Microsoft has announced that January 14th, 2020, is the official End of Life date for Windows 7. On that day, the company will stop supporting Windows 7 on laptops and desktops, and will no longer patch it with security updates.
If you are among the 400 million users still using Windows 7, this news should concern you. The technology will continue to function after the expiration date, but using it will put you at great risk for cybercrime if you continue to use expired Microsoft products.
IT professionals have been talking about the importance of upgrading to Windows 10 to avoid this malicious activity, but that can be a confusing process.
Here are some of the big questions you might be asking:
- What does it mean for the people still using it?
- What kind of security risks will a business face with these changes?
- What can businesses do to avoid serious downtime and security breaches?
What does it mean for the businesses that are still using Windows 7?
The most important reason to upgrade to Windows 10 is cybersecurity. Security breaches and ransomware attacks are becoming far more common as the technology and techniques to do so become more accessible. Cybercriminals are always finding new ways to hack your data.
Because there will no longer be security patches available, there is a concern that malicious hackers will intentionally attack vulnerable systems still using Windows 7. The cybersecurity risk is just too great not to upgrade to a new, more secure operating system.
Too many business owners think that certain software, especially operating systems, can just be installed once and then always work as intended. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. As hardware changes, old software becomes less and less supported. This is what is happening to Windows 7.
Of the one-billion devices out there that run Windows, 38% of those devices run Windows 10, and 37% of them run Windows 7. When we say that 37% of the business owners are running Windows 7, we're talking hundreds of millions of people. Those hundreds of millions of people are soon going to be vulnerable to hackers because Windows 7 is reaching its End of Life date, according to Microsoft.
That’s a lot of people at risk. But the problem can easily be solved by upgrading to Windows 10, a faster and more secure operating system that is nowhere near the end of its life cycle.
Seattle businesses shouldn't take this lightly. They need to create a plan and take action to upgrade to Windows 10.
What Type Of Security Risks Does My Business Face By Continuing To use Windows 7?
The biggest thing to consider around End Of Life for Windows 7 is that they're no longer going to be providing security solutions to patch holes. From a security standpoint, we’ll say this again - this should make the hair stand up on your neck.
When software reaches the end of its life span, or its End of Life date, that means that the company that created the software will no longer dedicate resources to its maintenance. This means that if an exploit is found, nobody is going to fix it. Hackers will have free reign.
Windows 7 is reaching its End of Life date in January of 2020. If you are still running Windows 7 after that date, you are significantly risking both your company’s data, and your own.
“Hackers know this and will begin to specifically target expired products. By running software that no longer receives security updates, you are opening the door for hackers.”
Here’s an example. If your business is using QuickBooks for Windows 7, and there's a problem with how the software works in conjunction with Windows 2007, then Microsoft will fix the issues in Windows to try and prevent damage, error or malicious activity from happening, while QuickBooks will fix the issue with their software to try and prevent the same. This creates a secure, two-sided security loop.
But soon, Windows 7 will not get that support from Microsoft. That will create a security risk that will continue to worsen over time. There will no longer be periodic security patches for the operating system every time an exploit is discovered. If you are still using Windows 7, you will soon be living with this.
What Can My Businesses Do To Avoid Serious Downtime And Security Breaches?
The best approach when considering upgrading your Windows software is to identify where your weaknesses are, understand how many how many devices are running something that is expired or dependent on something that's expired, and bring in a technical expert—your IT team or outsourced IT partner—to create a plan.
At Attentus we talk to quite a few local companies, like manufacturers, and often hear that these organizations have a device that is responsible for running a piece of machinery or equipment. Because most businesses are concerned with improving their bottom line, the software that runs on these devices is often neglected. If the old software from 20 years ago still runs that piece of equipment satisfactorily, then they don't pay for the updates and upgrades and those types of things.
If you’re partnered with a decent outsourced IT provider, they've been telling you for a year or two about Windows 7 End of Life, and hopefully have helped you develop a plan to upgrade that suits your needs and budget. Most of these plans will require some budgeting changes, something most technicians don’t prefer to collaborative with business executives about. Be sure to have some funds set aside to start making these changes before the start of Q1.
At Attentus, we take more of a collaborative approach when it comes to communication about End Of Life upgrades.
Should My Organization Try To Perform The Windows 10 Upgrade Without Professional Technical Assistance?
Upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10 might seem like a simple process, but it can be more complicated than pushing a button.
If your IT team or administrator does not have the expertise to run compatibility checks, or if you don't have enough available space without a backup, there’s a real possibility that you could flatten your machine and create a huge issue. This would result in more downtime and stress.
It is extremely important to have a professional IT services company look into this for you and plan ahead.
Our recommendation would be to consult a professional outsourced IT company before making any major changes. Attentus can help provide your company with a complimentary assessment in order to provide you with a strategic migration plan with no interruption or downtime.