The End is Near for Windows 7!

In Cybersecurity, Tips, Vulnerabilitiesby admin

Extended support for Windows 7(Win7), Windows Server 2008/2008R2(Svr2008R2), and Windows Small Business Server 2011(SBS2011) will end on January 14, 2020. Microsoft moved these operating systems to extended support on January 13, 2015, but after January 2020, they will no longer receive vendor supported updates. Any system that is no longer supported by the vendor is truly not secure… especially for business use. Microsoft strongly recommends upgrading all of your business computer systems to Windows 10 Professional and your server systems to either Windows Server 2016 or Windows Server 2019.

What does this mean for businesses still using these products, and why is it a big deal?

As business owners, we all have a personal responsibility to protect the patrons of the communities we serve.
During the process of operating a business, sensitive Personally Identifiable Information (also known as PII) is collected, managed, and stored. This sensitive data can be as simple as employee or client lists that include names, addresses, phone numbers, Email addresses, account numbers, social security numbers, health information, and a variety of other sensitive information.

When customers patronize your business; it is presumed that any information supplied will be used by that business, and only that business, unless otherwise agreed. In short, consumers are trusting the businesses they patronize to keep their information private and securely protected. Like a giant reciprocating circle, you and I are also “consumers” of other people’s businesses.

We see and hear reports of security breaches and computer exploits that are published in the media almost every day. As you can imagine, it’s a constant battle to keep the PII your business maintains secure and out of the hands of corrupt individuals. One important step in doing so is having up to date, vendor supported, securely patched operating systems.

Patching is the ongoing process software companies utilize to address exploits or flaws in their software. Since Microsoft will no longer be releasing patches for Win7, Svr2008R2, and SBS2011… these operating systems will be extremely vulnerable after January 2020.

But, upgrading and/or replacing computers and servers is too expensive!

Unfortunately, we hear similar comments quite often. In return we politely reply,

“Too expensive compared to what? Have you ever measured the true cost of downtime for your business to know exactly what each hour or minute costs? Now add insult to injury and consider the cost of a data breach. What’s the total cost of remediation to fix the breach? What about the loss of revenue, or the fines, regulatory compliance fees, legal fees, reputational damage, and other losses the business will likely suffer?”

These situations are not hypothetical. They are very real, and turn out to be extremely expensive. In fact, 3 out of 5 small to mid-sized businesses never fully recover from a data breach and are forced to close their business entirely. When put into its proper perspective, upgrading and/or replacing computers and servers doesn’t sound “too expensive” after all. In the end, it’s just another cost of doing business. Many organizations understand this, and budget for it along with having an equipment rotation cycle so they don’t have to do everything all at once.

Ok, so how do I get started if I want to do it myself?

Preparing for an update cycle can seem a little daunting, but here are some steps to ensure things go as smoothly as possible:

Getting started

Start with making a list of all of your computer and server assets. It may be helpful to use an Excel spreadsheet to stay organized. You will want to make note of the important stuff like:

  • Are the computers workstations, laptops, or servers?
  • Approximately how old is the device?
  • Computer Make and Model Number
    • You may find this either on the case sticker or at Control Panel -> System
  • Current Installed Operating System
    • You can find this at Control Panel -> System
  • The amount of RAM installed
    • You can find this at Control Panel -> System
  • Maximum Installable RAM
    • You will need to check the system Vendor’s website for this by looking up the hardware specifications (specs) with the Make and Model Number.
  • Number of open RAM Slots
    • You will have to open the unit’s case to find this out – Only do this if you’re comfortable working inside a computer case… otherwise, leave this to the pros
  • The type and amount of installed hard drive storage. Some devices, such as servers may have several hard drives.
    • You may have to open the unit’s case to find this out – Only do this if you’re comfortable working inside a computer case… otherwise, leave this to the pros
  • The type of Processor such as Intel i3, i5, i7, AMD Quad Core, etc.
    • You can find this at Control Panel -> System
  • Important supported software installed on each device
    • Control Panel -> Programs and Features
  • Software License Keys/Subscription Information
    • If you still have the licensing documentation for your software and its still supported by the vendor

How many Computers and/or Servers need to be upgraded or replaced?

Now that we have a list, which we will refer to as a “Cut List”, we can begin to determine which ones need to be upgraded or replaced by looking at the following:

  • All devices running Windows 7, Windows Server 2008/2008R2, and Windows Small Business Server 2011 should be on the upgrade/replace list. Windows 8/8.1 systems should also be considered for replacement/upgrade if the hardware is approaching 4 years old.
  • Review the processor type – Any device that has a Single Core, Dual Core, Core2 Duo, or an Intel i3 processor should be replaced without hesitation. These processors are not adequate for Windows 10
  • Review the age of the computer or server.
    • Computers, regardless of operating system (including Windows 8/8.1) that are approaching 5 years old or more should be replaced rather than upgraded.
    • Mid-Grade or Enterprise Grade Servers that are less than 7 years old may be able to be upgraded… but there are other important factors to consider such as virtualization, the number of processors, processor speed, max RAM, max storage capabilities, and warranty that play into the final decision.
    • Any “Entry level server” more than 4 years old should be replaced.
    • Any server that is not covered under a manufacturer’s warranty for replacement parts should also be replaced.

Can the remaining hardware run the new operating system?

If you have successfully made it this far with computers remaining on your cut list, it’s a good sign that the remaining computers on the list can be upgraded to run Windows 10 or Server 2016/2019. However, keep the following in mind:

  • If the computer hardware is approximately 3-5yrs old, a RAM upgrade and a Solid-State Drive (SSD) should be all that is required to make your computer seem like new with the Windows 10 Professional operating system.
  • Even if your server survived the initial cut, you should still have a professional have a closer look to see if an upgrade is financially feasible when compared to replacement.

Will my applications run on the new operating system?

  • It is good practice to always check with the application vendors to ensure the version you are running will be supported and function properly on the new operating system. This will most likely depend on the age and licensing of the software, as more recent versions have added support for newer operating systems.

So what are the costs of replacement vs. upgrading?

Costs are always subjective, depending on who you’re dealing with. It’s not uncommon for many IT providers to mark up their products and services, especially on projects, as much as15% to 65% in some cases.

When it comes to cost, one thing is for certain… there are no hidden up charges or price markups if you’re working with ITNS Consulting. Our whole focus is on the value of quality service rather than sales. Therefore, hardware and software purchases are provided as a pass-through expense at our cost… with no additional markup to boost our profitability. That’s right… you pay what we pay for hardware and software! This is an incredible value packed with extra savings that delivers the peace of mind you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

It’s always a good idea to weigh the costs and benefits of purchasing new with the costs and benefits of performing upgrades. Again, this is a subjective matter… but one that should not be taken lightly.

Replacement…

A new business quality computer (Quad Core or higher CPU/16 GB RAM/ 500 GB SSD/ 3-year warranty) with Windows 10 Professional will cost around $1,000.00 plus the time to set it up for your network. Average bench time, setup (includes application installations), and deployment cost is about $400. That leaves the average cost of a new computer somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,400.00

As for Servers, that depends on the business need and the resources necessary to run your applications and provide enough storage for your data. A good quality entry level server that provides plenty of room for expansion starts at about $5,000.00 (Windows Server operating system included) and goes up from there. Keep in mind that the cost of the replacement server hardware does not include the costs for the time necessary for system setup, deployment, and the costs associated with a successful migration of your Domain, system services, server applications, and data.

Upgrading…

For those of you who are a little tight on funds, but still understand the need to upgrade for the sake of security, upgrading your existing hardware may very well be a viable option. Please keep in mind that it is important that the hardware in question has successfully made it through the “Cut List” previously described above.

As with anything Microsoft, there is a cost for the software licensing that allows you to install and run any of Microsoft’s operating systems.

  • Windows 10 Professional (64 bit) – $210.00 each (Estimated with WI tax)
  • Windows Server 2016/2019 – $822.00 each (Estimated with WI tax)
  • Windows Server Client Access Licenses per User (User CALs) – $52.75 each (Estimated with WI tax)
    • A User CAL is required for each user in your network that will access applications, storage, shares, and other resources hosted on a Windows Server. This licensing model is a 1:1 relationship, therefore if you have 20 employees that use computers, you will need 20 User CALs.

A quality 500 GB Solid State Drive for Desktops and Laptops, such as a Samsung EVO 860 (with 5yr manufacturer warranty), costs about $100.00

A RAM Upgrade to 16GB can cost anywhere from $65.00 to $185.00 depending on the type of RAM and number of modules necessary to upgrade to at least 16GB. We typically see the average around $100 for RAM upgrades.

The average cost of bench time, setup (includes application installations), and system deployment for a business computer is about $400.

This leaves the average cost of upgrading a computer somewhere in the neighborhood of about $810.00 (actual costs will vary slightly).

So, there we have it… the average cost of a new computer versus the cost of upgrading an existing computer leaves about $590.00 in cost difference to consider. This adds up rather quickly when there are several computers to either upgrade or replace. Ultimately, as a business owner, the final decision is up to you and your finances.

Other Considerations…

Before determining your computer upgrade/replacement path, here are a few more considerations and risks that you should be aware of:

  • Always keep in mind that when upgrading a computer, there are no warranties except that of the parts manufacturer of the replacement parts that you are installing or having installed.
  • Power supplies last a long time, but they don’t last forever. There is a possibility that you may have to replace the computer’s power supply at some point after the upgrade. We’ve seen power supplies that have lasted as much as ten or more years of constant use. Just know that this item could wear out somewhere along the line. There’s really no need to replace the power supply up front, unless you are already having power issues with the computer. A good quality power supply costs around $100.00.
  • CPU and Case fans also last a long time, but they eventually wear out. Fans should be inspected at the time of upgrade to make sure they are working properly and rotating fast enough without “limping” along. The cost of replacement fans varies depending on the fan type. The average cost is between $10 and $30 per fan.
  • Laptop batteries only last about 3 years and then they degrade rather rapidly. If you are considering upgrading your laptop, also consider replacing the laptop battery. The cost of replacing a laptop battery varies wildly. Some laptop batteries are internal/integrated and should only be changed by a professional, whereas some laptops have user replaceable batteries accessible on the under side of the laptop case. We recommend consulting Batteries Plus for user replaceable replacement batteries. Please be sure to recycle your old battery, which can also be done at Batteries Plus.
  • Upgrading your computer? Consider upgrading your important software such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Products, AutoCAD, etc.

Do you need some help?

Have more questions?

Feeling a little overwhelmed?

Would you just rather have a professional take care of it all for you?

NO PROBLEM!

We are more than happy to advise, assist, and/or perform these upgrades, or get the appropriate replacements for you! It all starts with a conversation. Call us today… you’ll be glad you did.

You can call ITNS Consulting at (608) 563-1975 or fill out our Information Request Form.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for your FREE Business Security Gap Assessment. This special offer is provided completely free of charge, for a limited time, to all small businesses located within 50 miles of Janesville, Wisconsin, and is performed by our highly experienced Certified IT Security Specialists. We invite you to take advantage of this free service regardless of whether you currently have your own in-house IT Staff or are working with another provider. We hope that you will find our expertise, along with our ethical and unbiased approach, to be very beneficial as you continue to make critical decisions regarding information security, privacy, business continuity, and the overall future of your business’s operations.

Sources and more information on Windows 7 End of Life:
Microsoft
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-7-end-of-life-support-information