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article imageQ&A: Windows 7 is dead: What small businesses need to do Special

By Tim Sandle     Jan 27, 2020 in Technology
Support for Windows 7 has ended. For those businesses who have not upgraded there are implications to consider. These are spelled out by Mike Puglia, Chief Strategy Officer at Kaseya.
The warnings have been around for a decade. Now after 10 years, support for Windows 7 ended on 14 January 2020. As a consequence, Microsoft will no longer provide technical support for any issues, no software updates, and no security updates or fixes.
This means that remaining businesses need to act. To learn more, Digital Journal caught up with Mike Puglia, Chief Strategy Officer at Kaseya.
Digital Journal: What does Microsoft ending its support for Windows 7 mean for Small Businesses?
Mike Puglia: Microsoft’s discontinued support for Windows 7 means that continuing to run any system on Win 7 will put small businesses at significant risk for cyber-attacks exploiting new, unpatched vulnerabilities linked to the outdated OS. One in three data breaches caused globally is the result of unpatched vulnerabilities and costs for these breaches averaged $3.86 million each in 2018. So a single breach could very well mark the end of a small business.
DJ: How many small firms have yet to upgrade?
Puglia: Studies suggest that two-thirds of businesses have yet to develop a migration strategy. Some small businesses don’t have the IT infrastructure to implement a migration of this scale, while others users hesitate simply because they love Windows 7 and don’t want to move to an unfamiliar OS. But while OS migrations may seem daunting, delaying will only put a business further at risk. Small businesses need to take action now to examine options and outline an implementation plan -- their business’s life may very well depend on it.
DJ: Was a good warning given to businesses about the need to upgrade?
Puglia: Microsoft made a commitment to provide 10 years of product support for Windows 7 when it was released on October 22, 2009. When it announced the Win 7 end of life date in April 2019, businesses had nearly ten months to plan a transition, which provided ample time to evaluate, plan and implement a migration. This timeframe combined with the fact that Windows 10 was released in 2015 meant that businesses who took proactive measures would easily meet the Jan 14, 2020 deadline.
DJ: What are the implications of continuing with Windows 7?
Puglia: In 2018 alone, 499 vulnerabilities were detected across Windows desktop operating systems with almost 170 of those incidents considered critical. Remember Wannacry from 2017? In May that year, cyber criminals spread the ransomware WannaCry around the world within hours, targeting users of Windows XP, of which Microsoft had ended support a few years earlier. This attack was devastating to businesses everywhere, especially to European hospital systems. There are real consequences for not migrating to a fully supported OS, but the most immediate risk is also the worst case scenario — that we see a WannaCry 2.0 situation.
DJ: What are the advantages of Windows 10 for businesses?
Puglia: Windows 10 has some fantastic enhancements beyond free security updates, patches and technical support that will prove to be well worth the effort. Among the top benefits are a familiar and easy to use core interface across all Windows devices, streamlining day to day use. It even has a usable touch screen mode to boot. Windows 10 is also more secure than any of Microsoft’s previous desktop OS versions, featuring new enhancements for advanced biometrics, threat protection, malware protection, and trusted hardware. Performance aspects like speed also receive a major boost in Windows 10.
Additionally, for companies that love the look and feel of Windows 7, Microsoft has created tools like Classic Shell, which provides user interface elements intended to restore familiar features from past versions of Windows like the Start menu, File Explorer and Internet Explorer, to streamline the transition.
DJ: For companies that have not done so, how should they prepare to migrate to Windows 10?
Puglia: For starters, don’t try to migrate all at once; instead, you should migrate in phases to make the transition as smooth as possible. First, take inventory of all of your systems and identify those running Windows 7 or Windows 2008/2008 R2. Once you’ve done this, run an assessment of your existing Windows 7 hardware to see if it meets the requirements for Windows 10. This will help you decide whether you need to acquire new hardware or migrate with your existing hardware. Once your hardware is up to date, check for any application compatibility issues that may come up while running your applications on Windows 10. Tools like the Windows Analytics Upgrade Readiness solution help identify any known issues with your software and hardware drivers.
Next, identify any machines running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008/R2 that you must keep after the EOL date and select a licensing option for Windows 10 to fit your business. Then you’ll want to create a phased migration process that considers the right licensing options for Windows 10 and Windows Server to fit your business. Windows licensing is notoriously complex, so you’ll want to seek additional advice if you’re unsure where to start. You should also become familiar with “Windows as a Service,” which is what Microsoft is calling its new way of delivering Windows 10 updates. This includes bi-annual feature releases, monthly patches and two new servicing channels to determine how often devices need to be updated: The Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) to provide new functionality with twice-per-year feature update releases and the Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) for new feature releases every two to three years.
Once you’ve taken all these necessary steps, you should implement an endpoint management solution to keep all of your systems up-to-date with automated, scalable software deployment and patch management. This will help make the process smooth and easy moving forward, and ensure the security of your network.
More about Windows, Microsoft, Windows 7, windows 10
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