End of Life Software: What Are the Dangers?

      TIM_blog Tim Merrill / September 9, 2019

Some things are built to last, like Stonehenge. Unfortunately, technology isn’t one of those things. This should be considered a positive as technological obsolescence is owed to advancement.

Unlike Stonehenge, software has a lifecycle. In other words, it does have a point where it ends, even if it takes a decade to get there.

While in most cases, organizations replace both computer hardware and software as they reach end-of-life stages, some find it hard to move on. They continue to use End of Life (EOL) software, which makes life far more complicated than it needs to be, even when it makes far more business sense to migrate to a new platform.

For example, organizations knew that it wouldn’t be long before Microsoft stopped offering support for Windows Server 2003. However, approximately 25 percent of companies had no intention of changing their systems until after support had ceased.

The problem with this approach is that there are many dangers to sticking with End of Life software. Let’s take a look at what these issues might be.

Security Problems

When dealing with software that is no longer being supported, that means security updates are no longer being offered. You might shrug, thinking that it’s been secure so far, so why would that be an issue?

However, you have to consider that for things to keep being safe, that means everything else has to be static too. A single update to any other software connected to the End of Life platform will lead to catastrophe.

Plus, it will be very difficult for any organization to compete when their technology is outdated compared to their competition.

Then there’s the issue of bad actors progressing as quickly as companies are able to put out security updates. In other words, any bad actor looking to disrupt your system will have a pretty easy time of it when dealing with a system that hasn’t been updated in forever.

That’s just a few examples of the security hazards you could face if you don’t move on from End of Life software.

Compatibility Challenges

If you’re still using an End of Life platform, there’s a good chance the applications and APIs that you leverage in the system won’t be the latest versions. After all, the creators of those applications won’t want to support and put out products for outdated systems.

You’ll be stuck with all your old applications, which will soon reach the end of their life too. Before you know it, your whole system will reach the end of its life, leading to a potentially significant loss of functionality, limited access to enhancements, and various security risks.

Increased Costs

You might think that you could take over and maintain the software yourself. Besides the long list of technical reasons that makes this challenging, it would also be far less cost-efficient than migrating to a new platform.

Furthermore, if it’s proprietary software, like Sharepoint you’d have to pay the company to develop the patch for you. It’s not as if Microsoft is going to actually give you access to their code.

The cost of Microsoft developing a patch for you? Well, just think that they’d charge enough to make it worth their time, if they were even interested in doing it. The bottom line is that you’d probably be able to replace the software, and maybe even the hardware, for the same price.

Subpar Performance

If you’re still running End of Life software, that means it’s old and there is no way it can compete in terms of performance with the latest programs on the market. Not only will the subpar performance affect your operational efficiency, but it will carry on to your users, making it far more difficult to compete with other organizations.

Legal Ramifications

Nowadays, if you handle any personal information from anyone, you have a long list of rules and regulations you need to conform to. One of those is keeping people’s information safe from prying eyes.

If you’re using an End of Life system, how safe do you think that information is? If you think that the only consequence of a breach is a slap on the wrist, you’d be wrong. Not only will you be slapped with serious fines, your organization could be shut down and you could go to prison.

Plus, it doesn’t even take a breach. A disgruntled former employee could send the authorities a concerned note, and you’d be in trouble before you could say End of Life.

There are other compliance issues you will face. For example, many government regulations include language that is directly related to the idea of making sure your software is up to date. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards clearly states that all systems and software should have the latest patches from the vendor.

Another issue addresses accessibility. There are regulations that state software must be designed to be accessible to most people with disabilities. End-of-life software will no longer be updated, which means no new technology that helps with accessibility will be implemented, leading to non-compliance.

Laws are constantly changing in an effort to keep up with technology. While developers provide updates and patches to ensure their software is in full compliance, once support ends, so do the updates. That will leave you in the unpleasant situation of being non-compliant.

The consequences of being non-compliant are serious. They include lawsuits, insurance claims, lost business, fines, and more.

Sticking to end-of-life software carries with it a host of dangers that can’t be overlooked. This is one of the situations when moving on from a “relationship” as quickly as possible is a very good thing. The sooner you move on, the easier it will be to mitigate the risks.

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