As we move into 2019, a number of significant Microsoft products are entering the final 12 months in which they will receive regular updates from the company. 
Most significant of these is Windows 7, which will lose support on the 14th of January 2020. On the same date, Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 will lose extended support. Office 2010 support will cease in October 2020 and SQL Server 2008 Service Pack 4 support ceases in July this year.
But what does this mean for businesses that are still using these products and what steps do they need to take to prepare?
Security updates for Windows 7 SP1 will stop in January 2020. Any organisations still running the operating system after that are potentially at risk as unpatched flaws will be vulnerable to exploitation. Of course, many businesses rely on older operating systems and criminals are ready to exploit this. The WannaCry attacks of 2017 targeted old out of support systems, largely Windows XP.
For companies still running Windows 7, the obvious move is to Windows 10. But of course, not all companies are able to make the move immediately. For these, Microsoft has launched an Extended Security Updates programme that will extend security updates for a further three years. However, this will be chargeable – no figures have been revealed at the time of writing – and Microsoft has said that the cost will increase year on year. Businesses will, therefore, need to think very seriously about whether it’s better to upgrade or hang onto the old OS for longer.
Extended support will be available for Office 2010 too, although Microsoft is encouraging customers to make the move to Office 365.
SQL Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 also have extended security update programmes. In this case, the support can be provided at no extra cost provided that you are willing to move the workload to Azure virtual machines. If you must keep your own servers then extended support will cost 75 per cent of the annual licence cost.
It is possible for larger organisations to get ‘custom’ agreements from Microsoft to extend support, but these aren’t cheap and require you to have several hundred machines.
Moving to Windows 10
It is possible to do a straight upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, but in many cases, a hardware upgrade will be required. Microsoft lists the minimum requirements for the OS  but it’s wise to check as some older hardware may not be compatible.
Windows support is partly based on ‘Silicon Policy’ which is whether hardware components such as processors are supported by their manufacturers such as AMD and Intel. In practice, this means if your CPU is five years old or more you may find it won’t work with Windows 10.
Organisations with many machines to upgrade would normally be looking to build a standard image to apply across all of their endpoints. There is now, however, an alternative in the form of Windows Autopilot. This is a service that holds software images and drivers in the cloud. For businesses, Autopilot streamlines upgrading as a new PC can be sent straight to the end user. When they connect it to the network it will be configured with all of the necessary software. A number of hardware manufacturers including Dell, HP and Lenovo now support Autopilot.
It’s important for business users to note that Windows 10 has a more frequent update cycle than earlier products, with upgrades usually issued twice a year. Companies with lots of PCs may want to set up a test group of PCs running the Windows Insider Program to check whether new features are going to cause problems when rolled out to the wider business.
Cloudworks are a Microsoft Gold Partner and experts in migrations and upgrading businesses from legacy systems to the latest Microsoft products. We have supported numerous companies with just 10 users to over 30,000 users on using Microsoft cloud products and security. If you’d like to know more – please call us on 0115 824 8244 or email us at email@example.com