Preparing for Windows 7 End of Support

Genesis Business Systems Blog

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, so you might have heard, I know we have mentioned it once or twice 😊, Windows 7 is moving to End of Support Status from 14th Jan 2020. This means no more patches, updates or security fixes, which leaves any business (including home/mobile users) running the software at greater risk from cyber-attacks.

There are still a large percentage of users running Windows 7, in the case of Genesis Business Systems 20-30% of site visits were from Windows 7 systems. It is no surprise, having been a highly successful operating system for Microsoft after the grumbles that accompanied Windows Vista. It is also very stable, providing the perfect platform for business.

 With End of Support still many months away, it is understandable that users are reluctant to migrate away from something they are familiar with and works well for them.  However, on average, it took business 3-5 years to migrate from Windows XP, so directors and IT Managers need to start planning for migration immediately.

Windows 10 was offered as a free upgrade up until 29th July 2016 – So why didn’t more businesses make the move then?

Many users had their fingers burned with Windows Vista, which, whilst a great, feature packed system with a revolutionary new approach from Microsoft, still had many flaws. When Windows 7 was launched, and business’s saw that it had all the great aspects of Vista, but was smoother, quicker and more stable they made the decision to migrate. In fact, it sold over 100 million copies in its first 6 months of release.

Windows 8 was released in between the release of Windows 7 and Windows 10 but saw a complete change in the way Users interacted with the software. Microsoft were trying to make the system more ‘Touch’ friendly to target the tablet market and eat into the Apple iPads dominant position. This interface did not really sit well with desktop users and so many businesses skipped that generation of operating system.

Microsoft fixed all this with the Introduction of Windows 10, however, by this stage Users had become familiar with Windows 7, finding it quick and easy to work with. IT Managers and Systems administrators were also now well versed in deploying and managing the software, using the tools and control panels available to them. It worked with most hardware, so what was the need to upgrade.

The move to end of Mainstream Support for Windows 7, that unless business want to leave themselves at risk from the ever growing threat of cyber-attacks, they will need to upgrade – and that means every device, just 1 system on the wrong software means a weak link in your cyber-security policy. Some large Enterprises will opt to move onto an extended Update program – however this will cost them an annual subscription per device. For those that do not make the migration to Windows 10, they are left in a landscape of ever-growing threats from malware, zero-day exploits, ransomware, trojans and malicious browser extensions. It will not be a case of if, but when.

There is further thought from security experts, that many cyber-criminals, are holding back on Windows 7 exploits they have discovered, ready to unleash them on unprotected systems when support ends. In some sectors, remaining on Windows 7 will not even be an option, as companies must prove due diligence around the Internet Security Policies.

But its not just about the risk from cyber-security attacks. There are many benefits to Windows 10;

For starters it is already four years old and has been proven to be stable and reliable. It also means that most hardware has had the necessary drivers created to ensure compatibility.

Its User Interface (UI) provides a seamless integration between desktop and touchscreen devices, whilst, remaining very familiar to the Windows 7 interface users are already accustomed too. Changes to how notifications are displayed within the desktop, task views, and an improve file explore makes using the software fast and efficient, and it still has quick boot/wake-up times.

The ability to incorporate touchscreen inputs means that there are many hybrid devices available that can be both tablet and laptop. It supports multi gesture inputs, along with stylus inputs. And, its intelligent approach with automatic updates allows for continuity across multiple devices from Desktop to Mobile – meaning you can work wherever you are.

Windows 10 also sees the integration of Cortana, its AI based voice assistant, which can support cloud technologies, IP based voice and video communications and the business centric Apps that are incorporated into Windows 10. So not only can Windows 10 make your business more secure, it can help make it more productive.

Planning for Migration:

Not matter the size of your organisation, it is best to make a solid plan for migration. In this way, no devices are missed, you understand the size of the project -meaning you can gain accurate and competitive pricing and you know the size of the team you require. You can then put a timescale on the whole project – you’d be surprised how quick the migration process can be. At this stage you will know if you have any non-standard or bespoke software, you can make sure you have a development team in place, whether in house or outsourced, to handle it.

So, first things first, you need to run a complete Audit of your complete IT systems and supporting infrastructure. This will tell you which systems are running Windows 7 or older and need upgrading, along with what software they are running, so that you can ensure compatibility. It may also be an opportunity to refresh existing hardware and look at upgrading machines that may be running Windows 8/8.1. It will also enable you to check for hardware that isn’t supported – is that hardware essential to the business – if it is, you will need to research alternatives. If there is software that isn’t compatible, are there alternatives – would it be a good time to look at cloud-based platforms?

Make your plans;

Decide your roll-out process and the tools you will use. Many systems will be suitable for In-place upgrades that take advantage of the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) or the System Centre Configuration Manager.

Some systems will require wiping clean, and re-imaging with a clean, pre-prepared Windows 10 image. Different teams of users may require different images as their needs differ.

Sometimes you will be installing new devices, which are already running Windows 10, however these may still need re-imaging first to remove/add necessary components.

Microsoft Try and make all this easier with various tools. It has a Windows 10 upgrade readiness tool that helps ease migration, and we have already mentioned SCCM and MDT. Th Windows Autopilot in Windows 10 Enterprise enables you to have a PC, with key apps and settings, configured and ready for use within minutes of being unboxed or upgraded.

Make sure the back-end system is prepared. Set up Active Directory discovery systems, define boundaries, configure SCCM – including preparing images and Device Collections, and install all relevant updates.

Before fully deploying, test your chosen method on a smaller bunch of PCs’ that are not business critical. Doing this will highlight any issues and allow you to adjust your plans before full deployment.

Speak to your end users so that they know what is happening, and why. Make sure they are given a training session on the new systems, to enable them to hit the ground running.

Make sure you schedule to back-up user data and preferences.

If all your preparations are in place, and testing has gone well, you should be ready to fully deploy. After deployment, carry on testing to ensure everything is running as should, and get feedback from end users to ensure they are happy.

Don't forget, it's not just Windows 7  that is moving to End of Support, but Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, SBS 2011 and Exchange 2010. So make sure you know what systems you are running and plan for a refresh.

For support and guidance with any aspect of IT, including Asset Audits, planning & deploying new software and hardware, cont Genesis Business Systems on 01482210999 of email [email protected]