Do you remember when Windows XP reached the end of its support lifecycle? We sure do, and it’s about to happen again with Windows 7 and Server 2008.
Microsoft supports their operating systems for a minimum of 10 years following public release, after which, they pick a date to end all security updates for good. This is what we call End of Life, or EOL.
Windows 7 and Server 2008 are reaching EOL on 1/14/2020 just like Windows XP did in 2015. This does not mean that your computer or server will power down on 1/14/2020 and refuse to turn back on. What EOL means is simply that you Windows 7 PC or Server 2008 has received its final security update on Tuesday, 1/14/2020, and will forever remain unpatched and unprotected from vulnerabilities that become known after that date.
Why is EOL a concern?
Every Tuesday, Microsoft publishes a list of newly discovered and exploited vulnerabilities across their operating systems along with corresponding patches to fix the vulnerabilities for supported operating systems. Criminals study Microsoft’s list and reverse-engineer the public list of exploits and patches to take advantage of unpatched operating systems. Since most of the behind-the-scenes code remains consistent between older and newer operating systems, unsupported systems running Windows 7 and Server 2008 become the easiest, most obvious targets. Every time your computer or server accesses a web-page, it includes its operating system, broadcasting to the world that it is vulnerable.
You may be asking yourself: “I am running Server 2008 or Windows 7. What do I do?”
You have 4 options:
- Upgrade your operating system: This is the least-expensive option, but you are still stuck with your aging hardware. In addition, you’ve sunk several hundred dollars’ worth of labor and licensing into an aging computer. This is an OK choice if your computer is fairly new.
- Replace the computer with a modern system: This is self-explanatory. New computers (especially servers) are expensive, but now you have a brand-new computer with many years of life ahead of it.
- Migrate to Azure: This option only applies to Server 2008. If you migrate your Windows Server 2008 to Azure, Microsoft is offering an additional 3 years of extended support and security updates at no cost. Migrating to Azure is a relatively simple process and has several distinct advantages over physical servers, such as the ability to upsize or downsize resources on demand, improved security if configured properly, and the eradication of hardware failure.
- Ignore EOL and keep using your operating system: This is a very bad idea in the age of viruses, malware, and cyber-attacks. Even if this computer’s use is “coupon-clipping” only, consider your keystrokes, webcam, microphone, and browsing activity potentially compromised.