No matter the size of your business, you should never use software that has reached its End of Life (EOL) date. End of Life software is no longer supported or maintained by the vendor, and using it poses unnecessary risks to your business.
With one or more versions released since the old one, it’s simply no longer viable for them to devote resources to it. In their eyes, it’s dead.
From the planned EOL date onwards, the software will not receive updates, patches, support, or assistance.
We realise you may really like Windows 7, but unfortunately (or fortunately for others!) it’s time to move on. In fact, Microsoft officially stopped supporting Windows 7 and 8.1 for enterprise users in January 2023 (consumer support for those OS’s ended much earlier in 2020).
There are serious risks to operating EOL software.
You may be way ahead of us on this one, but there can also be a temptation to keep using software for as long as possible, often because established processes use it.
Windows 7 still had over 5% share of the Windows OS market in 2023 and Windows XP was still being used by almost 1%. Even if your operating system is up to date, holding on to EOL software poses significant risks to your business.
In this article we look at the reasons why you should ditch software that has surpassed EOL, from the risk of security breaches to loss of productivity.
1. Security Risks
The threat of cyber-attacks is heightened when your software or infrastructure is no longer supported.
There will always be cyber criminals looking to exploit vulnerabilities and backdoors into your network, to steal data and distribute malware. Of course, these are usually ‘patched’ up by security updates from the vendor, reducing the risk to your business.
But that’s not going to happen once it reaches EOL and no matter how good your cyber security software is, hackers will pounce on unpatched code.
This has been exploited in a number of high-profile cyber-attacks. The infamous WannaCry malware incident in 2017 hit those organisations still using Windows XP (which reached EOL in 2014) particularly badly. In that same year, Equifax also suffered a data breach caused by vulnerability in EOL software.
Yes upgrading can seem like a big task, particularly if you have a lot of programs, data, or sensitive information attached to that software, but the risk to that data – and your finances – if you don’t upgrade, is even greater
2. Lack of support
It’s not just security. Another problem you will face is a practical one. Users of any software rely on being able to contact the vendor at any time to resolve issues that may arise or answer queries.
Once software has reached EOL this also won’t be available. Any assistance you may get from a third party will be limited as they are relying on access to the same vendor.
If something goes wrong, solutions will be hard to find, and the time spent resolving the issue will mean downtime and reduced productivity for the business.
3. Compatibility/integration issues
Businesses running EOL software will also experience compatibility issues with newer software, operating systems, and hardware. It will simply not work as well with that hardware and operating system because it’s not been optimised to do so.
Even if the software runs it is more likely to cause system crashes or run very slowly, which will be frustrating at the very least. But it may not run at all, resulting in downtime.
If that software is integrated with another system, to perform a business process, the whole process could break, causing serious issues.
Most businesses have a flow of data from one system to another just like the water pipes into your house. If a section of pipe were to burst or get blocked you would get no running water. In the same way when one piece of software goes quiet, the whole system stops working.
4. New usually means better
If the downsides above haven’t convinced you to upgrade, then here’s some clear benefits to upgrading.
In most cases, that newer version of software will be an improvement on the previous one. Yes, this isn’t universally true, and we all have our preferences but if a vendor has released a new edition of a piece of software with new features it’s usually because they’ve spent time trying to make it better for users. Again, not always true. But for any software we recommend and support, such as Microsoft and Windows, it is.
If you want to access new features and streamline your business productivity and workflow, you should get the latest tools! It’s for the best.
Why EOL software is dangerous for businesses large and small.
The risks above present dangers to both large and small businesses.
Small and medium sized businesses are more likely to be targeted by cyber criminals because they often devote less resources to cyber security and are therefore more vulnerable. Not only that but the cost of a data breach to a medium sized business in 2022 was an average of $2.2 million according to IBM.
You don’t want to give the cyber criminals a backdoor into your network and EOL software is a pretty big one. There’s also less capacity in a medium sized business to quickly resolve the issue once an outdated piece of software has been compromised.
For larger organisations and companies, there is simply more at stake. You would imagine a larger organisation would aim to be as secure as possible but it’s not always the case. One of the biggest victims of the WannaCry incident was the NHS, one of the largest organisations in the UK. The cost and potential real-world consequences of this kind of failure are huge.
What to do if you’re running EOL software.
So, you’ve discovered a piece of software you use is approaching End of Life. What can you do?
Well, you’re already on the right track because you actually know what the EOL date for that software. Microsoft makes this relatively straightforward. They work on a 5+5 rule – 5 years of full support and development, 5 years of extended support and then EOL.
If you’re using Microsoft products, you should know exactly when it’s time to move on because they (or your IT manager) will let you know. Other vendors are not always as predictable.
Assuming you know the date, it’s time to upgrade. You may be able to get that software as a one-off software licence. In most cases, migrating and transferring data will be built-in to the installation process, and the vendor should provide clear instructions on how to make this pain free.
Having said that, a significant number of popular vendors now champion and in many cases solely offer cloud-based solutions. Microsoft, for example, offers most of their products through Microsoft 365, their all-encompassing SaaS product which is accessed via the cloud and purchased through an ongoing subscription.
Using SaaS has multiple benefits, but the most important one here is the regular updates, patches and fixes that vendors provide their users. In theory you should never be in a position where you are using an outdated version of that software.
Avoid End of Life software at all costs.
We can’t stress enough how important it is that your business does not use software that has reached its end of life. If it’s around 8-10+ years old, it is almost certainly time for an upgrade.
Using it poses significant security risks to your business and the lack of support and compatibility will slow down your company, resulting in frustrated team members and reduced profits.
Not only that but by upgrading you will have access to better tools, features, and benefits, as well as regular updates and flexibility.
If you need help taking the next, necessary step (we ensure all our clients move to the best technology solutions as soon as possible) we’re always happy to talk. Get in touch today.