All good things eventually come to an end, especially in the tech world. For people working on computers running the Windows 7 operating system, the end of “Extended Support” from Microsoft arrives in just a few months, on January 14, 2020.
So, what does that mean? Much like car manufacturers, computer companies like Microsoft have finite resources. Once a newer model or operating system is released, they place a limit on how long they provide upkeep support, like dealership maintenance or official software updates.
Windows 7 has had a great run. Launched to the public in October of 2009, it has been widely recognized as one of Microsoft’s most stable and successful operating systems for the past decade. But come 2020, Microsoft will stop producing critical bug fixes and security updates for the powerhouse operating system.
Computers using Windows 7 will continue operating as normal after January 14, and users typically won’t notice any difference in the way their PC works, explained Chris Kotul, IT Division Manager at Chester, Inc. in Valparaiso. Without access to ongoing software maintenance to keep up with malicious entities, however, these machines could quickly become easy prey.
“The lack of security updates for Windows 7 is a major concern for all users, at home and at work. Not only is the data stored on the PC at risk, but the data and systems that the PC has access to could be vulnerable as well,” Kotul said. “If your Windows 7 computer is part of a business network, you could potentially expose all of your company’s systems and data to hackers.”
The security vulnerabilities are of particular concern to organizations subject to rigorous regulatory and government compliance standards such as PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Digital Security Standards), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act). Financial institutions, medical offices, and anyone accepting digital payment via Visa and MasterCard, for example, will all be immediately out of compliance on January 14, if they still have Windows 7 systems.
“Not only are they at risk of cyber-attack, but they could also face stiff fines, damage to their reputation, and even a shutdown of their business until they’ve updated or replaced all of their expired Windows operating systems,” Kotul said.
Don’t worry, there is still plenty of time to prepare your home and/or business for the end of Windows 7. Having a clear view of what’s necessary will help prevent any delays or problems during the upgrade. Kotul offered a three-step process to help organize the transition to Windows 10:
- Start by getting a complete, accurate count of how many Windows 7 machines you will have to update.
- Inventory all the applications running on the expiring Windows 7 PC’s and evaluate their Windows 10 compatibility— Will they work with the new version of Windows, or will they also need to be upgraded or replaced?
- Evaluate the software is running on your server(s)— Will it need to be upgraded or changed in order to be compatible with the PCs that will be accessing it?
If all this seems a little daunting, Kotul and his team are ready to assist.
“As an official Microsoft Small and Midmarket Business & Cloud Specialist, Chester IT is able to help from beginning to end,” he said. “We’ll assess your current PCs, servers, and software, help you pick the hardware and software that best suits your needs, work with and train you and your employees throughout the upgrade process, and provide professional management and support for your new PCs.”
Upgrading to Windows 10 is well worth the effort, Kotul assured.
“In addition to having peace of mind knowing your computers will receive updates, security updates, and be protected from malware, your users will see dramatic improvements in operating speed,” he said.
Microsoft has put a lot of effort into streamlining and simplifying the user experience over the last decade. Windows 10 comes with a wealth of new available features, like touchscreen support and seamless integration with cloud data accessed through Office 365 or Microsoft 365 subscriptions. Users and administrators will both benefit from the added 365 account security and management capabilities.
To find out more about Chester IT’s Windows 7 end of life support services and team availability, visit their website, www.chesterinc.com/information-technologies/ or give them a call at (219) 464-9999.