What does EOL Windows 7 mean for your business?

Business Insights

Microsoft recently announced that it will officially begin the Windows 7 end of life phase on January 14, 2020. On that day, the company will stop supporting Windows 7 and will no longer patch it with security updates.

After that date you will still be able to use Windows 7 but it will be less secure and if you should run into problems Microsoft will no longer be on call to fix the problem. Windows 7 End of Life means no more updates, no support for modern security systems and a honey pot for potential hackers, poised to move in as support ends.

Microsoft insists it is ending Windows 7 support and has also warned of the security risks present for anyone that continues to use the 2009 operating system.

The firm said:

"Microsoft made a commitment to provide 10 years of product support for Windows 7 when it was released on October 22, 2009. When this 10-year period ends, Microsoft will discontinue Windows 7 support so that we can focus our investment on supporting newer technologies and great new experiences.”

Microsoft is actively encouraging customers to move to Windows 10 and strongly suggests doing so on new hardware too despite the fact that some higher spec Windows machines would be capable of running the new software systems given the appropriate licences.

For many this will be quite a wrench, Windows 7 having been one of Microsoft’s best-loved computing operating systems, with hundreds of millions of people being affected by the change. Indeed so attached are we to Windows 7, that despite Microsoft’s warnings, over one third of us are still holding by it.

Software does need to be constantly updated to keep up with user needs and to counter potential threats, and developers do not release new and updated versions of software and operating systems (e.g. Windows 10, iOS) just to generate new revenue and to introduce features that users may or may not need.

It is only partly a question of whizzy new features, cyber security is a key element, the longer any software is available, the more time hackers have had to find a way in. It is well recognised that as far as cyber security goes, developers and experts are playing “catch up”, generally introducing new patches and fixes in response to hacks, rather than ahead of them. That requires constant updates and patches for popular systems and is why users should install any patches as soon as possible after these become available. It should always be born in mind that most patches have been developed to counter threats after they have been recognised.

It can be a temptation for organisations to hang on to outdated tech, because it is what they know and it still works, for far too long, and it is not unusual to come across companies taking the risk of still operating even older systems such as Windows XP despite support for XP having been withdrawn by Microsoft on 8th April 2014. Operating without updates and support can lead to incidents such as the widely publicised NHS security breach in 2017 affecting hospitals and GP surgeries which were hit by a Ransomware attack largely attributed to vulnerabilities that hadn’t been patched in outdated operating systems.

Older builds may seem perfectly acceptable, but convenience needs to be balanced with security. Applying patches as new builds become available may force a system off-line for a short time and the scheduling of such tasks needs to be considered. Deferring the issue can lead to a chain of updates building up that need to be installed in a specific order or the upgrade will fail. The key advice must always be ‘upgrade as soon as possible’.

There are plenty of benefits that come with making the change, key amongst them being greater security, Windows 10 is being referred to as Microsoft's most secure operating system ever, the security of Windows 10 with Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) has already proven itself during by being unaffected during the global ransomware attack, WannaCry.

Windows 10 is fast too, streamlining the overall start up experience by cutting down on bloatware and unnecessary start up processes has resulted in a refreshingly fast overall user experience. Windows 10 also brings significant improvements in functionality and usability offering touch screen functionality, and a greatly improved overall experience.

Upgrading to Windows 10 should be seen as a great opportunity to move your IT forward and reap the important benefits of speed, functionality and increased security.