“Nothing lasts forever” as they say, and software is no different. Microsoft ended official support for Windows 7 at the start of 2020, and despite cyber security warnings from the FBI, an estimated 200 million machines are still running the outdated and unsupported OS. In this article, we’ll break down some of the most commonly asked questions we receive about Microsoft’s end-of-life policies.
What does “end of life” really mean for software?
When software reaches EOL (end of life), it means the software provider (Microsoft, in this case) will no longer provide support, updates, and security patches for the discontinued product. This leaves your entire IT ecosystem at risk of security breaches and hacks.
Why does this matter? The 2017 WannaCry ransomware attacks spread around the world and quickly took down high-profile targets such as the UK’s National Health Service, and Boeing. Reports published by the Global Research and Analysis Team at cybersecurity company Kaspersky found that 98% of the machines infected with the WannaCry ransomware were running unpatched versions of Windows 7.
When was Windows 7 released?
Windows 7 was released in 2009. To put things into perspective, that is the same year Uber was invented. iPads didn’t yet exist. The technology world changes.
It isn’t unrealistic or unethical for Microsoft to develop software with a planned life cycle, because the manpower and costs of continuing to support legacy software adds major costs to staffing and infrastructure. As part of its fixed lifecycle policy, Microsoft made a public commitment at Windows 7’s launch to support the software for 10 years.
Embedded versions of Windows 7, such as in POS (point-of-sale) systems and other specialized workplace interfaces were on a different lifecycle schedule than Windows 7, and support for many of those systems ended back in 2015 and 2016.
Why do certain businesses struggle to upgrade from insecure systems?
While many home users don’t think twice about updating their software when they are prompted, businesses and enterprises have competing interests to balance when it comes to their IT. Compatibility issues with other products, devices, or programs can complicate a move from Windows 7 to Windows 10.
Impacted industries are those that rely on specialized hardware, such as hospitals and manufacturers, as well as organizations with tight budgets, like schools, nonprofits, and smaller government institutions. Those businesses and environments often store mass amounts of personal data and information that could be targeted in cyber crimes and EOL security exploits, making the ramifications of not upgrading even more dire.
Do different Microsoft products have different EOL schedules?
Yes! There are two different EOL policies within Microsoft’s offerings:
- The “Fixed Lifecycle Policy” applies to products with defined end-of-support dates at the time of their release.
- The Microsoft “Modern Lifecycle Policy” provides products with continuous support and servicing as long as the customer stays current with servicing and licensing requirements.
Microsoft must provide a minimum of 12 months prior notice before ending support for products governed by the Modern Lifecycle Policy, with the exception of free products, services, or preview releases.
How do I upgrade to Windows 10?
As long as a machine meets the hardware requirements for Windows 10, and you are already running a legitimate licensed version of Windows 7 or 8, you’re eligible to upgrade to Windows 10. Until 2017, Microsoft was offering the upgrade to WIndows 10 for free, but at this point in the lifecycle, that program has been shuttered as well. The good news is most machines are now bundled with Windows 10, and Windows Management Experts offers licensing services for Windows, Microsoft 365, and more.
What other EOL dates are approaching?
Security updates and support for Adobe Flash Player for Windows will end on December 31, 2020. There are several older versions of Windows 10 that are behind the current update, and those are being retired in December as well. Skype for Business Online will be retired and no longer supported after July 31, 2021. For businesses that rely on the videoconferencing program for much of their communications, Microsoft Teams offers the best of the Skype for Business experience with the power and security of the modern Microsoft environment.
The bottom line
There are dozens of Microsoft programs that reach EOL and support each year, and it’s absolutely business-critical to stay on top of updates for products that are in use by your company.
For businesses that absolutely cannot upgrade to Windows 10 yet, Microsoft does offer extended support and security patches at an additional cost. That service is priced per device and per year, with the price doubling each year after EOL. For a big enterprise system running hundreds or thousands of devices, the cost could easily exceed the cost of the upgrade to Windows 10, even factoring in hardware replacements.
To get a clearer picture of the costs for your business, contact Windows Management Experts today, and together we’ll map out the best strategy for keeping your systems, data, and machines secure and safe from hackers and cyber threats.