Computer hardware and software are not designed to be built for life.
The speed that technology moves at is staggering. No sooner have you bought a brand new mobile phone within months it becomes out of date. Having an out of date mobile is one thing, but soon you could be using a Microsoft operating system that is leaving your business wide open to cyber attack. That's what will happen when Windows 7 end of life arrives.
Microsoft has a life cycle for their products, and when that product reaches end of life, there are serious security implications for any business that continues to use it. Think of all the work that you put in to protecting your business data and then image that data being hacked and stolen because you are using an operating system that is out of date.
You may think that scenario is unlikely, but in just 14 months two of Microsoft's most popular operating systems will reach end of life. Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 will both reach end of life in 2020.
This article will explain what that means, tell you why you need to do something about it and what you should do first.
It's not just Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 that are approaching end of life. This table shows you the Microsoft products that are approaching end of life.
|Operating System||End of life date|
|Windows 7||January 14th 2020|
|Windows Server 2008||January 14th 2020|
|Office 2010||October 13th 2020|
|Windows Server 2012||January 10th 2023|
|Windows 8 / 8.1||January 10th 2023|
|Office 2013||April 11th 2023|
|Windows 10||October 14th 2025|
|Office 2016||October 14th 2025|
Windows 7 end of life date
Microsoft will terminate support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. You may think that is ages away, but it only gives you 14 months to get ready, and that is not much time.
Windows 7 is currently in a phase Microsoft has called "extended support" but by January 14th that support ends and there will be no more security updates.
What is end of life?
Products go through life cycles and as a company produces a new version the one it replaces heads towards end of life. When the end of life date arrives you will still be able to use Windows 7 but Microsoft will no longer offer support, and they will stop doing security updates.
Why does it matter?
Even after the Windows 7 end of life date, you can still use the operating system so what is the problem? The important part is that Microsoft will stop the security updates. A lot of these updates are created to fix vulnerabilities that are being used by hackers. With those updates gone your system would become an easy target to the new computer viruses and malware being created.
There are serious security concerns if you continue to use Windows 7 past the end of life date. This is advice from Microsoft.
"You can continue to use Windows 7, but once support ends, your PC will become more vulnerable to security risks. Windows will operate, but you will stop receiving security and feature updates."
Microsoft will not take responsibility for any security breaches that happen to Windows 7 systems after 14th January 2020. Because new Malware is being developed daily, you will be at risk. Not only do you risk being hacked and losing all your data you risk a big fine for not being GDPR compliant. If you're using an operating system that is no longer receiving security updates you are not protecting personal data.
Windows Server 2008 end of life
Windows 7 is not the only Microsoft product that is close to reaching end of life. On 14th January 2020 Windows Server 2008 will also reach end of life. This might be an even bigger headache than upgrading Windows 7. Upgrading your server will take more time than upgrading your operating system, so it's crucial you start planning now.
Just like Windows 7, Microsoft is going to stop supporting Windows Server 2008 completely. So that means no more security updates and for a server that is a massive problem. Your server and your whole network will become vulnerable to cyber attacks. It's highly likely that hackers will begin to target businesses still using Windows Server 2008 after end of life because there will be no new security updates to fight off the malware they are regularly creating.
Without support, you will also be subject to industry regulatory non-compliance. If your business is required to have independent audits, an out-of-date server product will mean that you will not pass.
A server that is no longer receiving security updates will also be a breach of GDPR, and the penalties for that can be very severe. It may even influence which businesses will do business with you, for example, if you accept credit cards, lack of PCI compliance may mean that MasterCard/Visa will not work with you.
Microsoft is warning their customers of the need to upgrade.
End of support means the end of regular security updates. With cyberattacks becoming more sophisticated and frequent, running apps and data on unsupported versions can create significant security and compliance risks.
What to do next
If you have either Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008, you should call your IT provider now. They should have contacted you about this already but if they haven't then call them and discuss your options for upgrading either operating system.
Upgrading is your only option. Although you will still be able to use both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 after the end date, the lack of support and end of security options means it's not a viable option.
"Windows 7 can still be installed and activated after support has ended. However, to avoid security risks and viruses, Microsoft recommends that you consider upgrading to Windows 10" that advice comes from Microsoft.
2020 may seem a long time away, but it's only 14 months so you need to start thinking about budgets and the time it will take to upgrade.