Clock is Ticking on Windows 7 End of Life

When it comes to describing how important it is for retail businesses to upgrade their Windows operating system (OS), it’s easy to get a little sensational. Clint Eastwood’s iconic character Dirty Harry might squint, clench his jaw and say: “I know what you’re thinking. ‘Do I have Windows 7 or Windows 10?’ Well, to tell you the truth, even though I use these computers every day of the week to record my sales, manage my inventory and run my back office, I’ve kind of lost track myself. But being that Microsoft has announced it will stop supporting Windows 7 in January leaving my business completely unprotected from psycho cybercriminals, I’ve got to ask myself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” That might seem a bit extreme, but the effects Windows 7’s end of life will have on your business are going to be dramatic if you don’t act now.  

Better Safe Than Sorry 

Yes, businesses running on Microsoft’s Windows 7 have until January 14 to upgrade their operating systems to Windows 10 to maintain security and payment card compliance. If they don’t, once the updates and support end, they are on their own and at the mercy of hackers, fraudsters and other various digital maladies. It also means some of their programs might not operate correctly. Do ya feel lucky? 

“What does this mean from a functional standpoint? Windows updates provide enhanced security. Without those updates, a business is open to all kinds of threats,” explains Mike Horn, client experience manager for Paladin Data Corporation. “PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance is going to be the biggest issue. 

To have a valid operating system, a business must be running on the most current operating system. Paladin, as a Gold Microsoft Partner, earns that designation by continually improving its retail platform and software products to Microsoft’s high standards. 

Payment Card Industry security standards that apply to all businesses that accept payment cards say that retailers must “ensure that all system components and software have the latest vendor-supplied security patches installed,” and “deploy critical patches within a month of release.” So, if retail businesses chose to ignore the Windows 7 end of life deadline to upgrade to Windows 10, they will no longer be compliant, and their payment card transactions will be at risk. 

Closing the Security Doors 

Business security transcends protecting the point of sale and store databaseComputers without security enhancements are vulnerable to all sorts of intrusions. 

“Do you accept electronic payments? Do you exchange emails with customers? Do you exchange data with vendors? All those things are at risk,” says Mike Williamson, CEO of Paladin Data Corporation. 

It might be a stretch for smaller, independent businesses to imagine, but the security breach of Target Corporation in 2013 that resulted in roughly 40 million customer accounts being compromised and wound up costing the company approximately $202 million started with credentials stolen from an HVAC subcontractor that worked on several of its stores. Small, independent businesses use contractors just like Target and they are open to the same kinds of network breaches. 

“The reasons behind the lag in updating an OS vary depending on the software in place, which may be unable to run on the newest OS versions, to economic reasons, and even down to comfortability of routinely using the same OS, Alexey Pankratov, enterprise solutions manager at cybersecurity provider Kaspersky, tells ZDNet. “Nonetheless, an old, unpatched OS is a cybersecurity risk and the cost of an incident may be substantially higher than the cost of upgrading. This is why we recommend that customers migrate to supported versions and ensure that additional security tools are in place during the transition period.”  

It’s Not Just the Software 

Numbers from NetMarketShare, which tracks usage of web technologies, showed in October that 28.17% of desktops and laptops still use Windows 7-based platforms. 

The easiest way to protect your business is to upgrade your hardware. In fact, if your business has a technology replacement program that changes out PCs every few years, chances are some of your equipment is already operating on Windows 10. Paladin Data Corporation, for instance, hasn’t sold a PC with Windows 7 since 2016. So, any checkout terminals or office PCs purchased in the last three years are good to go. Any PCs older than three years probably need to goanyway. 

The average lifespan of a PC is three to eight years, depending on its use. That means that any business that has computers still running on Windows 7, these computers are at least 3 years old and should probably be replaced soon. 

According to a study by J. Gold Associates, if your PCs are 5 years old or older:  

%

Employees are 29% Less Productive

$17,000 Per Year in Lost Productivity from Each PC

11 Hours Lost Per Year on Slow Startups

New PCs are like Steve Austin, the $6 Million Man: they’re stronger, faster and better than they were just a few years ago. According to experts, if they have the Windows 10 operating system, they also: 

  • Have enhanced native security. 
  • Feature an update tool, Unified Update Platform (UUP) that streamlines Microsoft updates. 
  • More easily sync with other computers at home or work. 
  • Offer voice functionality, Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. 
  • And are easier to configure in your business network. 

PCs purchased from our store come with Paladin already configured and they have a five-year warranty,” Williamson says. “Businesses should have replacement plans that really consider the serviceability of their systems. If you have a 5-year-old machine go down, the lost revenue for the day is more than a headache, it would cover the replacement cost of more than one computer.” 

Time to Change 

It’s October and the busiest time of the year is approaching quickly. Stores that are putting off upgrading their hardware risk having to do it during the holiday season when all hands are on deck and all checkout stands are in use. 

Retailers looking to upgrade their hardware need to consider how many PCs they need to replace, give their technology provider enough lead time to configure the machines and consider product availability. This upgrade deadline could limit the supply of machines available on the market. To further complicate the process, a shortage of Intel CPUs earlier this year has limited the production of machines needed to run retail businesses.  

 This all means if you don’t upgrade to Windows 10-based hardware as soon as possible, you’re gambling with your livelihood. Do ya feel lucky? 

Brian Bullock

Author