The big news in Windows support is still the impending end of extended support for Windows XP which is April 8, 2014. What you might not have known is that mainstream support of Windows 7 will be ending in the near future as well. Mainstream support is a period of support during which Microsoft actively writes new code for an operating system, sometimes adding new features in addition to fixing bugs and patching security holes. When mainstream support ends for a version of Windows, so does the availability of the operating system on new computers. Due to customer demand, the previous mainstream support end date for Windows 7 has been moved from October 31, 2014 to January 13, 2015. Many of the major computer manufacturers have however already stopped building new retail and consumer systems with Windows 7 on them. Businesses and consumers can still purchase some models with Windows 7 installed from the computer manufacturer’s websites though they are being sold as downgrades. This means you only get a license key for Windows 8 so if you have to reload the computer or replace the hard drive you will be installing Windows 8 and not 7.
The concession by Microsoft to extend mainstream support might give some of you out there a little more breathing room for testing and planning for the move to Windows 8.1. Windows 7 still has some life left after the end of mainstream support date however. Existing computers with Windows 7 installed will enjoy extended support through January 14, 2020. On that day, Windows 7 will be in the same position Windows XP is now. It will become a liability. Just because Windows 7 will be supported through 2020 does not mean you shouldn’t have a plan for implementing Windows 8.1 in your environment. Like it or not, Windows 8.1 will find its way onto your network well before 2020.
If you don’t have a plan for supporting Windows 8.1 on your network you should be developing one now. You should also be planning to move from your Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 based servers. If the task seems too daunting or you just don’t have the time to devote to this kind of planning you need to bring someone like Jacobs and Company B.I.T.S. in to help you develop a migration plan not just for Windows 8.1 but to also to help prepare for whatever comes next. If you have not already read it, I recommend that you read my article “Every Business Needs a CIO” also printed in this volume of the newsletter to help you better understand how Jacobs and Company B.I.T.S. can help you maintain your IT systems and plan for the future.