What Windows 7 End of Life Means and Why Upgrading is Critical to Your Business

What Windows 7 End of Life Means and Why Upgrading is Critical to Your Business

What Window 7 End of Life Means and Why Upgrading is Critical to Your Business

At Innovative, we have years of experience managing computer systems for organizations and businesses throughout the United States.  A majority of our job involves making sure that all software and operating systems being used by businesses are up to date and secure.  This requires a proactive approach to the task.

A lot of the times, updates and software patches are the types of back end duties that go unnoticed and most of the time underappreciated.  However, it is something that is critical to maintaining the health and most importantly the security of your business systems.

Now that Microsoft’s Window 7, one of the most popular Windows releases of all time, is officially reaching it’s end of life, operating system upgrades are at the forefront again.  In this piece, We would like to explain what exactly the end of life for Window 7 actually means, along with why upgrading your business’ operating systems before the end of the year could be the most important move you make.

What Does End of Life Actually Mean?

According to Microsoft’s own website, the Window 7 operating system will receive no further security updates or support of any kind after January 14, 2020.  This means that hackers will soon be able to dive deep into the Window 7 code and engineer new viruses or malware strains designed to take advantage of any vulnerabilities they find, and Microsoft will not be issuing any updates to protect against these malicious attacks.  Do not be held hostage for your important client or business information!

This also presents major implications in terms of compliance, something that requires a proactive touch and a high degree of vigilance to maintain in the long-term.  For example, all the United States defense industrial base and defense contractors must meet DFARS compliance requirements, which includes taking appropriate measures to prevent cyber incidents from occurring, as well as the analytics to isolate the issue and it’s root cause.  By virtue of the fact that your machines will no longer be receiving security updates, you open your business, confidential client and personal information to being breached.  DFARS Compliance Regulations could result in penalties and lost contracts.  The same is true of other compliance types, such as HIPAA.

While it is true that HIPAA has no specific rule that says “running Windows 7 after January 2020 is a violation,” it also states that you need to have procedures in place for “Guarding against, detecting and reporting malicious software”.  Any unsupported operating system does not just make this difficult, it makes it largely impossible.  The same is true of PCI DSS compliance (which aplies to companies of any size accept credit card payments), and CMR-17 compliance (which regulates companies that either exist in or do business in the state of Massachusetts).

The Time to Upgrade is Now!

While it is true that upgrading from Window 7 to a new operating system across your enterprise is a large job, the good news is that you still have a little under a year to make sure that things go as smoothly as possible.  To get to the point, you just need to keep a few key things in mind.

  1. You need to understand that you are dealing with something of a rolling timeline, especially when it comes to the software that you are currently using.  For example, the next version of Microsoft Office 2019 will only be compatible with Window 10.  It will certainly be released before January 2020, which means that even though Microsoft wills till technically be supporting your operating system, your productivity software will not.  By that time, you will need to make the leap to either the subscription based Office 365 or some other compatible solution.  This is likely a situation you will run into with a lot of other programs that you depend on daily, so you will need to know when you will lose compatibility with these solutions and take action prior to those dates to avoid any type of business disruption.
  2. You should understand the compatibility between your current hardware and the operating system you will be upgrading to, as well as evaluating all of your mission critical systems in order to verify their compatibility  with a new OS.  If those assets do not support an upgrade, you will need to invest money in updating them (or buying new ones) prior to the January 2020 end of support for Window 7.

In the end, the most important thing to understand is that if you want to prevent Window 7 from becoming a threat of costly downtime to your business, major action is required on your behalf.  But success to that end is less the product of one major move and is more about a series of smaller ones.  By understanding your enterprise as it exists today and learning about what state it needs to be in by January 2020. you will be able to break the process down into a series of smaller, more manageable steps to guarantee that everything runs as smoothly as possible on January 15, 2020 and beyond.