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Windows End-Of-Life - how does it affect my business ?

On the 14th January 2020 Microsoft are retiring all Windows 7 and Server 2008 platforms. This ‘End of life’ date affects any machine (physical or virtual) running Windows 7 Home Edition, Professional and Ultimate. On the server side both 2008 and 2008 R2 are being phased out including Standard, Enterprise and Data Center editions. ‘End of life’ means the operating system is no longer supported - any bugs or security vulnerabilities will not be patched. The operating system will continue to run but will become a prime target for malware exploits and could be used to try and force entry to your network. The worst case scenario is having your data hacked or encrypted.

How does this affect my company ? Your IT support company or IT department should already be making plans to phase out Windows 7. Realistically we are not going to see every Windows 7 or 2008 generation machine switched off after midnight on 14th January but you need to start implementing a rolling migration plan to either replace, upgrade or remove non-compliant desktops. The same applies for non-compliant servers.

What’s ahead ? Microsoft have ‘stopped the clock’ on desktop development for the time being. There are no current plans to replace Windows 10 although we should expect to see some new features in Spring 2020. Customers currently on a Windows 10 platform will simply be upgraded to newer versions via the scheduled ‘patch Tuesday’ downloads. Server development has slowed down and to the untrained eye Server 2016 and Server 2019 are practically the same product. For those with on-premise mail Exchange 2016 is just a newer edition of Exchange 2013. All this suggests a higher investment in the Azure side of the business and Office 365.

What if I have Windows 8 ? Windows 8 is supported and patched until 2023 so there is no reason why you can’t continue to run it. Windows 8 was initially designed for the tablet market and found its way onto desktops and laptops but it was very unpopular. It was quickly overtaken by Windows 10 as Microsoft offered a free upgrade incentive to Windows 7 customers.

We have applications that will only run on an older version of Windows. Many organizations will find themselves in a situation where a legacy application is glued to a particular version of Windows. The vendor has stopped developing the app or they have simply gone out of business. In 2014/2015 during the last ‘end of life’ cycle the date just ticked by and there were still millions of XP and 2003 machines waiting to be upgraded because of application compatibility problems. For smaller businesses we advise you to look for alternative products which are Windows 10/2012/2016/2019 compatible. In exceptional circumstances we can look at Virtualising and Sandboxing legacy machines so they are hidden from the internet.

Richard Petty