The constant evolution of technology means computer hardware and software get changed on a regular basis. New features and capabilities become possible through the tireless work of hardware and software engineers, working to push performance and deliver experiences that may not have been possible just a few short years ago.

But as technology inevitably marches on, it becomes difficult to maintain legacy applications that are not as robust, secure, or capable as modern solutions. As a result, companies like Microsoft designate an “End of Life” (EOL) for many of its products, signifying an end to typical product support.

While EOL software may continue to function as-is, it will no longer receive regular software updates to fix bugs, maintain compatibility, or improve security, leaving critical infrastructure vulnerable to potential threats and data loss.

Significant EOL Microsoft Product Dates in 2020

In 2020, the following significant pieces of Microsoft software are scheduled to reach their end of life:

  • Windows Server 2008:  January 14, 2020
  • Windows Server 2008 R2:  January 14, 2020
  • Windows 7:  January 14, 2020
  • Exchange 2010:  October 13, 2020

The onetime backbone of data and email operations, Windows Server 2008 and Exchange 2010 are on the verge of becoming legacy solutions that lack crucial software updates. Windows 7, an operating system used at home and in the office, will also end its lifecycle at the start of 2020.

Should a critical bug or security exploit find its way into the wild by the end of 2020, users of these software products will not have access to patches or updates that ensure the safety and stability of each platform.

Risks of Running a Microsoft product past its End of Life

While the software will continue to function as normal, running obsolete software poses serious risks for any company.  A lack of software updates or security patches means that a platform is incredibly vulnerable to hackers seeking to exploit unsupported platforms, leaving organizations running EOL software without a proper remedy to address new and emerging threats.

EOL software is also not guaranteed to be compatible with new technology, so systems may lack the ability to run pieces of new software that have strict requirements.

Relying on EOL software also poses costly risks for hardware. When a platform is no longer supported, it becomes incrementally more expensive to maintain, requiring specialized knowledge and time-intensive labor to address problems on a legacy platform.

EOL software also tends to run on older hardware, which can also be difficult to maintain through the cost of expensive or hard-to-replace parts that are no longer being commonly manufactured.

Taken together, running EOL software is an expensive proposition that can jeopardize the security and functionality of an organization. Between potential security risks and the expense of future maintenance, organizations that are serious about data security and integrity must ensure their software is up-to-date and able to receive future critical fixes.

How to Create an EOL Migration Plan

In the long run, investing in new hardware or software through a proper upgrade plan can ensure systems are running safely and securely.  Taking time to create an on-going EOL migration plan is key.  Below are a few important things to include in your EOL Migration plan.

  1. Anticipating approaching EOL dates can ensure organizations aren’t caught off guard when support suddenly comes to an end, leaving data at risk until an IT provider can present a solution.  Create a life cycle calendar for the software and hardware products within your company to help easily track those approaching end of life.
  2. Software EOL dates are typically telegraphed far in advance, so it’s best not to wait until the last minute to upgrade your hardware or software.  Make plans to begin moving off EOL products 6-12 months in advance.  As a software EOL date approaches, it can become difficult to schedule time with an IT provider because other clients are also seeking solutions to maintain or upgrade their infrastructure.
  3. Schedule an appointment with your IT provider if you are running any hardware or software products that are past their EOL dates.  They can help you determine how best to protect your company and its data until you’re able to upgrade your systems.  Steps such as restricting and monitoring access to EOL servers, being aggressive with data backups in case of data loss or corruption, network isolation and application whitelisting are all effective methods you can take to protect your company and its data.

For more information on how to create a migration plan that protects against EOL software in 2020, including Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, and Exchange 2020, reach out to DWD Technology Group today.