With Windows 7 support due to end early next year (14th Jan 2020), organisations will soon be facing the same cliff-edge they confronted back when support ended for Windows XP in 2014, writes Sean Robinson, director, License Dashboard.
While the technical differences between Windows 7 and 10 are not as significant as those between XP and 7, there is still a risk of software incompatibility when firms update to Windows 10.
However, the price of a new Windows 10 licence is not the only cost firms should consider in their calculations. For most organisations, the cost of upgrading the rest of their critical software to ensure compatibility with Windows 10 may be many times higher than the cost of the new OS.
However, those who have a good understanding of their existing software licence entitlements, software deployments, and the range of licensing SKUs available will be in a good position to reduce these costs, or even mitigate them entirely: when it comes to Windows 7 retirement, don’t dither and delay.
First and foremost, let’s get a few things out of the way. You should not plan to run Windows 7 in your organisation after the retirement date has passed. The end of support means Microsoft will stop developing patches and bug fixes for the OS. This means unpatched versions of Windows 7 will soon become targets for malware. Since cybersecurity should always be your number 1 priority, migrating to Windows 10 before January 14th 2020 is the only genuine course of action.
Secondly, the only viable version of Windows to upgrade to is Windows 10. It is not only the latest version of Windows (so you’ll get the longest shelf-life from it) but it is widely regarded as a very stable and solid build which Microsoft will support for many years to come. You could technically upgrade to Windows 8, but why do that when Windows 10 is the vastly superior product?
Windows 10 Requirements
With those points out of the way, what are the costs of moving to Windows 10? While the technical differences between Windows 7 and 10 are less significant than those between Windows XP and 7, there will undoubtedly be some software that is simply not supported beyond Windows 7. Firms need to be prepared for the additional costs of bringing the rest of their software is up-to-date. This involves auditing the software they already use to check its compatibility and adding up the cost of upgrades.
“There are two questions to ask of your existing software when it comes to compatibility”
Ask two key questions to ask yourself apropos Windows 7 retirement:
1. Is it compatible with Windows 10 on a technical level (this is fairly easy to find out, just check the software publisher’s website)?
2. Is it compatible at a licencing level?
This latter question is much more difficult to answer. By “licence compatibility” we mean, “do your existing software licences entitle you to upgrade to a version of the software that is compatible with Windows 10?”
Firms need to know, well in advance of an OS migration, what they are entitled to within their existing licence agreements so they can budget for any required licence upgrades. You don’t want to purchase 400 brand new Windows 10 licences to then discover that you already had 200 free upgrade rights on existing licensing agreements. Worse still, you don’t want to make the transition to then discover your CRM is incompatible with Windows 10…
While options were fairly limited when it came to upgrading from Windows XP back in 2014, there are three ways you can mitigate the cost of upgrading to Windows 10 today:
Upgrading the OS can be a sensible time to take advantage of “platform discounts” under Microsoft Enterprise Agreements (Microsoft’s volume licensing agreements which offer discounts for firms with 500+ users). With an Enterprise Agreement you will benefit from discounts on Windows 10 licenses when buying them together with Office and Client Access Licence suites. An Enterprise Agreement also allows the cost to be spread over three years rather than needing to secure budget for a large one off investment before January 14th.
Upgrading to Windows 10 could also be wrapped with a move to more user-centric and cloud offerings, taking advantage of new wave Microsoft offerings such as Microsoft 365 which allows you to effectively outsource email, intranet, communications, identity management and security to Microsoft’s cloud services. This would effectively use the impending OS upgrade as a springboard to kickstart a more significant digital transformation of your organisation, giving your users greater flexibility over which devices they use (mobile, tablet, desktop).
· Use “App-V” to run incompatible software on Windows 10. Those organisations who purchase Windows 10 through MDOP (Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack) have an ace up their sleeve here. MDOP is a portfolio of Microsoft technologies only available as a subscription for Software Assurance customers, so this is really only available to larger companies. MDOP includes “App-V,” which is Microsoft’s application virtualization technology.
App-V effectively allows you to stream virtualized applications to a user’s desktop, so that you can continue to use applications that should be incompatible with Windows 10 – just be sure your licensing still covers the software being virtualized AND a license for the App-V client too!
What’s more, if you are running App-V through Remote Desktop Services (RDS) bear in mind there may be an additional RDS CAL license requirement too, depending on the configuration. Lastly, since App-V is only available as a benefit for Software Assurance customers (i.e. it cannot be purchased by itself) only Software Assurance firms cancan take advantage of this approach.
Upgrading to a new OS is one of those thankless housekeeping tasks you simply can’t avoid. But if you follow these steps, you can at least mitigate some of the pain.
Aside from these steps, it goes without saying that you must have your house in order when it comes to knowing your existing license entitlements and deployments. For that you must ensure your SAM inventory is fully up-to-date and you conduct license reconciliations on a regular basis. This will enable you to validate which licenses already cover you for the upgrade required and will ensure investment isn’t wasted on licenses you already have.