The Withdrawal of Windows 7 Support and the Effect on Schools
After January 14, 2020, Microsoft will withdraw Windows 7 support. This operating system (OS) is a popular choice for a lot of secondary schools in the UK. However, once Windows 7 support ends, PCs will become more vulnerable to security risks and schools will no longer receive security and feature updates.
Windows 7 can still be installed and activated after support has ended, but Microsoft does recommend an upgrade to Windows 10. Users will still be able to use Office 365 for the time being at least.
Why is Windows 7 such a favourite?
Windows 7 is still widely used amongst schools, colleges, hospitals and businesses. This can simply go back to being used to working with something you know and not wanting to make that change.
Windows 7 did provide a lot of useful and easy-to-use features and tools for users . Here are some that most users will be familiar with:
The task bar was one change to the classic Windows interface that revolutionised usage. It made the OS much more stable, pinning was brilliant and getting to often-used programs was simple.
The Action centre allows for warnings to appear for your computer with ease. A little pop-up alerts you stating that something important needs your attention.
The search facility was vastly improved in Windows 7. Typing a search term in the window relatively quickly gets you a list of results. What’s great is that the results aren’t just presented as a huge list. They’re grouped into categories to find what you want in a snap, such as your programs, files or internet research.
Another reason users are hanging on to Windows 7 is that some older hardware may struggle to run the more advanced operating systems, and upgrading is expensive.
What is the real danger of not upgrading your operating system?
The obvious dangers to the withdrawal of Windows 7 support for schools and other establishments comes down to hacking, data protection and general flaws in systems that users could abuse. In this case, users being pupils, staff and outside visitors.
Software updates offer a lot of benefits. Think of it as constant changes to a system that is being upgraded over time, fixing security holes, remedying bugs, adding new features and removing outdated ones. This is why it is a good idea to make sure that your operating system is running the latest version or that you run your whole network of computers on the latest operating system.
Hackers love security flaws, also known as vulnerabilities in software. A vulnerability is a hole or weakness found in software that can be taken advantage of by writing code to target that vulnerability.
At times, without the latest updates (or in this case upgrades) a hack can affect your computer with little to no action on your part, other than viewing a rogue website, opening an email or playing infected media.
Once your system is infected with malware, this can steal data saved on your device or allow someone to gain control over your computer and gain access to your files. There’s also ransomware which will ask for money in return for releasing your files.
Software updates often include software patches that cover security holes and keep hackers out. As hackers will always try to find new ways to get inside a system, security teams from Microsoft (and other companies they work with) will try to counter this by constantly finding new ways to close any gaps in a system.
Schools keep a lot of personal information about their students. Thus, information such as addresses, medical, financial and HR data can all be used by cyber-criminals.
The data can be used for identity theft or sold on the dark web (an unregulated and pretty lawless part of the internet) to allow others to commit crimes. As above, this could also be encrypted requiring a ransom to get it back; or worse, paying a ransom and not getting it back.
With new laws being required by all to follow, such as GDPR, it is not only essential but also good practise to ensure that everything is done to protect user’s data and not let it get into the wrong hands.
If the school system gets a virus it could then get passed on to every computer which comes into contact with the infected data As a school will have a lot of contacts, potentially in the thousands, the importance of not getting a virus grows with each piece of data that is added to the system.
Imagine a school susceptible to a virus. Very quickly, all emails sent out to parents could be a carrier of the same virus, spreading it outside of the internal network. Not only this, but USB devices and cloud storage could also be prone to the same virus, if it attaches itself to a file that you share amongst more than one location.
Not only is security important, the latest software ‘patches’ provide new features and improve existing ones. Sometimes, if you’re not completely up-to-date you cannot use a specific piece of software that may be vital to a child’s education.
Software updates also provide stability, so your system doesn’t crash anymore. An update could provide more performance and more speed. This would allow you and your students to complete all tasks efficiently and in good time.
Once Windows 7 support is withdrawn, these security patches will no longer be available.
Obviously, you could ignore reminders to update your software. Ultimately though, you’ll be missing out on a lot, starting with your school’s cyber security.
What about hardware requirements?
Upgrading can be a costly process for schools, this is especially true when hardware is often outdated due to small IT budgets . This can mean that only small sections of the technology is upgraded every year, not the whole system.
The current minimum requirements for Windows 10 require 2GB RAM (Random Access Memory) and a 20GB HD (Hard Drive). The recommended requirements are (as of 2018) 8GB RAM, 320GB HD and a suitable graphics card.
Can we help?
Yes. Here at Maxxia we can help you with cost-effective methods of financing school technology upgrades, including the necessary software. Our easy-to-manage leasing solutions mean that you don’t have to make difficult budget decisions and don’t have to spend all of your budget on one area. Have a look here for more information and then get in touch if you’d like some advice on bringing your school technology right up to date.