There's a great chance that your business uses Windows, specifically Windows 7, on most of its computers. While Apple's macOS enjoys popularity in industries such as design, Microsoft Windows is far and away the most popular due to its ubiquity and enterprise-friendly features.
However, Windows 7 won't be around forever. According to Microsoft, support for Windows 7 will end on January 14, 2020. While this sounds like a long way off, there's a lot of work your company will need to put in to ensure a smooth transition. Nearly 50% of computers run Windows 7, meaning that this will affect a huge number of companies.
Let's take a look at what the end of Windows 7's life means for your business and some considerations for what you can do now.
What Happens at End of Life?
Every Windows operating system (OS) has two service periods: mainstream support and extended support. Mainstream support lasts for several years after an OS is released. During this time, Microsoft may release new features alongside the standard security patches. After this period, a version of Windows enters extended support.
For the next several years, Microsoft continues to release updates that keep the OS safe, but it isn't actively developing that version of Windows with new features. When extended support ends, that Windows product is essentially dead and receives no new updates at all. Soon after, major software like Google Chrome, Dropbox, and Microsoft Office won't release updates for the expired version of Windows either.
— Workington Fibre (@WorkingtonFibre) April 19, 2017
You might recall that this recently happened with Windows XP, another popular OS. In April 2014, Microsoft ended support for XP, ceasing all fixes and patches. Despite it being unsafe, many companies continue to use Windows XP because some piece of software they need doesn't run on newer Windows versions.
By planning for Windows 7's end of life, you can make sure that your business isn't trapped using an unsupported OS like many were with Windows XP.
If you're interested in specific dates, you can view the Windows lifecycle sheet from Microsoft.
What Windows Version Will Replace Windows 7?
Microsoft has released two new versions of Windows since Windows 7. Its immediate successor, Windows 8, was unfavorably received by users due to some confusing design elements. Microsoft quickly updated this to Windows 8.1, which will receive mainstream support until January 2018 and extended support until January 2023.
However, you won't hear much about Windows 8.1 from Microsoft these days. The newest version, Windows 10, is their big product. Unlike previous Windows versions, Microsoft sells Windows 10 as a service. This means that the operating system is continually being updated with new features -- a first for Windows. Since Windows 10's initial release in July 2015, Microsoft has released two major updates. The most recent is the Creators Update, which launched in April 2017.
According to Microsoft, Windows 10 is the last version of Windows and will undergo regular free updates instead of forcing costumers to pay for a new Windows version. This means that once your business upgrades to Windows 10, you shouldn't need to buy another operating system in the future.
How Can We Prepare?
As mentioned, three years sounds like a long time, but there's a lot to consider as your business gets ready to jump from Windows 7.
Most importantly, it's vital that the programs your business uses will work on Windows 10. If you only use basic apps like Google Chrome and Microsoft Office, you won't have any issues. But businesses that use proprietary software, or old applications that aren't supported anymore, might have a hard time getting these programs to work on Windows 10. You can visit the webpages for most software to view which OS versions it's compatible with.
Similarly, older devices such as printers might not work properly with Windows 10. This might require you to purchase new equipment that will work with newer Windows versions.
Brilliant! My all-in-one printer is not Windows 10 compatible. Well, it prints, but the scan function has no driver. Time for a new one.
— Deano (@BedTaker) April 10, 2017
Also important is getting your users familiar with Windows 10. Windows 10 is slightly different from Windows 7, but isn't a drastic change like Windows 8 was. Consider upgrading a few users to Windows 10 before Windows 7 expires, so you can test applications and user experience before everything rolls out.
Finally, you should review the privacy policies of Windows 10. Microsoft has added many potentially invasive features to Windows 10. These include saving Wi-Fi connection information and recording details about how users use the operating system. While you can turn many of these features off, your industry might require extra measures of privacy. It's a good idea to review the privacy concerns with Windows 10 now, not later.
Windows 7 Won't Be Around Forever
It's an unfortunate fact that every version of Windows comes to a close eventually. While Windows 7 is a great OS, eventually Microsoft has to stop supporting it in order to focus work on modern products. By taking some time now to make sure you understand what the transition to Windows 10 means for your business, you can avoid major headaches come 2020.
If you're not sure how your company will handle the transition from Windows 7, contact us. We'd love to partner with your small business and help you navigate this potentially confusing switch.