Windows 7 is Ending -- Don't Put Yourself at Risk

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Are you currently running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008/R2? If so, you should be planning a migration to Windows 10. If not, you should start immediately.

As of January 14, 2020, Microsoft will no longer provide free security updates, patches or technical support from the Microsoft support center. After January 14, continuing to run any system on Windows 7 will put your systems at significant risk from cyber-attacks exploiting new, unpatched vulnerabilities.

What’s the big deal?

Last year, there were 499 Windows desktop OS vulnerabilities. More than 100 were considered critical. As you can see, serious flaws in these operating systems occur frequently and require immediate attention. The infamous WannaCry ransomware attack in May 2017, which infected over 200,000 computers across the globe, was made possible by an unpatched vulnerability in Windows OS.

Microsoft released patches for the vulnerability two months prior, but only for the operating systems it currently supported. It’s estimated that a whopping 98 percent of computers infected in the attack were running Windows 7, which was supported and patched at that time. Imagine the scale and damage if a similar attack were to occur after January 14, when it’s no longer supported.

In fact, one in three data breaches caused globally is the result of unpatched vulnerabilities and, with an average cost of $3.86 million per breach in 2018, a single breach could very well end your business.

On top of that, Microsoft will no longer support Office 365 ProPlus on Windows 7 for free and many independent software vendors (ISVs) won’t support new versions of applications on Windows 7 either, which could severely impact your business operations. Adobe, for example, has already announced that the next major update to Creative Cloud, the renowned product suite that includes Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and Premiere, will no longer support older versions of operating systems, including Windows 7, 8 and even a few early versions of Windows 10.

Unless you plan on buying new hardware in the very near future, which will automatically come with the latest Windows OS, migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is the only real long-term option.

What’s holding businesses back?

Although Windows 10 was released over four years ago, many businesses have yet to migrate. According to survey data from Kollective, two-thirds of businesses have not developed a strategy to migrate to Windows 10 and worse, about a fifth of those questioned were not aware of the end of support news.

Even for those aware of the impending end of support, a mass OS migration is a serious undertaking. Many businesses simply don’t have the IT infrastructure in place to implement a migration of this scale and migrating manually would take years to complete. Other users have hesitated to switch simply because they love Windows 7 and are hesitant to move to an unfamiliar OS. Fortunately, there are a variety of options, like the Classic Shell program, to make Windows 10 look and feel more like predecessors.

What’s so great about Windows 10?

Once you’ve completed your migration, Windows 10 has some fantastic enhancements that are worth the effort. Windows 10 is more secure than any of Microsoft’s previous desktop OS versions and with new enhancements for advanced biometrics, threat protection, malware protection, and trusted hardware.

Even the beloved secure boot feature from Windows 8, which requires any program that begins when operating system starts to be signed off by Microsoft and the hardware manufacturer, is now a mandatory security feature in Windows 10.

Overall performance also receives a major boost. Speed, be it system startup or application performance, is Windows 10’s reigning capability. There’s even an enhancement directed specifically at resource-intensive gaming, that gives developers more console-like “closer to the metal” access to graphics processors and improved overall performance, with power savings of up to 50 percent.

For those more interested in the day-to-day interface, Windows 10 has the same core on all devices, making it familiar and easy to use across all devices and has a usable touch screen mode to boot.

Where do I start?

More than anything, it’s important to start planning immediately. With only two months until the end of life date, waiting to address the issue will only increase the risk to your business. Take inventory of your IT environment, examine your options and develop a plan before you migrate. Complete the migration in phases, if possible, and consult an expert, like a managed services provider, if you or your team are unsure. The time to act is now. Don’t put your yourself at risk.

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