The end of Windows 7 and what it means for your business

Windows 7 end of life

Windows 7 first launched in 2009. Building on the rather unpopular Vista, it laid the foundations for the modern look and feel of Windows that has continued through Windows 8 and into the current Windows 10.

Because it’s stable and easy to use, many people have stuck with Windows 7 rather than update to one of the newer releases. Indeed it’s estimated that worldwide there are around 200 million PCs still running Windows 7. [1] However, as of 14th January, Windows 7 is no longer supported by Microsoft. This means that it will no longer receive patches and security updates unless you are a corporate customer and willing to pay for the privilege. If you still have machines running Windows 7, this will put you at increased risk of malware, hacking and cyberattack.

What should you do?

Anyone with machines still running Windows 7 needs to take some decisions. The National Cyber Security Centre has gone so far as to issue a warning that machines running the old OS shouldn’t be used to access personal data. [2]

For business users, the risk is much greater. It’s worth remembering that the devastating WannaCry attack of 2017 [3] was so successful because it targeted old Windows XP systems that were no longer receiving security patches. By continuing to use Windows 7, therefore, companies put themselves at greater risk.

Even businesses that have been migrating their systems to Windows 10 should check that there are no old Windows 7 machines that have been overlooked still lurking on their networks. If you don’t find these systems then there is a good chance that hackers will as they are actively scanning for outdated systems. There’s a particular risk from embedded systems such as self-service kiosks or digital signage that may not be as easy to update as desktop and laptop PCs.

You therefore need to look at updating any older machines as soon as possible. In many cases, the reason that people have hung onto older machines is that they are running specific software. You need to check whether this will still work on a newer operating system. You may have to use Windows Compatibility Mode to get it to do so.

Upgrade alternatives

The obvious upgrade path is to go to Windows 10. If you did this before July 2016, the upgrade was free of charge, but you will now have to pay for it. You need to check if Windows 10 will work on your machine. There are compatibility checkers available [4] that will tell you if your hardware is compatible. Whilst you might have concerns about putting the new OS on an older PC, in fact Windows 10 works quite well on older hardware as it has better device management features than older versions of the OS, making more effective use of memory and processor capabilities.

Of course, at £120 for the Home edition and £220 for Pro, Windows 10 isn’t cheap. If you have an older machine, you might find it more cost-effective to upgrade the hardware as well and buy a new PC with Windows 10 included.

If you don’t want to ditch your old machine completely but don’t want to pay for a new version of Windows, then there are still options. The first is to disconnect your Windows 7 PC from your network and the internet and have it run in isolation. This may be a viable option if you still need a particular software package that won’t work elsewhere. The other option is to replace Windows with one of the free Linux operating systems that are available; this can give your old machine a few years of extra life.

The last and often easiest/most cost-effective solution especially if you use Office 365 or an older version is to adopt Microsoft 365 Business which is available on a monthly subscription. This package from Microsoft is extremely cost effective as it includes an automatic uplift to Windows 10 from Windows 7. Not only that, it also includes the full Office 365 Business suite of applications along with security features such as Enterprise Mobility + Security and Advanced Threat Protection.

If you need free advice on upgrades or anything IT related then give Cloudworks a call. We are specialists in cloud technologies, cyber-security and support. In addition, we continuously monitor our clients IT cloud infrastructure to ensure they are secure and protected against the latest threats. Give us a call to find out more and we will find the best strategy and solution to fit your business.

Call us on 0115 824 8244 or email info@cloudworks.co.uk

[1] https://www.zdnet.com/article/how-many-pcs-are-still-running-windows-7-today/

[2] https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/obsolete-platforms-security-guidance

[3] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2018/10/11/wannacry-cyber-attack-cost-nhs-92m-19000-appointments-cancelled/

[4] https://www.techworm.net/2018/09/windows-10-compatibility-checker-pc.html