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Law firms using Windows 7 – the clock is ticking

Law firms using Windows 7The clock has been ticking for a long time for law firms using Windows 7. In fact, to use a current popular phrase: Big Ben already bonged a couple of days ago on January 14th.

So, what’s all the fuss about? There are millions of users and machines around the world in all manner of businesses who are still using it. The platform has been around for many years. Many love it and its reputation for reliability and stability.

According to Kaspersky research: 40% of very small businesses and 48% of small to medium-sized businesses still depend upon unsupported operating systems for their security needs.

Despite Windows 7’s beloved status, all good things come to an end.

What are the implications for your firm?

If you are one of the law firms using Windows 7 (or other outdated software), you have two options: stick with what you have and hope for the best or upgrade.

Sticking with what you know.

You may go on for many more years using the system without any problems. However, what you need to know is what “end of life” (EOL) means for a software product. In simple terms, it means no future support, security upgrades or patches. That means your legal business will become more exposed to hacks and cyber attacks.

Let’s illustrate this by example. The WannaCry ransomware attack of 2017 almost brought the NHS to a standstill. The attack affected NHS trusts who were still using the old, unsupported Windows XP. The cost to the health service was around £90M.

The implications are obvious. And, if you think ransomware only affects larger organisations, think again. Cyber criminals generally don’t discriminate.

Upgrading.

Law firms using Windows 7I am tempted to say this is devil and deep blue sea territory. It sounds straightforward just to upgrade to the latest Windows 10 but there may be other things to consider.

If you are running Windows 7, the chances are you are doing so on PCs, laptops and other kit that were around when Windows 7 was supported. These may now not be powerful enough or have sufficient memory and disk capacity to run Windows 10.

If you are running your practice management software on an in-house server system running Windows Server 2008R2, the issue deepens. Windows Server 2008R2 is reaching EOL too!

New servers do not come cheap. However, there are alternative approaches to server redundancy that we will look at later.

The best approach.

Bite the bullet. You may have had many years’ loyal service from Windows 7. That may mean you have underinvested in new hardware. Now is not the time to continue with that approach. By not replacing 7, your business is exposed to threats that will potentially cost you money on top of the costs associated with upgrading to Windows 10.

Consider the following:

  • Audit your machines – examine all your hardware to establish the extent of the challenge.
  • Audit Windows 7 dependent software – it’s not only the operating system that counts, other software you use may be outdated too.
  • Schedule upgrades – where you don’t need new hardware, make the change to Windows 10 swiftly.
  • Upgrade your hardware or buy new – replace hardware that is incapable of supporting Windows 10.

Hopefully all of that will not be too challenging to your cashflow. When it comes to replacement servers, there really can be a challenge. However, you could look at an alternative – cloud-based practice management software. This largely negates the need for expensive, in-house servers and provides many additional advantages.

Take a look at how cloud-based software works by following this link.

Mike O’Donnell, January 2020.

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