Everything has a lifespan, and technology is no different.
Software companies constantly develop new and improved versions of their products to address the ever-changing needs of users and to combat security threats, building in features and functionality for ease-of use, collaboration and mobility. As new programs are released, older versions are set for sunsetting, which means that support and security patches are no longer available. When this happens, users have the option to do nothing – which means they’re operating without support and with security vulnerabilities – or upgrade to the new version of the software.
Such is the situation that users of Windows 7, Exchange Server 2010, Windows Server 2008, Hyper V Server 2008, and SQL Server 2008 will face starting January 14, 2020, when Microsoft support for all of these platforms will end. Applied Technologies answers questions users will need to consider as they prepare for this transition.
Question: Why do software companies sunset packages?
Answer: Software companies are always introducing something newer, better and faster, and because of these advancements, they encourage users to migrate to new versions. When they add versions to the mix of offerings, they have to make a decision and draw a line in the sand in terms of when they’ll stop supporting older versions. It’s simply not possible to support multiple companies on multiple versions dating back an unlimited number of years. Instead, they focus their attention on identifying vulnerabilities and areas for improvement in the most current package while looking forward to the next new development to best meet the needs of users.
Typically, the lifecycle for any program is a maximum of ten years, while anything less than five years old will receive mainstream support. That five to ten year mark is a bit of a gray zone in terms of the level of support and attention a program will receive. Today, Microsoft is encouraging the migration to Windows 10 and Microsoft/Office 365 which offers a great deal of enhanced security and mobility for users.
Question: What do users need to know?
Answer: The most important thing for users to know is that they will be at a greater security risk if they are still running Windows 7 and Server 2008 or SQL 2008 after January 14, 2020. I can only imagine that hackers everywhere have this date on their calendars, just waiting for the opportunity to see what vulnerabilities they can capitalize on. If a company doesn’t upgrade, they may have a hacker waltz in through a back door they’ll never know about – and one that Microsoft will never patch. Just one machine not properly upgraded can put a company’s entire system at risk. Putting people’s data at risk can also result in serious fines, a major PR crisis, and erode public trust. Companies should not put themselves in this situation and can avoid this by upgrading.
We work with many IT managers who went through what I call “the big change” that happened with the migration from Microsoft XP to Microsoft 7. There were many compatibility challenges that arose, but the great news is, the upgrade from 7 to 10 is much more seamless. Most of the challenges arose from third party software programs which simply were not compatible at the time of rollout. This is not the case with this migration, as Microsoft has worked hard to make 99% of applications compatible. In fact, Microsoft has a site which allows IT managers and users to check the compatibility of programs they’ll need to run on Windows 10. Reference: https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/ready-for-windows/#/
Question: How does a client go about upgrading?
Answer: The first step in the process is to perform an assessment. Applied Technologies will review all applications and the network environment (including all hardware) to identify if an upgrade is possible with the current setup, and to help us develop the best plan of action to execute the upgrade and roll it out to all users.
There are many options available for this particular upgrade. For example, on the server side, you can move Windows and SQL servers to Azure and Microsoft will continue to provide security updates for 3 years. Or we can upgrade the operating system and then leave it on premise or move it into the cloud. This provides the opportunity to get the data off of hardware in internal data centers and move towards virtualization of servers and combining SQL databases to reduce risk. There are many opportunities between virtualization and business processes in the cloud, especially if we’re dealing with older hardware that is due for replacement. In many cases, we find that it’s better and more cost efficient to move to the cloud.
Question: What are the key decisions to be made, and considerations to factor in?
Answer: We’ll typically look first at where the highest risk exists. What is the most risk that we need to mitigate before end of life? This could be at the server level or on various desktop machines throughout the organization. Once we mitigate this risk, we can tackle the other things.
Assessing hardware can also be a primary decision point for many companies. All desktop machines and devices must be compatible and have enough space and memory to house the new applications. In most cases, if a computer is running Windows 7 most of the time it can run Windows 10, but we must make sure the machines have enough capacity. A rule of thumb for the lifespan on hardware is three to five years, so if we’re dealing with a client whose hardware is nearing its own end of life, we must address what upgrades must be made to manage this migration.
We’ve also found that in the smart manufacturing world, hardware tends to have a longer lifespan because manufacturing applications don’t keep up with the leading edge of operating systems. In these cases, we’ll build firewalls around the systems or take them off the local networks so there is no risk of security breach. This secures the machine so that the overall environment is not at risk, and the facility can operate as usual.
Question: How long does the upgrade take?
Answer: This depends on the environment. A large number of PCs can be upgraded quickly if they have standard software. We typically begin with the assessment, and then create a clear schedule and process for the rollout. It typically can take six to eight weeks to plan, especially with desktop migrations where we’ll touch all machines. We tackle the easiest parts of the rollout process first and allow time for the more difficult applications that require additional planning and analysis.
Applied Technologies is currently working on a number of client upgrades, and we’re encouraging everyone to take this upgrade seriously to avoid the security vulnerabilities that will exist after the end of support date. It only takes one hacker and one vulnerability to compromise a company’s network. Doing nothing equates to the decision to leave the door open should a hacker come knocking.
As with all of Applied Technologies services, we focus our efforts on making our clients feel confident, knowledgeable and secure with their company’s IT. Our support for helping clients navigate this important migration is just one example of this commitment and we welcome any questions on this topic.
Please reach out to the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 636.274.8000 with any questions.