windows Enterprise users, the cost is $25 per device from January 2020 until January 2021, $50 per device from January 2021 to January 2022, and $100 per device from January 2022 to January 2023. Businesses with several Windows 7 PCs will soon find this very expensive.
Prepare to switch to Windows 10
Upgrading to Windows 10 should prove to be the smoothest transition and require the least EOL preparation.
For starters, your business PCs should have the right specs to experience little disruption or downtime. The minimum requirements of a Windows 10 PC are a 1 GHz or faster processor, 1 GB of RAM for a 32-bit installation and 2 GB of RAM for a 64-bit installation, at least 20 GB of hard disk space, and a graphics card with a DirectX 9 chip and a resolution of at least 800x 600.
Upgrading will also allow you to keep your files, minimizing downtime while you back them up. If you’re upgrading to Windows 10 from Windows 7 on the same machine, the transfer of files is part of the process, but it’s best to back them up just in case something goes wrong. You may opt not to back up your files if you think that will save your organization some time and money; that’s at your own risk. As for other costs, your organization can upgrade free of charge and with a full Windows 10 license.
There are other considerations when moving to Windows 10. This includes retraining your workforce in the use of the new system. You will also have to consider the applications you currently use with Windows 7.
Over time, more and more hardware and software vendors will stop supporting Windows 7. Sticking with it will cause issues with interoperability and compatibility with the programs you currently use or with the machines and programs you’ll purchase.
For instance, when purchasing IT hardware, you can expect PC makers will bundle Windows 10 into their machines, with no option to downgrade to Windows 7. You will have to manage the third-party programs that your business relies on. You can replace those programs that, for some reason, can’t be updated for Windows 10.
However, given that many vendors are already anticipating the end of Windows 7, they will be updating their applications to work well with Microsoft’s latest OS. By switching to Windows 10, you can expect little disruption from third-party apps whose vendors have foresight.
Switch to a non-Microsoft operating system
You can prepare for EOL by switching operating systems altogether. One option is to install Linux on all of your machines. With Linux, you will not have to spend for an initial purchase or any licenses. It is an open-source operating system completely free to use.
Linux is regularly updated by a devoted community of developers who are constantly writing security patches to protect your system from the latest threats. There is also a huge number of Linux versions called distributions or distros. Distros are uniquely designed for specific uses. It will be easy to find a distro that’s right for your business needs. For instance, you will find distros specifically designed to run on older hardware. And due to Linux’s popularity, you will find many free programs available for it that compete with applications like Microsoft Office.
Or prepare a sizeable budget. The macOS operating system is both easy to use and relatively secure against most internet threats. And most of the popular programs for Windows have a Mac version as well. You may already be imagining that this is the most expensive way to prepare for the end of Windows 7 support. The upside of this plan is that Macs age better than Windows PCs. You may spend a lot now, but your Mac will last a lot longer.
A managed services provider (MSP) can help you upgrade your hardware and software at minimal cost. Apart from helping to keep your applications updated, your MSP can offer a host of other cybersecurity options for a comprehensive multilayered protection system. With the many security packages out there, you will also need one that is able to deliver 24/7 monitoring and maintenance of your IT infrastructure, all at a cost-effective rate. Find out how Spectrumwise can help you today.