It happened. You opened your inbox this morning to an alarming email: an essential piece of your business technology is reaching its end of life. What does that mean? What do you do?
Your first instinct might be to delete the email and pretend you never saw it. But ignoring this specter won’t make it go away. End-of-life is a very serious issue for your business technology. Before you create problems for your business, you should know what end-of-life really means.
What Is End-of-Life?
A product reaches end-of-life when the manufacturer is no longer selling it to new customers or supporting it for existing customers. After a product’s end-of-life date, the manufacturer will no longer perform maintenance, issue updates, or provide customer support for the product. That’s why “end-of-life” is often called “end-of-support.”
While end-of-life may seem scary, it’s a natural part of the product life cycle. With innovation comes new technology. As new technologies emerge, old ones become less useful and less attractive to customers. This is normal!
However, end-of-life can have serious implications for businesses. The discontinuation of products like Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, both of which have end-of-life dates in the next year, impact a large number of end users. This means that companies must either upgrade their technology or accept the risks of not doing so.
The Risks of Using Unsupported Technologies
Many businesses continue to use technologies well past their “best by” dates, even though this is a dangerous practice. In fact, as many as one in 10 organizations may face end-of-life issues. What do business owners stand to lose if they don’t retire their end-of-life products? The risks are nothing to sneeze at, and complications are more common than you might think:
When a technology has reached its end of life, it no longer receives important security patches from the manufacturer, making it more vulnerable to cyber threats. In an analysis of 349 cybersecurity breaches in 2015, Security Scorecard found that 58 percent of breached companies were using products past their end-of-life dates.
Security breaches can compromise your customers’ privacy as well as your technological infrastructure. If a hacker gains access to your customer data or your business networks, the damage to your reputation and your finances may be beyond repair.
Maintaining technological compatibility can be especially difficult when your computer operating system is involved. New softwares are designed for new operating systems. If you’re considering a new software purchase, know that it may not be compatible with your end-of-life OS.
Consider also that many modern technologies are designed to integrate with one another to improve businesses’ operational efficiency. When you fail to migrate away from a product reaching its end of life, you may lose that capability.
If you’re doing business in an industry with specific requirements for storing data, you may not be compliant with applicable laws and regulations. Some better-known examples of such regulations include the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Keeping customer data using products that have reached their end of life is not safe. When you do so, you put your customers’ privacy—and your legal standing—at risk.
You may be trying to save a buck by stretching out the life of outdated software. But what you save in upfront costs now may be much less than the financial damage to your business, should your end-of-life technology cause issues later.
- In the event of a breach, the cost of cleanup, legal fees, and unhappy customers adds up.
- Lost efficiencies may hurt your ability to do business.
- A bug in your system may cost you days or weeks of work while you look for a technician who is both willing and able to work on your outdated technology.
- Speaking of lost work, consider the financial ramifications of losing your IT infrastructure to a hacker.
Protecting Your Business from End-of-Life Impacts
The good news is that manufacturers usually give notice well in advance when they mark a product for end-of-life. These end-of-life announcements can come a year or more in advance. With such advanced notice, you can start planning and budgeting for upgrades.
If you are using multiple products reaching their end of life, prioritize replacement efforts based on your business needs and the severity of potential risks. What is most essential to the operation of your business? What are the risks of failing to upgrade? Which risks are unacceptable to take?
Consider also how many employees an end-of-life product will impact. If there are a large number of end users, you may want to conduct testing before you roll out a new product company-wide.
There are a number of products reaching end-of-support in 2019 and 2020. The sooner you begin planning for these events, the better. An experienced IT provider like Lieberman Technologies can help you plan for end-of-life and recommend solutions that will protect your business. If you’re in need of assistance, contact us for more information!