Doing Business After Windows 7 End of Life
It’s never easy to see a beloved friend pass on. But like it or not, Windows 7 is at its end of life. Microsoft will no longer update or support the operating system after January 14, 2020. While it may not seem like such a life-altering event for a 10-year-old software, consider that April 2019 figures from NetMarketShare, which tracks usage of web technologies, show that 36.43% of desktops and laptops still use Windows 7-based platforms. So, for those users, it’s time to consider how you’ll do business after Windows 7 passes away.
Business platforms today have more rigorous system requirements simply because they do more work. In the past, early retail computers often served as glorified cash registers. Now they offer more features, integrations and automation that simplify all aspects of business operations. Not only do they handle point of sale transactions and inventory management, sophisticated platforms also reach out to shoppers with digital marketing and social media management, service regular customers with loyalty and incentive programs, handle industry and governmental compliance and regulations, and automate back–office operations such as payroll, benefits and taxes.
That means having an operating platform that can handle those chores is important to any business. So is having one that is safe from online intrusion.
Protecting Your Business
“Obviously when it comes to the sunset of an operating system, most of the concern for retailers is about security. Security updates and patches are not going to be available anymore,” explains Mike Horn, customer experience manager at Paladin Data Corporation. “PCI compliance is going to be the big deal. To have a valid operating system with valid PCI compliance you have to have an up-to-date system with security updates. That’s huge. If that’s not a big deal to every store, I don’t know what is.”
Retailers are intimately familiar with Payment Card Industry security standards that apply to all businesses, regardless of size, that accept payment cards. PCI DSS Requirement 6.1 states “Ensure that all system components and software have the latest vendor-supplied security patches installed. Deploy critical patches within a month of release.” That means businesses need to maintain operating systems with the most current software. So, when Microsoft stops supporting Windows 7, it will not be compliant.
Those security concerns go well beyond the point of sale, too.
Security is the biggest issue. Do you accept electronic payments? Do you exchange emails with customers? Do you exchange data with vendors? All those things are at risk.
To Microsoft’s credit, 10 years is considered a pretty long life for an operating platform. Most experts say a PC should last between three and five years, which means Windows 7 could have outlasted two to three computers. Like Windows 7, Microsoft plans to end extended support for Windows 8.1 in January 2023, and various versions of Windows 10 Enterprise between 2025 and 2029.
There are really two ways to move on from Windows 7.
- Upgrade your devices. New PCs are better than old ones. They are faster and more agile, and most come with Windows 10 as an operating platform. Solid computers that can run a retail business cost anywhere from $1,200 to $3,500 each. The larger the business and the more a computer is expected to do, the higher the cost.
- Upgrade your existing PCs with Windows 10 Pro which features business-grade capabilities and security.
However, there are alternatives.
Byte the Bullet
Pay Microsoft for its Windows 7 Extended Security Updates. The service will continue to deliver updates and patches for a price. The cost starts at $25 per machine for a Windows 7 Enterprise add-on and $50 per device for Windows 7 Pro. Those costs double each year and, in the end, just kicks the computer-replacement can down the road for three years.
Switch to Macs. That thought probably sends chills through many PC stalwarts. PCs control roughly 80% of the business and personal computer market. But Apple has long had a loyal following with its business applications and its number of users is increasing with iPad-based customer service products.
Most popular software is now available in both Windows and Mac formats, although if you move to Apple from PCs you would have to buy Mac versions of those programs.
Or you can stand pat. Your computers and business platform will continue to work just like always after the support stops. Many people still use Windows XP and Microsoft stopped supporting it in 2014. Doing this, though, leaves your business system open to security breaches which can bring your operations to a halt.
“The real question is, can you afford to not take the proper precautions?” asks John Oetinger, director of ManagedNetwork™ at Paladin Data Corporation. “What is the cost of your business being down for days because of something as common as malware, for example?”
- Verizon’s “2018 Data Breach Investigation Report” found that 58% of all cyberattacks target small businesses. That number is up 15% over the past two years.
- The “2018 State of Cybersecurity in Small and Medium Size Businesses” from the Ponemon Institute shows that 67% of businesses surveyed experienced a cyberattack, which is up 6% over 2017.
“In 2018, Cisco blocked 7 trillion threats on behalf of our customers – 20 billion per day. That’s the good news. The bad news is, a bad guy only has to be successful once,” says Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins.
When Upgrading …
Back up your records. Hopefully, most retail business owners by now either routinely create backup records or utilize a management service to do it for them daily. Many companies that provide sophisticated retail platforms and products offer database management services that automatically handle those chores.
“Backups are hugely important, especially in business applications because your business is your livelihood, we had a customer that diligently made backups of their files, but they were stored in an old rolltop desk right next to their computer. A fire destroyed their building and took both their business computer and their backup files. Managed Services stores backup files off-site in a cloud database protecting businesses against all kinds of disasters,” says C.J. June, Managed Services director at Paladin Data Corp.
Experts recommend using the 3-2-1 Rule for backups: Three copies in two different formats, with one of those copies stored off-site.
Backups are extremely important when upgrading an operating system or incorporating new PCs into a network.
The upgrade to Windows 10 will cost up to $199 per computer depending on where you buy it. You can purchase directly from Microsoft or go through any number of retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy or Walmart. It requires your computers to have the following minimum specifications to run Windows 10:
- Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC.
- RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit.
- Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS.
- Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver.
- Display: 800 x 600 resolution or higher.
Because of the minimum specifications required, Microsoft and software service (SaaS) providers strongly recommend businesses upgrade their hardware.
Computers need at least 8GB of free space to download Windows 10 from Microsoft, but it’s possible to load the software onto a thumb drive or a blank CD to get rolling.
Time for Change
Whether you decided to be proactive and stay ahead of the operating system curve by investing in your business with the latest hardware or be lackadaisical and ride Windows 7 as long as you can, it will pass away eventually.
“We’re already telling our customers we will not allow new platforms to be built on Windows 7. We require that Paladin be running on the most current version of Windows,” Horn explained in May, seven months before Windows 7’s end of life. “We all understand the challenge of running a retail business. Uptime is vitally important. Is it really worth taking the risk?”