Is Your Business Prepared for Windows 7 End of Life?

Businesses still using Windows 7 are not alone. Surveys indicate that nearly half of businesses contacted still have active systems running the popular operating system. Worse, some are still using long-unsupported Windows versions—including Vista and XP.

Even so, Windows 7 end of life is here, and every business should prepare for migration to the security of a supported system.

Windows 7 has enjoyed a long and productive lifespan since launching in October 2009, but like all past Windows versions, Microsoft has moved on to a more robust operating system: Windows 10.

What Is Windows 7 End of Life?

When a product reaches end of life, it is no longer promoted, sold, or supported. You can continue to use the product, but positive results are not guaranteed. Consider it like a loaf of bread: the bread may still be edible for a while after the loaf expires, but it will be stale and will likely taste bad. Eventually, the bread will be completely inedible.

Continuing to use Windows 7 after its end of life means you will not be receiving any upgrades or updates, including those necessary to keep your networks secure. Without these security updates, your network’s safety will continue to weaken, leaving you more vulnerable to attacks.  Eventually, Windows 7 end of life will leave your system wide open to any cyberattack.

When Does Windows 7 Support End?

Microsoft announced that support would officially end when Windows 7 end of life begins on January 14, 2020. Although there have been no functional updates to Windows 7 for quite some time, security updates and patches have still been distributed for the operating system (OS), providing businesses with security updates and closing the doors on any identified vulnerabilities. Windows 7’s newly initiated end of life means that any PC using it after January 14 could be vulnerable to security risks.

Why Is Microsoft Withdrawing Support of Windows 7?

Like any technical enterprise, Microsoft continuously strives to add new features and functionality to its Windows operating system. This includes implementing new technology that keeps pace with improvements in processors, maximizes memory resources, and supports new hardware such as tablets and mobile devices.

Managing and updating multiple versions of Windows is expensive. It requires technical resources, developers, and distribution of updates for hundreds of thousands of businesses and computers. Nearly 80 percent of businesses still have at least a limited number of computers running Windows 7.

Microsoft’s development team can be better utilized in addressing updates and providing security patches for Windows 10. By withdrawing older versions of the OS, Microsoft can now focus on enhancements and improving user experiences for Windows 10.

What Does Windows 7 End of Life Mean for Your Business?

Will business systems stop running on January 14? Not to worry, computers running Windows 7 will continue to run normally. However, there are serious issues that can arise when running unsupported software:

  • Security: This presents the highest risk to businesses. Hackers and cybercriminals are constantly seeking OS vulnerabilities to penetrate company networks. With no further security patches, any new weaknesses discovered could leave Windows 7 computers defenseless.
  • New hardware: As Microsoft or third parties develop new devices or software, Windows 7 may not be capable of supporting these advancements.
  • OS bugs: If new problems are discovered in the Windows 7 OS itself, Microsoft will not offer any solutions or address problems.

Preparing for Windows 7 End of Life

Fortunately for most companies, the minimum hardware requirements for Windows 10 are the same as those for Windows 7:

  • Processor: 1GHz processor or faster
  • Memory: 1GB of RAM for a 32-bit installation and 2GB of RAM for a 64-bit installation
  • Hard Disk Space: up to 20GB of space
  • Graphics Card: screen resolution of 800 by 600 or higher and a DirectX 9 graphics chip
  • Connectivity: internet access

Note that these are indeed “minimum” requirements. Systems with additional memory and faster processors will provide much improved performance.

Windows 7 End of Support Considerations

Existing software will continue to run normally. Applications such as Microsoft Office, purchased software such as ERP systems, and document management software will remain stable, but these too may be unable to benefit from future updates that require Windows 10 options or services.

Microsoft tools like Internet Explorer will still function normally since they are a component of Windows but will receive no future updates or security patching.

An important consideration for businesses is that existing software—such as antivirus or malware detection applications—may not receive further updates that protect Windows 7 systems either since those companies will also be focused on Windows 10 functionality now.

Cost is an additional concern. Microsoft will offer extended support for Windows 7, but at a considerable expense. This will take the form of a charge per computer, which increases each year.

Other Considerations for Windows 10 Upgrades

Several differences between Windows 7 and Windows 10 can present a challenge for business plans:

  • Windows 10 utilizes different file associations, which means some existing files may not immediately be associated with the preferred application. This can mean extra manual steps after the migration.
  • While Windows 10 is reasonably easy to navigate for Windows 7 users, there are differences in how the start menu and taskbar can be customized and used to meet individual preferences. Businesses need to prepare employees for these differences, and can even provide some advanced training.
  • Microsoft Edge is the new browser bundled with Windows 10. Internet Explorer still functions as well, but users may want to begin utilizing Edge. This could involve some initial guidance.

To minimize vulnerability from nonsupport following the Windows 7 end of life and avoid significant extended support costs, businesses that currently have no strategy for upgrading to Windows 10 should formulate a plan as soon as possible.

Why Hasn’t Everyone Upgraded Already?

NetMarketShare reports that an estimated 32.74 percent of PCs are still running the Windows 7 platform. There are many reasons given for not upgrading, most of which are financial and not entirely valid.

One reason that companies have not upgraded to Windows 10 is the worry that there are stringent hardware requirements. If the company’s hardware is not up to speed, they may fear that replacing or updating devices could be cost prohibitive. In reality, most hardware meets these specifications, and the costs associated with replacing hardware isn’t as much as they may think. Our recommendation, however, is to upgrade your hardware to an i5 Proc and 8g RAM, combined with a solid-state drive for a more reliable environment for standard business use.

Another reason commonly given by companies relying on outdated operating systems is the fear of losing data during the transition. Switching operating systems will not result in any extensive downtime, lost information, or general instability when performed by a competent IT company.

Some businesses rely on outdated business software that is unsupported by Windows 10 (think payroll programs, scheduling coordinators, creative suites). This is especially problematic because some of these software programs are going to have an end of life of their own, meaning manufacturers will no longer offer support for the older versions of their applications. Bottom line? You could be running unsupported applications on an unsupported operating system. Ouch.

Windows 7 to 10 Upgrade

Businesses have several methods available to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10:

  • Upgrade computers with new models that already have Windows 10 installed. With an aging fleet of computers, there may be additional benefits in this approach from increased performance and employee productivity.
  • Purchase and install the OS. Windows 10 can be downloaded and installed from Microsoft or many other online resources.
  • Upgrade existing systems to Windows 10. This is not overly daunting for most individuals since it means upgrading from one Microsoft product to another. But for small businesses or large enterprises with multiple—even hundreds—of computers that require this upgrade, putting a strategy in place is an important phase of the upgrade process.

It’s important to consider multiple elements of the upgrade:

  • Care to retain existing files on each computer
  • Compatibility with any attached devices such as printers, scanners, etc.
  • Backup of critical folders and application data to ensure data retention

Transitioning from Windows 7 to Windows 10

Some companies worry that rolling out a new version of Windows will impact productivity.  Windows 10 is a smooth-running platform that is user-friendly and sensibly arranged. Still, your employees may experience some issues in transitioning from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

Windows 10 is app-based, so navigating through the platform may be much different than they are used to. They will need to learn where their files are stored and how to get around the panes and start menu. Luckily, Windows 10 allows users to personalize their desktops in ways that make the most sense for them.

Windows 7’s toolbar will be different from Windows 10, which will take some getting used to.  Users may need to learn their way around the features of Windows Internet Explorer 11 and Microsoft Edge too.

Employees will enjoy the Microsoft login feature, which allows them to sync settings across all devices. They will also get to meet Cortana, a virtual assistant like Alexa, Siri, and “Google.”  Microsoft 10’s smart new task manager is also far more useful and versatile.

Don’t be tempted to “save a few dollars” and update to Windows 10 Home version for your network. Windows 10 Pro offers many features that Windows 10 Home does not, including:

  • The ability to tie your computer to a domain
  • Mobile device management
  • Increased security features
  • Assigned access
  • Microsoft updates deployed across multiple devices and users

Your MSP can help you train your employees during the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

Still on the Fence?

It’s a lot to consider, but the bottom line is this: if you stick with Windows 7, you will be putting your network at risk for fatal errors and security threats on an unsupported platform. Even if upgrading may not have been in your budget,  your best option following Windows 7 end of life is to upgrade to Windows 10. Under the guidance of a trained IT team like Iconic IT, the costs and disruptions will be minimal.

Contact Iconic IT for a free, no-obligation consultation today. We can help you make an informed decision that has the best interest of you, your company, and your budget in mind. Iconic IT can provide you with the necessary system assessments:

  • Hardware Assessment: Is your hardware capable of running Windows 10?
  • Software Assessment: Are the programs you are currently running compatible with Windows 10?
  • Overall Cost Assessment: How much will an upgrade to a new, secure version of Windows cost your company?
  • Upgrade Assessment: What is the best upgrade option for you and your business?

If our professional team decides, along with you, that the recommended upgrade to Windows 10 is your best choice, count on Iconic IT to be by your side every step of the way. We will help you smoothly transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

Iconic IT can help your business formulate and execute an effective plan for dealing with Windows 7 end of life. Put our technical resources to work for your business—large or small—to make the transition to Windows 10 seamless and efficient.

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