On January 14, 2020, Windows 7, Exchange Server 2010, Windows Server 2008/R2 and SBS 2011 reach their End of Life (EOL) for Microsoft’s Extended Support. You’re probably asking, why does this affect me? The short story is, as of this appending date these products will no longer receive any further updates. So, no performance improvements and most importantly, no security fixes.
This makes these software products potential security holes in your infrastructure, allowing potential breaches to occur. Obviously, this isn’t really what you want! The direct costs of security breaches can be bad enough but the knock-on effects to customer trust can be long-lasting and extremely hard to rebuild.

What is Windows End of Life?

It’s a sad fact that in today’s world, hacking and data theft is something that has been greatly monetized. Viruses such as Crypto-Locker have hit the headlines and proved very profitable for criminals and as a result they are constantly probing weaknesses in Microsoft’s operating systems (the most widely used in the world) to gain the upper hand.
Currently Microsoft release ‘patches’ that optimise performance but more importantly plug potential security holes in their software – the same happens across all our devices, think continuous App updates for example on our smartphones.
After a set amount of time however, when migration to latest operation systems (such as Windows 10) have reached a certain threshold it no longer becomes commercially viable to support legacy systems so Microsoft will announce an End of Life cut off, where the software still functions but is no longer supported or maintained under your license.

GDPR Considerations for Windows End of Life

If you store personal information on your customers and especially sensitive information such as dates of birth, gender or banking details you could also be in risk. In a recent article it is claimed cyber criminals are lining up waiting to test systems after Windows EOL. If a breach were to occur any sensitive data could be exposed if left unencrypted… Consider it similar to leaving your house for a holiday with the door unlocked, you’re obviously not inviting criminals in, but you’re also removing an obstacle that may prevent access.

3 Options for business impacted by Windows End of Life

  1. Update these systems to newer versions. You can upgrade Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 or Windows 10. You’ll need to consider the performance implications of these newer pieces of software, Windows 10 was designed for much more powerful, faster computers which are standard today than that of Windows 7. Will your PC’s be capable of running them well?
    Servers can also be upgraded to newer versions, but the same limitations on hardware apply. It’s a good idea to do a proper audit of the age and specification of all of your devices and then you can decide whether an upgrade route is the best way to go.
  2. Replace these systems with newer ones. If your hardware isn’t going to be up to the task of running a newer version then the next choice is to replace the system entirely. In the case of Windows 7, it’s a simple case of buying a new computer and having it set up for your office environment: Licensing and installing any software you need, connecting it to your network and configuring any remote access you might need or indeed any other specific organisation needs you might have.
  3. Dispose of the devices entirely. It might sound extreme, but now is the best time to really think about whether you need all of the equipment you have. If you don’t need that old desktop PC gathering dust in the corner then there’s no real benefit to upgrading or replacing it and now is the perfect time to let it go.  You’ll need to consider appropriate disposal; most PCs can be recycled and also, you’ll need to ensure secure destruction of any data held on the machine with some form of certification or documentation to prove the data was destroyed.

 

If you need us, we’re here to help with whatever route you take, just give us a call!

Article by Ben Hodgkiss on 11th October 2019