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Is It Time to Start Planning for the End of Windows 7?

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Although 2020 is still more than a full year away, one anticipated date looms large on the calendar: the end of life for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. “End of life” describes the end of support for a hardware or software product, meaning the developer (in this case, Microsoft) will no longer issue security patches or fix flaws and bugs. You can still run the Windows 7 operating system — but at your own risk.

Why talk about this now? As you start to plan your budget for 2019, consider factoring in the cost of upgrading or replacing any desktop or laptop running Windows 7. Because of the early end of life date in 2020, any upgrades or replacements should be rolling several months before January 14. That gives your company time to work with a trusted IT provider to transition smoothly and avoid any down time or interruptions.

Should I upgrade or replace? The general rule of thumb for business computers is that anything more than three years old should probably be replaced, while any less than two years old is safe for an upgrade. This scenario will be different for each business, with several factors — computing speed needs, graphic capabilities, hard drive requirements, and more — coming in to play.

Do I really need to take action? When Microsoft ended support for its popular Windows XP operating system in 2014, it affected 40% of the world’s estimated one billion computers. But change arrived slowly, even with a long rollout and multiple security announcements. Four years later, Business Insider estimates that up to 7% of the world’s computers still use Windows XP, even though several ransomware attacks (most notably WannaCry) have targeted legacy XP systems.

Why does it take some businesses so long to adapt to end of life announcements? Many reasons, all of which will be familiar to any business owner: the expense and the time-consuming work required to update and upgrade computers, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. The use of important legacy software that relies on an outdated operating system. Older equipment that may not respond well to the system requirements necessary for an upgrade to a new operating system. The time and expense required to training employees to use new systems.

That’s why advance planning and the assistance of a trusted IT advisor is key. Many security experts estimate that Windows 7 is used by more computers than any other operating system, with the current standard, Windows 10, coming in second place. Navigating the impending end of life deadline for Windows 7 will require a smart strategy that takes cost, time, and security into consideration. Conducting an assessment of your company’s current infrastructure is the key first step to identifying any coming vulnerabilities.

Other key components to consider:

  • Identify machines that need to be upgraded or replaced
  • Identify legacy software that runs on older operating systems
  • Develop a timeline for any upgrades or replacements
  • Build any upgrades or replacements into 2019 budget
  • Isolate any systems that will continue to run Windows 7 from other secure machines
  • Plan for necessary employee training

If you have any questions or need more information about the coming end of life for Windows 7, contact CMIT Solutions today. We’ve helped our clients navigate situations just like this one, and we understand what businesses need to survive and thrive in today’s challenging cybersecurity environment. CMIT provides responsive, professional support that ensures efficient, safe, and reliable IT operations.

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