Windows 7 end-of-life, are you ready?

Windows 7 end-of-life in January 2020 is quickly approaching. This means there will be no more updates, including patches against the latest security threats, available for systems running on Windows 7. For enterprises who have not migrated to newer versions of Windows, it’s crunch time to begin a Windows 10 migration plan in order to avoid compromised security and device performance on the unsupported Windows 7 software. Luckily, MJFChat host Mary Jo Foley and SmartDeploy CEO, Aaron Suzuki, are here to discuss Windows 10 migration and management strategies to help IT navigate these Microsoft software changes.

Listen to the podcast or read on for the highlights.

Windows 7 end-of-life: What we know now

Thankfully, we can expect Windows 7 end-of-life to be less unsettling than the Windows XP end-of-life that we experienced back in April 2014. The Windows XP announcement was somewhat abrupt, and many Microsoft customers weren’t prepared to upgrade to the latest Windows version. To avoid a large disruption with the Windows 7 announcement, Microsoft is providing customers with the option to pay for an extension of Windows 7 support. Although Microsoft gave customers a back-up plan if they aren’t ready in January 2020, some enterprises can’t afford the added cost and the support extension may only be a temporary solution. So, that brings us back to plan A: begin a Windows 10 migration plan.

However, to management and IT, undergoing a Windows 10 migration project can seem easier said than done. As Aaron put it, “It’s always never a good time to revisit your PC management strategy.” There’s always a project going on and the typically limited IT manpower is needed in other areas. However, running on supported software is an essential task in order to maintain company security and business operations. A large component to why these migration projects are so labor-intensive is because many IT departments are still relying on dated migration solutions. These methods include more hands-on, face-palm inducing ways to image through an OEM or reseller instead of the new multi-dimension method the industry has moved towards. However, since IT is working on tight timelines and is busy putting out fires, most of the industry doesn’t have time to research new solutions and is unaware of the simpler methods in newer tools.

Key consideration: Device driver management

When formulating a Windows migration plan, a key component to consider is device driver management. Drivers are a common trip up for IT, particularly if you’re using a disk-based imaging solution. This method requires IT to maintain a physical reference machine for each model deployed to – and updating that physical machine can be a headache as well, since Sysprep often renders that machine unusable for future updates. An ideal modern workaround for both of these issues is to use a virtual reference machine instead of a physical one. It is not only a huge time-saver, because you can create a single hardware-independent image, but you can also use a solution which installs drivers and runs Sysprep on the target machine at deployment time. As a result, the reference VM is left in a wholly usable state for updates. Anything hardware-specific is installed at deployment time, separately from the underlying OS.

The direction of device management

As the modern end user shifts the way they’re using PCs, Mary Jo wonders whether IT should anticipate this as the end of SCCM and Group Policy and instead focus on automating and virtualizing from now on. From Aaron’s perspective, this shift in computer imaging should be viewed as an expansion of how imaging is conducted, rather than excluding other avenues for ongoing device management. We’re predicting that the desktop will  continue to thrive and remain the primary device for business and enterprise users. This decision comes down to the importance of evaluating how IT and end users will remain productive relative to the Cloud. The service providers are increasingly putting more work on hand-held devices, like cell phones and tablets, to alleviate work performed from the data centers. The desktop is very similar. The PC’s life extension will continue to progress and handheld devices will become more powerful. Device performance is dependent on virtualization as workloads are dedicated to computer performance and data centers are increasing their reliance on computers in order to continue industry operations.

Questions to ask when organizing a Windows 7 migration

Before signing off, Aaron listed a few important questions for IT pros to ask before conducting a migration from Windows 7 or any computer imaging project.

  • How are we going to buy devices in the future?
  • Do we need to standardize on a model or manufacturer?
  • How often will re-refresh?
  • Where is the workforce? Are they centralized or spread out? How will we reach them if they have dispersed?
  • How are our employees working?
  • What is my job in the role, am I the first responder?

Addressing these key factors associated with computer imaging is a great first step to take in order to ensure a successful deployment process that IT can rely on for years to come.