Windows 7, a nine-year-old operating system, remains the most popular OS for laptops/desktops in the world. Why, you ask? Because Windows 7 was a good and very stable operating system that many companies moved to after the end of support for Windows XP. Moreover, many have not upgraded from 7 to more current versions of Windows for two reasons.
First, Microsoft users revolted against Windows 8 and its vastly different user interface. Very quickly Windows 8 became a repeat of Windows ME in the eyes of end users. If you don’t remember Windows ME, there is a reason for that—barely anyone ran that OS, either.
Second, even though Windows 10 was a very solid operating system, many did not upgrade to it either because they did not want to be among the first to take the leap, given the issues with Windows 8, or they were afraid of the impact that it would have on their users.
Microsoft did make it very easy to obtain both Windows 10 licensing rights on PCs and downgrade rights to Windows 7, which many companies opted to do. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that there are untold numbers of devices still running Windows 7, which is a major problem because manufacturer support for this OS ends in just over a year, as further described below.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
After Windows 7 goes “end of life” (EOL) on January 14, 2020, Microsoft will no longer be releasing any new patches for this OS. This is a HUGE security concern for all businesses running Windows 7. There are countless “bad guys” waiting to target EOL operating systems as a way to exploit these and other devices on the network. The black hats know that Windows 7 is still widely used and that those that don’t update in time can be exploited when new vulnerabilities are discovered (and left unpatched by Microsoft).
Once hackers find ways to exploit Windows 7 after the EOL date, Microsoft will not do anything about it. And, believe me, the security concerns and malware variants are not going away anytime soon.
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
First, look at the age of your PCs and the licensing that came with them. As stated above, many devices came with Windows 10 licensing with downgrade rights. If you already own the software and your machines are only a couple of years old or younger, it is probably worth the time to upgrade to Windows 10.
If your devices are licensed with Windows 7, however, you will want to look closely at your life-cycle management. For example, if your typical PC/laptop life-cycle is four years, it might not be worth spending the roughly £200/machine on Windows 10 upgrade licenses, plus the labour to install it, for machines that are three years old. The same goes if you have a life-cycle of five years and you have four-year-old devices. There is some thought and strategy that goes into all of this as well. Take the time to come up with a plan soon so that you and your business are not exposed and in a crunch to upgrade when 2020 and the EOL date comes.