January 14, 2020. While it’s not a holiday, it is a very significant date for many businesses around the world. That is because it’s the day Microsoft will officially stop supporting its Windows 7 operating system. However, many large businesses and enterprises still rely on Windows 7 for mission-critical systems. If you are part of that group, you should know how to gain extra time to migrate off Windows 7 without putting your systems at risk. The answer is the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates, or ESU, program. This program provides continuing support for businesses still using Windows 7 devices. That said, there are a few catches you need to be aware of before you enroll in the program.
What Are Extended Security Updates?
Since Windows 7’s initial release, Microsoft has provided users with free security patches and updates to correct vulnerabilities and protect user data from viruses, hackers, and other attacks. That support, though, has increased costs and risks for Microsoft. You may be reminded of how Microsoft extended support for Windows XP multiple times past the initial end-of-life deadlines, finally dropping the OS in 2014. The ESU program is Microsoft’s way of preventing a similar situation from happening with Windows 7.
For most users, Windows 7 support will end on January 14, 2020. However, business-class users can purchase additional support through the ESU program on a per-device basis. Microsoft will offer this support until January 2023, giving business users up to three years of additional time to migrate to Windows 10. After that, Microsoft plans to end ongoing support for Windows 7 entirely and shift support operations to Windows 10.
How Do I Purchase Extended Security Updates?
Fortunately for SMBs still using Windows 7, Microsoft recently relaxed the requirements for participating in the ESU program. Previously, ESU licenses were only available to customers who purchased Windows 7 through Volume Licensing. This meant most small businesses that purchased individual licenses weren’t eligible. But now smaller customers can also take advantage of the ESU program through CSPs, or Cloud Solution Providers.
With this program, businesses of any size can take advantage of the Windows 7 ESU without being part of a Volume Licensing agreement. This is a huge boon for smaller businesses for several reasons:
- Small businesses can get the same dedicated support and security updates that would have previously been limited to enterprise-level clients.
- CSPs offer additional benefits to SMBs, such as additional, full-time IT support and Windows 10 migration assistance.
ESU licenses are only available to users of Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, and Windows 7 Enterprise. There are also available licenses for educational institutions using the Windows 7 Education edition.
Support for these versions of Windows 7 is on a per-device basis, meaning the more machines you need to support, the more expensive the ESU program will be. For the first year, ESU licenses start at $50 per machine for Professional and Ultimate users, and $25 per machine for Enterprise users. These costs double to $100 and $50 respectively in Year 2, and double again to $200 and $100 per machine in Year 3. These costs also include continuing support for Office 365 ProPlus, allowing Windows 7 machines covered by the ESU program to continue to run Office 365 apps.
If you choose not to enroll immediately, you can sign up for ESU any time between now and January 2023. But if you do sign up late you’ll need to pay for previous years’ contracts as well, since the updates are cumulative.
- Extended Support is available for Windows 7 users on Volume Licensing agreements and for SMBs who partner with a CSP for enrollment.
- You must have Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise to qualify. Home editions of Windows 7 are not eligible for ESUs.
- Costs start at $50 per device for one year of support ($25 for Enterprise) and double annually.
To purchase ESU licenses for Windows 7 machines, businesses can either reach out to their Microsoft representatives or get help from experienced IT professionals such as our team at Agile IT. We can help you purchase Windows 7 ESU licenses and also assist you with your eventual migration from Windows 7 to Windows 10.
What If My Business Doesn’t Purchase ESU Licenses?
Of course, Microsoft isn’t forcing anyone to purchase ESU licenses or to partner with Cloud Solutions Partners. Indeed, it’s likely that many businesses will continue to run unsupported versions of Windows 7. Analytics firm NetApplications estimates that approximately 35% of desktops are still running Windows 7 as of September 2019.
However, continuing to operate Windows 7 machines without security updates puts you and your business at risk. Given how many machines will still be running Windows 7 after January 2020, it’s highly likely that hackers and virus makers will target the OS once Microsoft ends support. This could put your business and your data at risk in several ways:
- Unsupported machines are more likely to contract viruses and malware which could have business impacts, such as destroying data or preventing you from running critical applications.
- Unpatched vulnerabilities are an easy target for hackers and data thieves.
- Unsupported Windows 7 machines could provide an opening into your network, putting other machines and systems at risk.
- Without support, regulated and compliance-based businesses could risk losing their certifications.
While most businesses won’t feel any immediate changes once support for Windows 7 ends, it’s only a matter of time before the OS becomes a liability to your entire business. The better option is to partner with a CSP and start working toward a Windows 10 migration, with the ESU program to keep you covered in the meantime.
Do I Have Any Other Alternatives?
At this point, it might feel like your IT environment is stuck between a rock and a hard place. You can either pay increasingly large amounts to continue support for your critical systems and software. Alternatively, you can risk going without the support and face the potential consequences from malware and bad actors. But there is a third option – Windows Virtual Desktop.
If your business has resisted migrating off Windows 7 because you need continued support and access for vital applications or software, Windows Virtual Desktop could be a solution. This system allows you to migrate to a modern, supported Windows 10 environment and then emulate a full Windows 7 desktop client through Microsoft Azure, giving you access to Windows 7 software and applications without putting your machines and network at risk.
How Windows Virtual Desktop Works
Unlike other virtualization software, Windows Virtual Desktop is a fully cloud-based system backed by Microsoft’s popular Azure cloud framework. Virtual Desktop allows users to virtualize Windows 7 desktops, keeping the same workflow and compatibility without direct network risks. Plus, all Windows Virtual Desktop clients get free access to the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates. That means your virtual Windows 7 environments will be protected from attack until January 2023. Thus, giving you plenty of time to complete your migration.
Windows Virtual Desktop offers other advantages as well. For example, it offers multi-user virtual Windows 10 sessions and full compatibility with Office 365 ProPlus. To learn more about setting up Windows Virtual Desktop in your workplace, watch our video guide.
Agile IT Can Help You Migrate
As a Tier One certified solution provider, we understand the challenges of migrating away from Windows 7 for business-class clients. That’s why we work directly with Microsoft to make the transition as smooth as possible. Whether you’re looking to complete your migration before end-of-life or to learn more about the ESU program, we can help. Contact Agile IT today to speak to our team about your technology needs.
FInd out how we can help you past EOS with Windows 10 upgrades, Windows Virtual Desktop, or Extended Security Updates.