11 Oct 2019

Windows 7 to Retire in 2020

Windows 7 to Retire in 2020

The wheel of technology waits for no one, and the upcoming end of life cycle for Windows 7 is just more evidence of that truth. Windows 7 was hailed as a breath of fresh air, especially after the general disapproval of Windows 8, and for good reason. Windows 7 was reliable, secure and familiar, harkening back to the faithful days of Windows XP. So, it’s easy to understand why so many users were somewhat reluctant to make the switch to Windows 10 upon its release. Hopefully, in this blog, I will show you that if you haven’t made the switch by now, you definitely should.

End of an Era

Windows 7 has been around for more than 10 years now and it has been (for the most part) a great proponent for the competency of Microsoft to put forth an operating system that is stylish, effective, and easy use and learn. Windows 7 is the familiar workhorse that has gotten us all through the last decade with relative ease and there are some of us that are reluctant to see it go. However, 10 years is an eternity in the tech world, and we knew that Microsoft would inevitably put Windows 7 to rest. Well, we now know that Microsoft will be officially discontinuing all support of Windows 7 come January 14th, 2020. Some of us who haven’t made the switch yet are quite sad to see it go, as demonstrated by some of the Windows 7 tribute videos surfacing on YouTube.

What’s Next for Windows 7

So, what exactly does the end of life cycle and discontinuation of support mean for Windows 7 and those who still use it as their operating system. Microsoft has decided that the best utilization of their development resources is to no longer dedicate any of them to Windows 7. This means there will be no future updates. No longer patching an operating system means that there will no longer be any features added, and any bugs left floating around in its code, are there to stay forever. Most importantly though, this means that there will no longer be any security updates for Windows 7. Meaning as time goes on, vulnerabilities will continue to pile up. Cyber security is a bit like an arms race between software developers like Microsoft and hackers. Developers put forth a software and inevitably someone somewhere decides they are going to find a bug or exploit they can use to take advantage of either a system or those who use it. So, developers patch those exploits until hackers are able to find more and then developers patch those as well. For the most part, companies like Microsoft have the manpower to keep major threats to your security at bay through diligent security updates. Well, with the end of support for Windows 7, you are no longer protected. Any vulnerabilities in your system are now there to stay and as more time passes the risks get worse as vulnerabilities become more well known, and new ones emerge. For most of us, in this day and age, such a risk to our systems and information is just not acceptable, doubly so if we’re talking about businesses and their systems.

Enter, Windows 10

Amidst the very real concern about the ever-deteriorating security of your Windows 7 system, there’s a simple and quite obvious solution. Making the switch to Windows 10. As Microsoft’s premier operating system, Windows 10 brings with it a slew of new features, as well as increased security.

Built-in Security

Windows Defender – Microsoft’s new antivirus and security suite now comes as part of the operating system. This means there’s nothing for you to download, and no need to concern yourself over adding a third-party antivirus if you don’t really want to.

Security Center – Windows Defenders Security Center is a comprehensive suite of security tools and reports designed to keep your pc safe and protected for the lifetime of Windows 10. This means your personal files as well as online activities are covered against things like spyware, malware and other threats from day one. 

Cloud Based Updates – Cloud Delivered Protection is a feature to Windows Defender that allows your factory incorporated protection to receive the latest threat definitions and the latest threat behavior detection, all of which is continuously updated via Microsoft servers so you never need to worry about whether your security is up to date.

Folder Access Control – Microsoft’s Protected Folders is an included feature which will greatly help to protect your more precious data from different kinds of ransomware attacks.

Quality of Life Improvements

Cortana Integration – Windows 10 includes Microsoft’s voice activated personal assistant, Cortana. Allowing you to effortlessly interact with your device. Search for specific items, photos, videos, open and close applications, launch PowerPoint presentations, all through personalized voice activation.

Edge Web Browser – Say what you like about Internet Explorer, and you’d probably be right, but to Microsoft’s credit, Microsoft Edge is quite an improvement that many of us hoped they would get around to implementing. Edge now gives Microsoft a browser worthy of being called a competitor to the other big browsers out there. If you like features like Cortana integration, page annotation, and syncing across windows devices, Edge may be a feature to keep your eye on.

Task View – If you don’t have a multi-monitor setup (or even if you do) running out of screen space can be a real hassle. Task view allows you to setup your workflow with several different virtual desktops. Sort of like having multiple tabs open in your web browser, virtual desktops lets you set up a very versatile workflow.

Parental Controls – The integrated parental controls in Windows 10 are no small feature. They’re quite robust, touting features like the ability to monitor their desktop activity with non-admin accounts, or the ability to monitor their internet activity and browsing history. Block access to websites or apps, get weekly reports on their screen time, and frequently used programs. With these types of controls, plus many more, Microsoft is making an earnest effort to give parents peace of mind.

One Drive – Microsoft’s inclusion of One Drive gives users the ability to have quick and easy access to cloud storage, from their desktop, right out of the gate. It’s easy to save files from one device and pull them right up on another device via cloud storage over One Drive. One Drive is also seamlessly integrated into Microsoft Edge, as well as Cortana.

Making the Switch?

When Windows 10 originally launched, it was easy and perhaps more importantly, free to upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8 Directly to Windows 10. Unfortunately for many people who did not take advantage of that, that time has passed. Microsoft no longer offers the free upgrade to Windows 10 and requires users to purchase a new license, which at the time of this writing is sold on Microsoft’s store page for $139 for Home Edition and $199 for Windows 10 Pro, certainly no small fee. On top of that it’s not guaranteed that you won’t need to back up all of your data so that it won’t be lost during the upgrade as often times a clean install of Windows is required.

The Secret?

Service providers like EZETech can really help, especially if you’re making the switch in a business or office setting. EZETech will make the switch virtually seamless to you or your employees, making sure all of your data and programs are copied over, all of your drivers for your hardware and devices are properly installed and that you’re Windows version is upgraded in the most secure way possible. To top it all off EZETech is a Microsoft partner, and may be able to help you upgrade at a lower cost than going it alone, perhaps even for free. So, we can see that it’s obvious that if you haven’t made the switch to Windows 10 yet, it’s something that should be done, and utilizing a service like EZETech to do it, is a no brainer.

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04 Sep 2019

Back That Thing Up

Image courtesy of pexels.com

We all have data, some of us have a lot of data, some of us have way too much data. No matter who you are, that data, be it family pictures, videos, personal information, contact information, patient health information, banking information or literally everything else, is stored somewhere. The fact that it’s stored somewhere, unfortunately means that it’s vulnerable to be lost or stolen.

DATA LOSS AND YOU

If your information is important to you it needs to be protected, if it’s important to someone else like a client or customer, it needs to be backed up and backed up correctly. Oops! You just accidentally deleted that folder you needed? Oh no! Even worse, you have overwritten that important document and it’s gone! Well, luckily, you’re about to meet your first line of defense. Your system administrator can setup volume shadow services through Windows that can ‘instantly’ restore a file, a folder or even a whole drive. This data is typically stored locally on your machine, so there’s not much fuss to getting it back, it’s a feature within Windows Server that your IT administrator can make use of and can be a hassle saver. While that sure is convenient, it’s far from comprehensive, let’s talk more about the big-league solutions.

SERIOUS BACKUP SOLUTIONS

In the I.T. world, great measures must be taken to ensure that you have the ability to have your data ready to be recalled quickly and efficiently. Your data should be being synchronized with a server somewhere in your office in real-time. If you have a computer that goes offline, or has a major hardware failure, is that data gone? What if the hard drive has crashed and needs to be replaced? That’s what that big blinking server rack in the closet is for right? What if the servers disk experiences a head crash? (a frighteningly common occurrence) Well if your infrastructure has been setup correctly there should be a second failsafe onsite that all your data is synchronized with, and in just a few short moments it can be recovered via failover by you or your network administrator.

Okay, so now you’re all set, right? Well, not quite. Many businesses have sadly suffered irreversible data loss due to disaster. What if your building floods from a hurricane, gets struck by lightning or has a fire in the server room? Scary stuff. But, what if your network has been breached and suddenly some person or persons from far across the world have locked you out of all of your precious data, they’ve used crypto malware to lock you out of everything your business needs to make money, and are holding your livelihood ransom, which of course includes your onsite synchronized backup. Well, if you’re following the standard protocol (which I will get into below) that data is ‘still’ safe. Offsite backup through the cloud has you covered. It may take a bit of effort on your I.T. guys part (remember them come the holidays) but soon enough everything that was lost or stolen can be restored as it was, and those pesky hackers will be left without a leg to stand on.

ITS NOT JUST OBVIOUS BEST PRACTICES, IT’S THE LAW

By following what’s called the 3-2-1 rule of data backup, you not only make sure you’re not left regretfully data-less, but you will be following many compliancy laws such as HIPAA for example. Compliancy laws like HIPAA require that your data be secured through backups and the best practice is 3 total copies of your data, 2 backup copies stored on different storage medias and at least 1 of them located offsite. In order to be compliant this data must be encrypted, not only at rest on your servers or anywhere it’s stored, but also in transit between devices.

CALLING FOR BACKUP WITH BACKUPS

There is clearly a lot that you not only ‘should’ be doing to protect your data, but if you are required to adhere to certain compliancy laws and standards, you ‘have’ to prevent data loss by law. While this stuff can get very complicated, very quickly, this is just the kind of thing a seasoned IT company or MSP like EZETech can handle for you with ease, helping you maintain compliancy and prevent a potential hard stop to your day to day operations.

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