Wave goodbye to the emerging problems of legacy Windows systems

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Make no mistake – buying Extended Security Updates (ESUs) from Microsoft does NOT mean you are supported!

February 27, 2020 – Frustrating niggles and issues are emerging with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2 now that they are no longer supported by Microsoft, writes Cloudhouse Founder and CEO, Mat Clothier.

Among the issues that have appeared since support officially ended in the middle of January 2020, some Windows 7 users have reported being unable to shut the system down, while others have found they cannot see their documents folder in Explorer. And a fix issued by Microsoft to resolve a wallpaper bug in Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 is also now reportedly rendering some systems unbootable!

While there is a history of Microsoft quietly resolving bugs just after it withdraws support, the fact is that from now on, users of legacy systems are very largely on their own. This should be very worrying for any enterprise that is still running Windows 7 or which has applications on Server 2008/2008 R2.

Unsupported operating systems attract hackers

Without support, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2 will fast become magnets for hackers , aware that any enterprise using these systems now has a serious point of vulnerability.

The latter especially will be targeted by cyber-criminals who are aware of its popularity amongst many large organisations.

As time goes on, the lack of updates will seriously impair the operational viability of Server 2008 R2.

Extended security updates only cover your bare minimum

The option being touted by Microsoft is for enterprises to buy themselves time by subscribing to the company’s Extended Security Updates programme.

This will provide Security Updates in exchange for fees that will increase each year until the scheme expires in 2023. This may sound attractive, but although there will be security updates, they will only cover “Critical and/or Important security updates”.

Any organisation thinking they are getting extended support rather than just some security updates, is misguided and we are already witnessing the glitches and issues just a few weeks after support ended on January 14 2020.

Time for enterprises to think again

It is because of this that we have effectively reached a watershed in OS and app compatibility.

Enterprise-level organisations with critical applications on legacy Windows systems should now make a concerted effort to move them into the cloud, onto modern systems in their data centres, or to Windows 10.

For many these moves are laden with risk, updating a platform while maintaining critical system availability is not to be undertaken lightly and consequently simply not been completed. These systems include everything from accounting to inventory and supply chain management software, to ERP, human resources, sales and promotions applications and are often incompatible with Windows 10 and Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 run by the major cloud providers proving to be a real stumbling block to progress.

Incompatibility between application libraries and operating systems also remains a severe problem. Applications built for legacy systems often fail to function on Windows 10 or in the cloud on Windows Server 2016 or 2019. Legacy applications moved on to Windows 10 can often be impaired by its regular security updates.

These dangers are sometimes felt to be insurmountable. Virtualisation and layering solutions are often promoted but can create applications that only partially fulfil their original functions. While virtualisation simplifies deployment and addresses some application-to-application conflicts, it fails to resolve compatibility problems between the application and the underlying platform.

Application compatibility packaging provides worry-free migration

Enterprises now need to free themselves from the past and adopt more advanced technologies such as application compatibility packaging. This enables back-office applications to migrate to the platforms deployed by cloud-providers such as AWS, Google and Azure. It is an approach that lifts and shifts the application and its underlying environment to the new system, allowing the application to fully function without recoding or refactoring. Applications do not conflict with other applications on the desktop or server.

Deploying applications on to new operating systems almost always requires repackaging and retesting the application, which can take teams hours or days. However, compatibility packaging means applications only need to be packaged once. A redirection and isolation engine ensures applications can be deployed to the latest, supported Windows platforms, no matter whether they are running in an on-premises data centre or in the cloud. It abstracts the application from the underlying operating system, also preparing it for Windows-as-a-Service.

By enabling applications to run on today’s secure and supported platforms that receive regular security patches, administrators secure their organisations, it achieves the aim of freeing them from the threats and insecurities that will forever bedevil continued reliance on legacy systems such as Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2.

At a time of great change, when the pressures of digital transformation make cloud-migration a near-necessity for many enterprises, having peace-of-mind about the smooth operation and optimisation of critical applications is a huge advantage.

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