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As you may have heard Microsoft have announced that they will be ending support for Windows 7 and Exchange Server 2010 on 14 January 2020. They also confirmed that the extended support being provided for Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 will end on 9th July 2019. But what does this mean?

Well, on these dates Microsoft will no longer:

  • Issue updates for the affected software packages or operating systems
  • Provide new security patches for any bugs that occur
  • Provide online or telephone support for these products
  • Add new features
  • Acknowledge warranties

‘So what’ I hear you say? It will still work, so why should I change? Well the main reason for looking at alternatives is that you open yourself up to potential threats to your business. These may include:

  • Increased cyber-attacks – Old operating systems are a perfect target for cyber-attacks because vulnerabilities are no longer being addressed and new security updates are not being released
  • Slower systems – As the system is no longer being developed and maintained it may start to slow down in terms of its functionality
  • Compatibility – New software packages may not work with old operating systems and then you start to see a knock-on impact on other areas
  • Risks and fines – Your operating systems holds and protects your data if this is vulnerable so is your data and therefore consequences could lead to large fines and damaged reputation.
  • System breakdown – If the system does fall down, it is much harder to repair an old operating system and therefore productivity could be affected for longer.
  • Hardware – If you need to invest in new hardware it may not be compatible with old operating systems. This includes simple things like printer drivers.

Cyber-attacks are increasing unfortunately and one way to mitigate your risks is to ensure your operating systems are as protected as possible. According to Malwarebytes’ 2018 state of malware report the number of business detections of malware rose by 79% last year primarily due to the increase in back-doors, miners, spyware, and information stealers.

Back in November 2017 in our blog we looked at the report into the NHS collapse due to the ‘Wannacry’ malware attack. In the main this was deemed to be due to a lack of attention on upgrading old operating systems, making them vulnerable to this attack. The attackers knew the weak points that were not being addressed and then targeted staff through emails. The ransomware attack affected a third of the hospital trusts in the UK and resulted in the cancellation of 6,900 hospital appointments.

Back in September 2018 NetMarketShare’s confirmed that 40% of businesses were still using Windows 7. This has now been suggested in the latest StatCounter information, to be around a quarter, but this is still a very high amount considering the time remaining.

So, what should I do?

We would advise any company to plan ahead for software and hardware upgrades. If you can look at the systems you are using and identify when you will need to upgrade or change them, then you can build this into your budget and it becomes less of a shock than having to do it at the very end of the support period.

Moving over to a newer version needs planning and preparation. We need to ensure that all information is saved, connections are recorded and software installed on the system is able to be reinstalled on the new system. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as just clicking upgrade.

By investing this time and budget you will ensure that you are future proofing your systems for probably the next 5 years.

There is an alternative option of paying for extended support as listed below but this can get quite expensive and will still run out at a nearby date. It is much more cost-effective to plan to upgrade systems regularly than to be forced to.

Operating SystemService Pack AvailableEnd of mainstream supportEnd of extended support
Windows XPService Pack 3April 2009April 2014
Windows VistaService Pack 2April 2012April 2017
Windows 7Service Pack 1January 2015January 2020
Windows 8Windows 8.1January 2018January 2023
Windows 10N/AOctober 2020October 2025

 

If you are still running either Windows 7 Pro or Enterprise, Microsoft is offering an Extended Security Updates program, but you would have to pay for this on an annual basis. This could be purchased up until January 2023. On any historic system you should make sure you have got the latest service pack available as listed above, until you can upgrade your systems. Windows 10 now installs updates automatically at a release point rather than having a service pack to install.

System updates also affect operating systems for Servers and Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 will end this July (2019). Again, this could severely affect the running and effectiveness of your systems and your business. Reviewing server hardware and software is advised at least every 3 years to prevent downtime.

Planning ahead for upgrades is the best approach. If you are currently running Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 then please speak to us about planning an upgrade for your system. If your server is using Windows Server 2008 then give us a call to discuss the best options for upgrading your server.

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Simon

Simon

Managing Director at Rochester & Associates Ltd
Simon loves technology, reading and cycling. He has gained experience with multinational IT companies, Banks and a vast range of other businesses, including the BBC and the Land Registry. Since 1998 he has been working as the Managing Director of Rochester & Associates Ltd where he can offer his wealth of experience to our clients.