Although it is only months away from essentially becoming dead technology, the Windows 7 desktop operating system remains remarkably popular. In fact, usage actually increased slightly in January.

The risks associated with it are also increasing, however.

Mainstream support for the OS ended more than four years ago, and Microsoft will no longer provide critical updates or security patches after January 14, 2020. Although Microsoft has announced it will sell extended support to enterprise organizations, it won’t be cheap and it won’t be available for consumers or small businesses.

Nevertheless, many loyalists are clinging to Windows 7. According to figures from NetMarketShare, it remained the world’s most popular OS until finally being overtaken by Windows 10 in December. However, Windows 7 actually gained a fraction of a percentage point in January and now owns 37.19 percent of the market compared to 40.9 percent for Windows 10.

Although holdouts love Windows 7’s stability and intuitive design, the time has come to make a solid plan for migrating to Windows 10. Security is the biggest reason.

It’s a simple fact that older systems have older security features. Windows 7 security was considered quite robust when it was introduced in 2009, but it wasn’t built to handle all the sophisticated threats that have emerged over the past 10 years. According to a 2018 report, 63 percent of confirmed malware infections were on Windows 7 machines.

New and improved security features in Windows 10 will mitigate many threats and reduce remediation costs by 33 percent, according to a report by Forrester Research. Enterprise-grade security features such as identity and information protection are built into the core of Windows 10. Enhanced user identities improve resistance to breach, theft and phishing. Windows 10 improves data loss prevention by using containers and data separation at the application and file level. This enables protection that follows the data as it goes from a tablet or PC to a USB drive, email or the cloud.

Windows 10 also uses virtualization-based security to create an isolated subsystem for storing, securing, transferring and operating other sensitive subsystems and data. It is essentially an architectural change that vastly reduces the attack surface and attempts to eliminate the attack vectors themselves. As such, it makes it very difficult for attackers to tamper with core components of the operating system.

Beyond improved security, Windows 10 can create numerous financial, efficiency and productivity benefits. In its Total Economic Impact study of Windows 10, Forrester reports that improvements in boot times, application access, security and mobility help users and IT staff increase productivity and complete work more quickly and effectively. The study finds a net three-year value of $515 per user, with a 233 percent return on investment (ROI) and a payback period of 13 to 14 months.

It’s no surprise that many organizations and users have put off upgrading to Windows 10. The same thing happened with XP users when Windows 7 was launched. Upgrading an operating system can be a stressful experience. There’s always a transitional period when users are trying to get accustomed to new features and interfaces. Tasks that had become second nature may require new processes and actions. Compatibility issues with hardware, applications and device drivers often create performance issues until they get sorted out.

ICG understands the challenges involved and can help you streamline the process. We can conduct a readiness assessment to ensure your hardware meets upgrade requirements and test your applications to ensure compatibility. We can also guide the actual implementation to minimize risk and downtime, and can provide training to ensure your users are completely comfortable with the new features and interface.