The expiry date of the world’s second most popular desktop operating system (OS) is looming, and it’s getting business leaders anxious. On January 14, 2020, the decade-old Windows 7 will finally reach the end of its support life cycle.

Unfortunately, and especially given the debacle that was Windows 8, many business users have had perfectly legitimate reasons not to upgrade. Windows 7 has been working optimally for years even after the end of its mainstream support date in 2015. But once there are no more critical security updates being released weekly, it will only be a matter of time before hackers start exploiting new vulnerabilities in the operating system.

The malware risk is real

The global ransomware attacks of 2017, those being WannaCry and NotPetya, often targeted users of Windows XP, which was rife with vulnerabilities after its extended support life cycle. These attacks were so disruptive that Microsoft even made the unprecedented step of releasing a hotfix to address the vulnerability hackers were exploiting. But that’s not something you can count on with an obsolete operating system.

Unsupported operating systems and software are usually ideal targets for cybercriminals because they don’t possess modern countermeasures against the latest threats. Once there are no longer any security patches being released for Windows 7, its antivirus protections will be woefully out of date, which means that any newly developed malware will be able to exploit it without effort. Hackers are already gearing up for the occasion, driven by the belief that many computer users will fail to upgrade before the cut-off date.

Cybercrime isn’t the only risk

While most of the talk about Windows 7’s end of life centers around security issues, there are many other compelling reasons to upgrade. One of the biggest is interoperability. It makes no sense for software developers to continue developing products to be compatible with old operating systems. They need to innovate and release new products, but this becomes much less relevant when people are moving to more powerful (and secure) OSs.

Another problem with unsupported OSs is that they don’t receive any feature or performance updates, which can lead to compatibility problems, reduced productivity, and increased downtime. All these factors have a knock-on effect on your bottom line, so if security problems don’t strike first, then something else will.

While Windows 7 won’t suddenly stop working on January 14, it’s important to remember that Microsoft only ever provides extended support for its operating systems for 10 years. The same applies to Windows 10, but updates for this OS are automatic and requires little to no intervention from users other than the need to occasionally restart their machines. So if you’re still using Windows 7, then it’s time to either upgrade to Windows 10 or choose a different operating system entirely.

What should you do?

Although there’s nothing to physically prevent you from continuing to use Windows 7 after January 14, it’s imperative that you find a solution before then. For most businesses, upgrading to the latest version of Windows 10 is the obvious choice, not least because it features mandatory and automatic security updates and is delivered as an ongoing service. There’s also other modern OSs like Mac and Linux. However, the former requires you to purchase a new set of hardware altogether, while the latter is built primarily for advanced power users.

Another last-resort option for Professional and Enterprise users is to join Microsoft’s Extended Security Updates (ESU) program, but this is expensive and should only be considered a stopgap solution for those who need more time to upgrade.

Are you worried about Windows 7 end of life? Tech Squared can help you upgrade with less disruption to your business. Call us today to get an OS that works for you and your business.