Guest Column | January 13, 2020

Why We Must Leave Windows 7 Behind

By Farica Chang, Anderson Technologies

Doctor's Using Search Engines For Decision Support

Ignoring the Windows 7 end of support is easy right now, but no savings gained in the short term outweighs the risk to yourself and your business in the long term. A few thousand dollars spent now is better than tens or hundreds of thousands demanded by ransomware and the loss of confidence your clients in the future. Don’t let the deadline pass you by. The time to upgrade is now.

What’s The Big Deal?

Businesses in every field should take end of support for an operating system seriously. Cybercrime is on the rise, and while many criminals continue to target anyone who will click their bait, many more see the value in targeting businesses that cater to other businesses. Infect a value-added reseller or cloud services provider and criminals can ransom many businesses simultaneously. Recently, hundreds of nursing homes and veterinarians lost access to patient data and multiple municipalities in Texas were effectively shut down due to their software and cloud providers being compromised by ransomware.

For any business serving other businesses, staying up to date on all security and software patches is an essential part of the electronic era. After January 14, 2020, anyone running Windows 7 is holding the door open for cybercriminals once the newest zero-day threat is identified and exploited. Don’t count on your cyber insurance to cover any ransom or damages you incur in the event of an attack. Many cyber insurance policies require a certain level of security measures in order for them to pay out, and an updated and patched OS is one of the most basic protections you can have.

If you work in the healthcare vertical, staying up to date is not just important, it’s the law. Under HIPAA, any vendor who counts as a Business Associate must comply with the same standards as the Covered Entity it works with. Having patched and routinely updated hardware is part of HIPAA’s Security Rule, and failure to comply won’t just mean trouble from cybercriminals. The Office of Civil Rights can levy significant fines for businesses that knowingly ignore cybersecurity guidelines.

What About Extended Support?

If you’re not ready or can’t afford to upgrade all your computers at once there are a few options depending on the size of your business. First is Microsoft’s extended support plan, but this is only available to users running Windows 7 Pro or Enterprise through volume licensing. Contact your Microsoft representative to determine if you are eligible. If you are, you can purchase up to three years of extended Windows 7 support, starting at $50-$100 per computer for the first year and doubling in price each subsequent year. It’s not a long-term fix, but it could allow you to spread your upgrades over several years instead of all at once.

Microsoft is also offering three years of support for free with Windows Virtual Desktop. If you’ve been considering moving to the cloud, this might be a good time to look into Azure and reduce hardware costs.

If hardware costs are holding you back from getting a fully supported machine, updating your existing computers to Windows 10 might be the most cost-effective option to remain secure. Companies that purchase in bulk can get help with this process through Microsoft’s FastTrack program. If you only need to upgrade a few computers, there are free guides to walk you through the process.

What’s The Best Way To Migrate My Data?

Don’t wait until the deadline to start making decisions. It takes time to not only purchase and receive new equipment but also to transfer your data to the new hardware. There are a few ways you can migrate your data depending on the amount of data and the resources available to you.

  1. A flash drive may be an old-fashioned way to transfer data from one machine to another, but it still works. If you’re not too technically savvy, this might be the way to go. They’re cheap and easy to use.
  2. Google Drive and Dropbox are also easy ways to transfer data. Simply upload files from the old machine and download them to the new one.
  3. The most seamless option is Microsoft OneDrive, which offers a free plan depending on how much data you have to move. On Windows 7 this process will function similar to Dropbox and Google Drive, but once on Windows 10, it integrates with Windows Explorer. You can leave your data there or easily move it wherever you need it.

Worst Case Scenario

Sometimes it’s just not possible to get all your computers upgraded, whether that’s due to time, software, or budgetary constraints. In that case, do everything you can to mitigate the risk of running an unsupported OS.

  • Disconnect outdated machines from internet access.
  • Isolate the unsupported computers from the rest of your systems as much as possible. That way if one does get infected, your entire business won’t suffer for it.
  • Backup your business daily and make sure these backups are configured against becoming affected themselves in a cyber attack.

The time to act is now. Don’t be caught with your IT systems wide open to the next cyberattack. Upgrade to Windows 10 before it’s too late.

VARi Farica Chang, Anderson Technologies 01.20About Farica Chang

Farica Chang is Director of Anderson Technologies an IT company that optimizes technology to meet the demands of small and midsized businesses. For over 20 years, Anderson Technologies has provided the IT solutions that firms need to be competitive in today’s marketplace.