Tech Savvy

Are you prepared for Windows 7 and Server 2008 End of Life?

Windows 7 Server 2008 End of LifeMicrosoft Windows 7 and Server 2008 will reach End of Life (EOL) on January 14, 2020. It has been a long 10 year run for this software. However, a large portion of the world’s computers, mostly in business networks, are still running this operating system (OS). The last time we experienced an upheaval like this was back in April 2014, when Microsoft ended support for the popular OS Windows XP. The statistics of inaction are staggering. Kaspersky, a prominent anti-virus company, says 40% of very small businesses (VSBs) and 48% of small, medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are still relying on operating systems that are either unsupported or approaching EOL. And according to NetMarketShare, Windows 7 holds 37% of the global market for Windows Desktop and Laptop Systems – second only to its successor Windows 10.

Implementing and learning new software can often feel intimidating and overwhelming. Because of this, many dental offices have delayed switching from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Come January 14, 2020, Microsoft will discontinue support so that it can focus on investing support in newer technologies. After that, technical assistance and automatic updates that help protect your PC from viruses, ransomware, and malware attacks will no longer be made available for the product. Just as it did with Windows XP, Microsoft will continue to offer support for those Windows 7 users still reluctant to upgrade to Windows 10, but it will cost you more in the long run than an upgrade.

What’s the risk?

If you are one of the remaining Windows 7 loyalists, you should understand that using an unsupported operating system poses serious security risks. Hackers and other criminals in the cyber community will target Windows 7 machines as new vulnerabilities are discovered. Rather than continuing with Windows 7 after its end of life date, you should upgrade to the fully supported and patched Windows 10 operating system. To this day, cybercriminals target the unsupported XP machines that are still in existence. The global malware outbreaks of WannaCry and NotPetya wreaked havoc on companies and organizations all over the world throughout the middle of 2017 which took advantage of the well-known vulnerability called EternalBlue. This vulnerability was so severe that Microsoft released a patch even though extended support had reached its end of life years before. Unfortunately, the patch required a manual update, and to this day, many unpatched XP machines run in a highly vulnerable state. In short, unsupported operating systems like Windows XP or Windows 7 are vulnerable to exploits by cybercriminals.

What does this mean for your practice?

This is a major issue for everyone, but especially dental offices because it is an automatic HIPAA violation.  While HIPAA doesn’t explicitly state that running Windows 7 will be a violation, it does express that “procedures for guarding against, detecting, and reporting malicious software” must be in place.  Continuing to run Windows 7 or Server 2008 comes with serious risk to the security of your network, patient information, and other sensitive data – not to mention potential penalties down the road. Compatibility issues between your Operating System (OS), Practice Management (PM), Imaging Software, and other hardware and software, are major factors to consider. Most imaging systems, such as Dexis (all versions), are compatible with Windows 10. Regardless, all imaging platforms should be checked for compatibility before updating to Windows 10, as should server OS compatibilities. This is a great time to update to the latest version of Open Dental, which supports all the latest Windows 10 and Server 2019 releases.

What help is available?

Your IT company has details on each computer in your practice and can give guidance on which workstations and servers can be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro/Server 2019, and which will ultimately need to be replaced. While the cost of replacing computers is obviously an important concern, there is still roughly a month and a half until support will end. If replacing all your computers immediately isn’t something you can handle, consider budgeting for a couple computers per week to spread the cost out over time. It’s not too late to start planning for the hardware budget now.

Please consider this Windows 7 to Windows 10 Migration Checklist:

  • Identify machines and systems that need to be upgraded
  • Identify legacy systems that use older operating systems and/or software and consider replacing with updated technology
  • Develop a timeline and budget for each upgrade and replacement
  • Implement security controls to separate critical systems from Windows 7 machines that cannot be upgraded or removed
  • Plan time and resources for employees to learn the new system

If upon reading this article, you are wondering how you are going to get this done, Darkhorse Tech is a great option. We are currently supporting more than 500 dental practices through this transition. If you need more help than your current situation or IT company can provide, please reach out to us at 800-868-4504 or fill out a new client form at http://darkhorsetech.com/contactus/

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