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The Windows 7 clock is ticking. Are you ready for End of Support?

There’s less than one month to go until Microsoft ends support for Windows 7, one of the world’s most popular operating systems (OS).  Although the 14th January 2020 deadline has been in the public domain for some time, there are still countless organisations functioning with this decade-old operating system.  In fact, recent reports have even suggested that half of the NHS is still running on Windows 7, evidence of the scale of the issue facing many IT professionals across the globe.

With time running out, those still using Windows 7 are faced with a choice between upgrading to a supported alternative or continuing with an unsupported operating system after the deadline.  It’s vital, therefore, that those tasked with making this decision understand the possible implications, as well as the different options available to them.

What happens if I continue with Windows 7?

Firstly, it’s important to make clear that your Windows 7 devices will continue to operate beyond the 14th January deadline.  One significant change, however, is that these devices will no longer receive regular performance patches or security updates.

Without regular updates, users running on Windows 7 will be more susceptible to performance issues, will be unable to take advantage of new or enhanced features, and perhaps more importantly, will be at an increased risk of cyber security breach.

In this regard, it’s important to remember that any security posture is only as strong as its weakest point, so even keeping Windows 7 devices as part of a mixed device estate will not eliminate the cybersecurity risk.

Equally, it’s also worth highlighting that there may be an issue with compliance.  By failing to upgrade your systems, you are putting both your data and that of your customers at an increased risk, meaning you could potentially fall foul of GDPR and/or other industry-specific regulations as a result.

What other options are available?

For those looking to avoid the issues associated with running an unsupported operating system there are options to consider.

1. Extended support

With so many businesses still currently running with Windows 7, Microsoft has announced the availability of some additional support.  Extended Security Updates (ESU) will provide security updates for critical and important issues.  This programme is set to run for 3 years and can be purchased at any time throughout this period, although those purchasing in years two and three will also have to pay for the preceding years as the updates are cumulative.

It is important to note however that ESU is not a like for a like replacement to the existing Windows 7 support.  This will only cover specific issues as identified by the Microsoft Security Response Centre.

2. Upgrade to Windows 10

A worthy successor to Windows 7, Microsoft’s latest offering – Windows 10 has been available since 2015 and has now overtaken its predecessor to become the world’s most popular OS.

Importantly, Windows 10 is also the first Microsoft OS to break away from the traditional product licensing model.  Users receive regular updates every few months, so there’s no requirement to purchase a new product several years down the line to take advantage of new functionality.

Compatible Windows 7 devices can be upgraded to Windows 10 but might not be able to access all of the functionality available.  The best way to take advantage of all this industry-leading OS has to offer is by upgrading to a new Windows 10-ready PC or laptop.  This ultimately secures your device estate for the long-term, and ensures that your users can work with the latest hardware available, but facilitating a full refresh can be an expensive proposition.

Ultimately, securing an update to new Windows 10 devices presents the best solution in terms of user satisfaction and security, but for many businesses this may not yet be a viable option due to budget restrictions and implementation considerations.  With that in mind, its important to weigh up all of the options available to identify what provides the best short and long-term prospects for you.

If you’re facing up to a decision around the future of your current Windows 7 devices, we’re here to help.  Get in touch with a member of the team to discuss your situation, and we can help to advise you on the best solution for you.