Technology “End of Life” and “End of Support” | What it means and why it matters

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Have you ever received a warning or notice that your computer operating system was reaching End of Life? Or that a software program you use would be at the End of Support soon? What do these phrases mean, and how do they affect your business?

End of Life and End of Support for technology means that it is no longer supported by the makers of these products. As such, they can introduce additional IT risks to your business. This may result in system failure, shutting down essential IT functions.

When your personal computer goes down, you lose time and gain frustration. When essential business hardware or software malfunctions or is breeched due to an unfixable security vulnerability, that business loses money for every hour it’s down.

Replacing End of Life and End of Support technology in a timely fashion can help prevent crises like this before they occur.

WEBIT Services has provided IT strategy, service, and security expertise for over 25 years. In that time, it has helped hundreds of clients to replace End of Life and End of Support technology effectively.

By the end of this article, you will better understand what it means when technology is labeled “End of Life” or “End of Support,” the potential consequences of this technology, and how to address it.

Defining “End of Life” and “End of Support”

Both “End of Life” and “End of Support” identify hardware or software that has aged out of manufacturer support.

“End of Life” or EOL means that the manufacturer no longer supports hardware. The manufacturer will no longer make the EOL model or its replacement parts as a new, upgraded model is released.

EOL also often means that the hardware is nearing the end of its functional life. Computers are usually at optimal functionality for 3-5 years. EOL hardware is at that point or even beyond it.

“End of Support” (also known as “End of Service” and EOS) software will no longer receive updates from the manufacturer. The current version of the software is its final version.

In addition to ending functional updates, EOS software will not receive any new security updates. The software will no longer be tested for cybersecurity weaknesses and updated to address discovered weaknesses. It is now vulnerable to cyberattacks.

 

Why does “End of Life” or “End of Support” technology matter?

When you have technology that is EOL or EOS, you are, in a way, operating something without insurance. If your EOL computer breaks, the manufacturer will not repair it and finding 3rd party resources who may have old replacement parts is time consuming and costly. EOS software eventually will have unaddressed vulnerabilities ripe for exploitation by cybercriminals.

Can you continue to use both EOL and EOS technologies? Yes, you can. However, you do so at significant risk to yourself, your business, and your clients.

The risks of “End of Life” hardware

EOL hardware is at the end of its life expectancy, and the question is not if it will fail but when it will fail. The hardware may already show signs of wear and tear; it may be slow or glitchy. Soon, it will turn off and not turn back on.

This might not matter if it is a small, barely used computer. But what if it’s a central switch or server? If the item is used daily as a central part of your business function or IT system, it’s vital that it runs reliably. EOL equipment is not reliable.

Failure to replace EOL equipment can result in downtime and a halt in productivity.

If you’ve prepared for this, the halt will be minimal. Swap out the old hardware with its replacement (all programmed and set up by your provider).

However, if you have not prepared, repair or replacement could take hours or even days. For more complex or customized equipment, the wait could be over a week, particularly if supply chain issues come into play.

Each day a business is offline, it loses money. Some can afford to be down a week. Others cannot.

Planning and budgeting is crucial to addressing end of life hardware.

For important hardware, it’s vital to plan ahead, budget appropriately, and purchase equipment before it reaches EOL and fails.

If this hardware is EOL, the manufacturer will not help repair or replace it as they would non-EOL technology. You may be able to find third-party replacement parts, but these may be more expensive than they were before the item was declared EOL.

Also, EOL hardware may not be suitable for newer operating systems and updates.  Computing power doubles roughly every 6-months so by the time your hardware reaches it’s 5th birthday, it’s usually at the edge of or no longer capable of running modern operating systems and the updates that come with them.

At this point, it is often more affordable to replace the hardware rather than continue to pay for repairs.

The risks of “End of Support” software

EOS software may continue to function unlike EOL hardware, but it does so as a significant security risk.

Before being EOS, the software is tested for security weaknesses and then fortified against them in updates. Once the software is declared EOS, it loses new defenses.

It is only a matter of time before a cybercriminal exploits EOS software weaknesses and uses the program to attack users or steal information. 

Cybercrime continues to grow, and attacks are becoming more frequent. You may only hear about major corporations hit in massive attacks, but the truth is that businesses of all sizes are hit every day.

Cybercriminals aren’t just looking for a big break; they’re looking for any weakness they can exploit in any business, big or small. The local mom-and-pop shop is just as at risk of a cyberattack as an international corporation.

If you’re connected to the internet, your business is at risk of a cyberattack. That’s why it’s vital to know your risks and address them as best you can, which includes resolving EOS software.

To prevent attacks that can happen when using EOS software, users must update to the latest version, or purchase new, comparable software that will continue to receive security updates.

It’s important to understand that EOL and EOS technology is time sensitive. EOL hardware will inevitably fail, and EOS software will likely be exploited. It’s essential to have a plan to address these concerns.

 

How to identify and address “End of Life” and “End of Support” technology

You can identify EOL or EOS technology using three different methods:

  1. Email and/or notice posted on the website of the manufacturer
  2. Research the technology
  3. Ask your IT provider or internal IT department to assess all IT assets

1. Email from the manufacturer

Before technology being declared EOL or EOS, manufacturers will alert users, usually via email, that it is nearing an EOL or EOS status.

Of course, these emails may be easy to overlook if you’re not looking for them. Many users mistake them for spam or advertisements and may not even open the messages.

In addition to announcing that the technology will be EOL or EOS, these messages will identify a timeframe for the status change.

For example, you may receive a message that says your current operating system will be EOS in six months. So, you have at least that long to purchase and implement a new operating system program.

These messages may often recommend comparable replacements for customers. So, if you’re looking for similar devices or programs, manufacturers can point you to something they believe will work.

However, it’s important to examine the recommendations and be sure they truly fit your business and IT needs.

2. Research the technology

If you know the names of the hardware models and software used, you can research the models to find if they are near EOL or EOS.

It may take some digging, but you maybe be able to find announcements or reviews noting when popular models are going to be EOL or EOS. More obscure or customized models may have few to no notes online.

3. Ask your IT provider or internal IT department to assess all IT assets

Your internal IT department or IT provider should perform a quarterly asset inventory that examines all your IT assets and current technology.  This assessment will tell you if you have any hardware nearing EOL or software approaching EOS.

In this assessment, all assets will be grouped into one of three color ratings:

  1. Red items need urgent attention. These items need to be replaced as soon as possible. These items are essential to your organization and are nearing or already EOL or EOS.
  2. Yellow items need eventual attention. These items require a replacement plan within the next 12-24 months.
  3. Green items need no attention. These items do not currently need to be replaced.

Your provider will help you draft a replacement plan that outlines when the hardware or software will be replaced and an appropriate budget for the replacement. This process is called Asset Lifecycle Management and is part of your IT Roadmap.

Quality IT providers stay abreast of EOL and EOS announcements for their clients’ hardware and software. This way, both the provider and their clients are never taken by surprise. They can adequately plan and budget for replacement before the technology becomes a problem.

Utilizing your IT provider’s expertise is a reliable method of identifying EOL and EOS software.

Next steps to address “End of Life” and “End of Support” technology

Now that you’ve identified your EOL or EOS technology and its risks, steps should be taken to replace it before significant issues arise.

As you prioritize possible replacements, you should ask yourself, “How important is this technology? How frequently is it used? How important is it to the system and company? How long can I afford to be down if it fails?”

Remember: just because certain technology isn’t seen doesn’t mean it isn’t used daily. The more specific technology is used, the more vital it is to your system. Highly used technology should be high on the replacement plan.

Speak with your IT provider or internal IT department about your IT Roadmap and asset inventory to see what technology may be coming to EOL or EOS, the replacement plan, and the budget.

For over 25 years, WEBIT Services has helped clients identify EOL and EOS technology and has assisted in creating strategies to address these risks. It has also purchased and deployed technology for hundreds of happy clients.

If you are looking for a new IT provider, schedule a free 30-minute consultation to see if WEBIT Service can help you and your organization.

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