Two days ago the security world watched the official demise of one of the most popular Windows platforms, Windows 7. But what does it really mean and how does it impact users and organizations? Here is what you need to know:
Mainstream support vs. extended support
Leaving mainstream support does not mean that Windows 7 is dead. It simply will stop receiving new features or technology improvements. Companies will no longer receive free assistance if they have a problem with the operating system â€“ now they have to pay.
Windows 7 is now in the so-called â€œextended supportâ€ phase until January 2020. This means that, in the following five years, both regular users and companies will receive critical security patches, which is reassuring.
But the end of life process isn’t really news to anyone. Starting with the middle of 2014, analysts have voiced concerns about the imminent change and advised companies to prepare for the migration.
â€œThe end of support for Windows 7 will be January, 2020, assuming there are no changes to its current support life cycle,â€ Gartner Research Vice President Stephen Kleynhans said in a PC Mag article. â€œWhile this feels like itâ€™s a long way off, organizations must start planning now, so they can prevent a recurrence of what happened with Windows XP.â€
Have companies learned from the end of Windows XPâ€™s life?
12 years later, Windows XP is still the worldâ€™s second most popular operating system. Past experience shows that at least 20 per cent of the worldâ€™s population was still using Windows XP after its official “death”, including large organizations that have been unable to finish deploying the newer OS version on their machines.
Windows OS breakdown by popularity â€“ source: Bitdefender Labs data, April 2014
One of the reasons companies have lagged behind for so long with the upgrade process is the incompatibility of their custom applications with Internet Explorer versions 7 and up. And the costs of are definitely not negligible. A zero-budget migration is nearly impossible to achieve due to the lack of necessary tools, processes or bandwidth.
Bogdan Botezatu, Senior E-Threat Analyst at Bitdefender, says:
Companies shouldnâ€™t underestimate the complexity of the whole process and start migrating as soon as possible to avoid severe or unexpected security risks. An outdated operating system can leave millions of users permanently vulnerable to being exploited in the wild like in the case of theÂ Internet Explorer zero-day vulnerability which impacted unprotected Windows XP users, in April 2014.â€
What is your opinion, have companies prepared for the Windows 7 “funerals” better than for the ones of Windows XP?