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Microsoft Drops Volume Licensing Requirement for Windows 7 Extended Security Updates

Organizations that did not make their Windows purchases through Microsoft volume licensing will no longer be excluded from the company's Extended Security Updates program for Windows 7 Service Pack 1.

Previously, volume licensing was required to use the Extended Security Updates program, which adds three years of patch support beyond Windows 7's end-of-support date of Jan. 14, 2020. The change to the Extended Security Updates program, announced by Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, opens up Microsoft's patch extension program to smaller and midsize organizations, but only if they are using the Professional or Enterprise editions of Windows 7. 

Organizations meeting those criteria can buy into the Extended Security Updates program starting on Dec. 1, 2019. They'll be able to enroll though through Microsoft's Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. Here's how a Microsoft partner article expressed it:

Starting on December 1, 2019, businesses of any size with Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Enterprise will be able to purchase ESU through the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. The Windows 7 ESU will be sold on a per-device basis and the price will increase each year.

The price increases every year, but organizations buying into the program in its later stages won't get any price breaks as they'll have to pay for the past patch support. Under the Extended Security Updates program, Microsoft issues "Critical"- and "Important"-rated security patches for Windows 7 SP1, but no technical support is offered.

Microsoft first began selling its Extended Security Updates program for Windows 7 SP1 users back in April, although the plan was initially described last year. An Extended Security Updates program also exists for Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 users.

The pricing for the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates program was described in February in this article by veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley. Microsoft offers Extended Security Updates for Windows 7 at no additional cost to users of its Windows Virtual Desktop service, which just reached commercial release this week.

Got Office Support?
Support considerations for IT pros likely go beyond the Windows 7 operating system to Office suite support, as well.

Organizations using Office 365 ProPlus, Microsoft's subscription-based suite of Office applications, will get a three-year support extension under the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates program. For instance, this "Office System Requirements Matrix" chart shows Office 365 ProPlus on Windows 7 losing support in January 2020, but Office 365 ProPlus on Windows 7 with the Extended Security Updates program will lose support in January 2023.

These sorts of details are described in this Microsoft document, but it's confusing. Microsoft's chart seems to be a better resource.

Spataro had given an overview of these kinds of Windows and Office support complexities last year. One additional nuance he had noted back then is that organizations will also have to think about whether their Office products will be able to connect with Office 365 services, which might include OneDrive, Outlook or Microsoft Teams.

Spataro had indicated back in 2018 that just Office 365 ProPlus clients or Office 2019 clients under the "mainstream" support phase (the first five years) will be able to connect to Office 365 services. Users of so-called "perpetual-license" Office products (Office 2013 and older) will lose connections to those Office 365 services on Oct. 13, 2020. Microsoft, though, carved out an exception for Office 2016 perpetual-license users, as they'll still be able to connect with Office 365 services through October 2023, Spataro had indicated.

The latest clarification about these Office 365 connection issues can be found in this FAQ document on Windows 7 and Office 2010. The document is more of a general resource, and doesn't just describe Office 2010 details. In it, Microsoft answers the question about whether it plans to block connections to Office 365 cloud services for certain older Office products. In essence, those older products won't get blocked, but users could face problems:

Microsoft will not take any active measures to block older Office clients from connecting [with Office 365 services]. However, legacy clients -- many over a decade old --attempting an unsupported connection to a modern, always up to date cloud service may inevitably experience performance and reliability issues. Organizations will almost certainly face an increased security risk and may find themselves out of compliance depending on specific regional or industry requirements. Microsoft Help may not be able to resolve issues that arise if those issues are limited to these unsupported connections.

In other words, things may not work, security will be iffy and Microsoft won't necessarily provide a fix.

Microsoft has fiddled around a lot with these sundry Windows and Office support details. In July, Microsoft reversed course and said that Office 365 ProPlus will be supported on Windows Server 2019, although it had said last year that it wouldn't be supported.

Update 10/7: Microsoft reiterated Windows Server 2019 support for Office 365 ProPlus in an announcement today. Using Office 365 ProPlus on that server is recommended as "best practice." The announcement added that "we have updated our Office 365 support requirements and Windows Server support documentation to reflect Office 365 ProPlus support for Windows Server 2019." The updated "Office 365 support requirements" document is notable for including descriptions about "connections to Office 365 services," listing the month and year for the mainstream support period. Those dates can be found by clicking on the arrows in the document to expand the content.

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