Beginning on December 1st, all business customers of Windows 7 will be able to purchase an extended security updates (ESU) license. This is a first. Previously the only businesses that could purchase such a license had to make the purchase through the volume licensing program. With this announcement Microsoft is saying that they’ve come up with a way for everyone to purchase extended security updates.
That everyone can now purchase ESU’s is really good news for those businesses with fixed hardware requirements. I have several clients in that situation with manufacturing equipment that can’t simply be swapped out. There are a couple of details to be aware of in this announcement.
Firstly, the way that businesses will purchase the ESU is through a Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP). CSP’s are Microsoft partners registered to sell Microsoft’s cloud products via a distributor. Not all small businesses currently purchase their software through a partner; this announcement will drive more of them to do so. Getting more small businesses to adopt local partners has been a goal of Microsoft’s for some time because the know that businesses with partner relationship have a better software experience. This certainly makes the announcement a bright spot in the Microsoft partner program whose recent changes have been unpopular with many partners.
The second detail in this announcement is that the price of the license is going to increase annually through 2023 when it will then be discontinued. The price of each year is going to include the previous years back to the beginning of the ESU offer. It’s not a big deal to have to purchase licenses annually. You have to do this with most software packages anyway but it’s a point to note and the increasing price is to remind you about the decreasing return of maintaining old technology.
The third detail to note is that ESU updates include Critical and Important updates only. This is a security package after all on an OS that is not under development anymore.
Fourth, you get support. Without the ESU you don’t get support. The support is slightly different, not so much on our end of things but more so on Microsoft’s. The support team will help you solve your problem. But regardless they aren’t going to make any effort to find out what caused the issue or take it on as a bug to fix. They will just work to get you up and running again.
What happens to Office on Windows 7
As you are probably aware Microsoft has tied the licensing of Office to the version of the OS you are running. Which means that this announcement also effects Office Pro Plus.
If you purchase the Windows 7 ESU, then you will also get security updates for Office 365 Pro Plus for the same period. Like Windows, Office 365 Pro Plus will only get security updates not feature updates under the extended license. This is a HUGE bonus for purchasing the Windows 7 ESU because so many security issues start in the Office software ecosystem. For example, Microsoft just added more blocked file types due to a change in the how the bad guys deliver ransomware. If you don’t have security updates for Office, then you wouldn’t get this added protection.
However, if you aren’t using the Office 365 edition of Pro Plus, then you will continue to work under the individual lifespan criteria for that license.
How to buy an ESU
As mentioned above, you will need to be a CSP partner to purchase an ESU license. You will need an ESU for each Windows 7 device.
Your homework then will be to determine how many Windows 7 computers you have that are critical to your operation, how many are going to be using Office Pro Plus and would cause great hardship if they were to down due to lack of support or a security vulnerability taken advantage of. Going without product updates is foolhardy in today cash grabbing malware/phish schemes that are particularly targeting small business. So plan to purchase the ESU for every Windows 7 now deployed and have a few exceptions to that policy as possible.