If your business has hardware running Server 2008 or Windows 7, we have some bad news.
Both are going expire in early 2020. That might not sound like a big deal. Some of you have a few old computers in the office, and even though they run a little slow, they get the job done, right?
Regardless of whether the machines work now, you’re playing with fire as soon as those operating systems expire
Risks Caused by Using an Unsupported OS
The biggest risk is the most obvious one: Starting on January 15th, 2020, Microsoft will no longer develop security patches for these two operating systems.
That means if you’re still running Windows 7 or 2008 Server on your network – or worse yet, XP, Vista, or Server 2003 – you are a sitting duck waiting for a ransomware attack. Your systems will also no longer be PCI compliant if you process credit cards on your network. (Or HIPAA Compliant for Medical). This leaves you exposed to cyber-theft and draconian fines after a security audit.
These reasons alone should be enough to justify an upgrade.
Patches that fix operational glitches will also come to an end. An unsupported OS will lead to problems with your software functionality. MS Office will become buggy, and no patches from Microsoft will come running to the rescue.
If you use Office 365, you will probably feel the pain even sooner. Cloud hosted software is written for the latest and greatest operating systems out there. If you get too far out of date, you’re going to have problems.
IT Services Cost a Lot More
Managed service providers are constantly running into clients with old operating systems, and the only way we can help them is by charging them more money for support. No matter how well we do our job, it’s a losing battle. Their networks will always be vulnerable.
We work with these clients on a case-by-case basis, and only after they sign a waiver saying we aren’t liable for a ransomware attack or any other security breach.
Are Your Vendor Apps Ready?
Just to make matters a little complicated, some businesses can’t easily upgrade to Windows 10 because their CRM or ERP is not compatible yet. Your vendor might still be writing updates to their apps to accommodate the new OS.
One of our clients is facing this issue right now. They purchased a Windows 10 machine, only to find out a key piece of software doesn’t exist for it yet. We had to reinstall Windows 7 on the hardware, and wait for confirmation from the vendor that we’re clear to upgrade to 10.
There’s a dynamic relationship between your application vendors, hardware, and your operating system, and managing it is a constant battle for businesses. This is where a managed services provider can be really advantageous. We can plan ahead and keep each of these components moving in relative harmony for you.
Your First Step…
Before trying to go to Windows 10, you need to know whether your hardware can handle it. There are different hardware compatibility issues, especially when it comes to desktops and laptops. Video cards are very sensitive to operating systems, sometimes only working with certain ones.
When it comes to servers, you need to look at the data storage and redundancy it delivers. You need multiple copies of your data inside your server environment, and if you run your operating system too high, your hardware and server might not be compatible.
Find Out How Old Your Hardware Is
A business owner should ask him or herself, did I buy my computers in the last three years?
Someone needs to check the purchase records and look at the technical positioning to see if they can handle Windows 10. If the machines are three years or older then we would start thinking about scheduling replacements. Servers, on the other hand, are a little different. Sometimes we try to get seven or eight years out of them.
Looking at age of your hardware is the first step you can take on your own. You can also get this information with an IT assessment. A managed services provider (like us) has industry grade tools that will determine the age of your hardware and the systems running on it. We will do the research, and advise you about what hardware is compatible and worth upgrading, and what is not.
Prioritizing Your Upgrades
From a compliance perspective, servers deserve more attention, because if your server has a greater impact on your business than just a single computer.
If one computer develops a bug, the user can go can use someone else’s machine. If your server gets a bug, your whole business operation could catch the flu, so servers are the first priority. Most Dell servers, which we prefer, have a sticker right on the tower that has a service tag and Windows license on it. If the license says 2008 Standard, or 2008 Enterprise, you need to start planning now.
How Long Does an Upgrade Take?
We are already planning replacements and projects for 2018 and 2019 now, and the calendar is filling up quickly.
A thorough IT assessment takes two months to complete, and then the server replacements take a minimum of 30 days after collecting the data we need. Computers will also take a week to replace. After installing and testing the software, we deliver it to the client’s office location, and some training and support is usually needed afterward. Not everyone will know how to use Windows 10, and the system defaults will need to be configured to their needs.
We don’t want to sound alarmist, here, but a lot of businesses aren’t aware of the money, time, and reputation they stand to lose by blowing off OS upgrades. It may sound like a hassle, but if you do it right, you will improve the health and security of your business for years to come.
Any questions? Please fire away!