Windows 7 - Prepare to say goodbye to an old friend!

31 May 2019

After a long friendship you need to prepare to say goodbye to Windows 7 and start planning now, as you only have until the New Year to say farewell.  

What is happening and when?

Each Microsoft software product has a support lifecycle. When Microsoft released Windows 7 on 22 October, 2009 it made a commitment to support the product for a minimum of 10 years. Microsoft stopped adding new features in January 2015, but has been providing security and bug fixes ever since.

Microsoft has announced that on 14 January, 2020 it will cease to provide security updates and support for Windows 7. Users may already have seen a notification message displayed on their screen confirming this fact.

Why is Microsoft taking this action?

Microsoft reasons that it wants to “focus its investment on supporting newer technologies and great new experiences”. Of course a convenient by-product of migrating customers to a new version of Windows is the additional licensing income it will receive.

What are the implications?

If you have PCs that are running Windows 7 you cannot afford to ignore the impact of the change coming on 14 January 2020. Whilst this version will continue to work, no additional security fixes will be installed.

Once Microsoft ceases to deliver security fixes, any PC running Windows 7 becomes a significant Cyber Security hazard that presents a potential risk to operational capability and data security. The majority of ransomware attacks, and incidents of data loss are caused by software that has not been updated with security patches that protect against the latest viruses and malware.

From 14 January 2020 hackers will specifically target PCs running Windows 7 in the knowledge that they will be vulnerable to attack.

What should I do about it and when?

The obvious choice, and the option advocated by Microsoft, is to migrate Windows 7 users to Windows 10. This can be achieved through two means:

  1. Upgrading the user’s existing PC from Windows 7 to Windows 10, or
  2. Replacing the user’s existing PC with a new device that that comes with Windows 10 already licensed and installed.

The minimum PC specification required for Windows 10 is very similar to that required by Windows 7, therefore upgrading a user’s PC from Windows 7 should not necessarily require a hardware upgrade. However, some organisations might take the opportunity to upgrade or replace PCs at the same time they migrate to Windows 10.

The pros and cons of each option are largely dependent on the age and condition of your PC estate, any existing licensing agreements and your PC upgrade/replacement strategy.

You should also identify all software applications that run on Windows 7 and establish whether they are compatible with Windows 10.  This may involve consultation with the application supplier and testing to confirm compatibility.

As with any IT project, having analysed the requirements, and developed and agreed a business case for upgrading and/or replacing PCs, you should establish a project plan and timetable to complete the migration to Windows 10 in good time to meet the 14 January 2020 deadline. The exact timing of the transition will be dependent on the size and complexity of your organisation’s PC estate, but given the impact of Christmas and New Year on staff availability, it would be prudent to plan on completing the project by the end of November this year.

Also, Windows 10 is different from Windows 7 in many ways and you may need to consider investing in some training for staff members in its use.

How much will it cost us?

There are both hard and soft costs associated with migrating PC users from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Hardware and/or software licenses will need to be procured, and internal or external personnel will be required to test and install software, and possibly migrate data.

A new PC will invariably come supplied with a version of Windows 10. Most organisations will require either the Pro or Enterprise edition to integrate the PC within their Microsoft Domain/Active Directory structure.

When Windows 10 was first released, Microsoft offered a free upgrade from Windows 7, 8.0 and 8.1. This offer is no longer open and you should factor in the cost of relicensing, even though an Internet search may suggest that a free upgrade is still possible.

You should consult a reputable advisor to establish the most appropriate solution and cost for your organisation, based on your specific circumstances and requirements.

If I require further assistance who can I speak to?

You may well have an established relationship with a PC hardware and software license supplier who can provide you with advice on the best options to replace any instances of Windows 7 you currently employ within your organisation.

If you would like further assistance, or would value a second opinion, feel free to contact BDO. We can offer practical independent advice (we only charge for our time and do not mark-up supplier prices), and hands-on IT support services.

In Summary

  • Don’t leave it too late, the New Year and Windows 7 end-of-life is approaching fast!
  • Establish whether you have Windows 7 applications that may be incompatible with Windows 10.
  • Even though summer is barely upon us, build your business case and create your project plan, as soon as you know your requirements.
  • Ensure that you have the budget and resources to complete the project in good time to meet the January 2020 deadline.
  • Remember to ensure that users are given help with understanding the new system.

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