Write a blog post suitable for the Microsoft Enterprise Blog, targeted at non-techy savvy business leaders in 1,000+ employee companies, explaining in accessible terms what end of life support for Windows 7 means for their business.
Windows 7 mainstream support ends in January 2020. By that time, companies using that operating system need to have upgraded. In this blog, I was asked to not only explain why that mattered, but to provide considerations and tips for helping those businesses choose an operating system to upgrade to, and plan for those changes.
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What the end of Windows 7 extended support will mean for business
On January 13 2015, Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 7, with a view to ending extended support altogether on January 14, 2020.
As of today, we’re at the halfway point between those two milestone dates. So with just two and a half years to go until the planet’s most popular operating officially system signs off, it’s time to start thinking about what comes next.
What is extended support? Is your business ready to upgrade? What will this mean? And why is it important in the first place? Read on to find out.
Why staying up to date is important
Running a fully up-to-date operating system is the baseline for keeping any modern computer free of viruses and security threats. The more machines your business has, the greater those potential threats become –and as any IT professional knows, the more logistical planning goes into any major upgrades.
It is, then, especially crucial for larger businesses to think ahead to keep their data, and any private customer information, safe and secure – as well as to make sure they stay industry compliant.
Which is why, if you haven’t already, now is best the time for your business to begin planning for life after Windows 7.
What the current Extended Support means for Windows 7 users
Before investigating what upgrading means, it’s worth outlining where Windows 7 is currently at in terms of usability and security.
First – don’t panic. At this stage, Windows 7 is still safe to run. However, Microsoft is no longer actively developing it to improve or enhance the user experience.
This means that, while new security threats like viruses and malware are still protected against, certain features and services associated with Windows 7 support are now different. These include:
- No new service packs: users could run into more and more compatibility issues as they install an increasing amount of newly released hardware and software.
- No design or feature changes: users can now no longer request cosmetic or usability changes to Windows 7.
- No free non-security updates: businesses must now purchase Extended Hotfix Support for updates that don’t affect their network’s security.
What the end of Extended Support will mean in 2020
In short, it will mean the end of Microsoft’s support for Windows 7.
Essentially, after January 14, 2020, systems running Windows 7 will be vulnerable to viruses and malware threats from hackers, meaning your entire enterprise could be at risk.
How to plan for life after Windows 7
Here are a few key factors to consider in moving your organisation to a new operating system:
Decide on an upgrade path
With end of mainstream support for Windows 8 due on January 9 2018, future proofing your business means looking past the next immediate version to the most modern Windows release.
With mainstream support until October 13, 2020, and extended support for another five years after that, a free upgrade to Windows 10 is the obvious and best choice.
Work with your CIO or IT department to plan your migration.
Having 1,000+ employees in a business means a lot of machines to upgrade to the latest version of Windows. Security, compatibility of popular apps with the new platform, and retention of individual user preferences must all be considered.
It’s no small job, which is why we recommend a minimum of 12-18 months minimum to plan and execute the move to Windows 10, using a migration tool (such as Microsoft’s User State Migration Toolkit, or USMT) that your IT team believe is the best fit for your organisation.
Plan to future proof your apps and hardware
While Windows 10 itself should run fine on any systems capable of running Windows 7, those in your organisation upgrading to the latest versions of processor-intensive programs (such as video editing software) might also benefit heavily from an immediate upgrade of new hardware.
Likewise, planning an upgrade is the perfect time to review software licenses to make sure your company is not wasting money on unused programs. And to truly future proof the way you work, your organisation could consider taking your traditional desktop publishing and communication and collaboration software into the cloud with Microsoft’s own cloud-based solution, Office 365.