Think ahead to January 2020 for a moment. As the owner of small or medium-sized businesses (SMB) refreshed after the festive break you’ll be keen to progress your exciting plans for the coming year. When there’s so much to do, the last thing you will want to contend with is upgrading your IT system.
But this will be the reality if you’re among the four in 10 SMBs still using Windows 7, Server 2008/2008R2 and SBS2011 and others – see the full list here: http://bit.ly/mseos – when Microsoft withdraws product support on 14 January 2020.
So, what’s going on? Quite simply, the software has reached the end of the road in terms of its commercial viability. Without feature and security updates and freely available technical support your IT set-up will be vulnerable and this, in turn, puts your business at risk.
If you continue to work with software that is effectively obsolete you’ll quickly find that productivity suffers. At the very least you should expect PCs to adopt a ‘go slow’ mode. Over time there is the prospect of increasingly disruptive technical issues as employees lose emails or are bombarded with spam, applications crash and work is lost. You can look forward to regular battles with the printer compounded by drop outs in server or internet connections.
Without the benefit of regular Microsoft upgrades, software glitches will undoubtedly recur. Industry estimates put the amount of time that the average employee loses to technology failures at almost two and a half weeks per year, so fixing problems will take up valuable time you can ill afford to lose.
Expect to see a knock-on effect on team performance. Morale will take a hit if employees face an uphill struggle day in, day out, with poor performing IT that is no longer fit for purpose.
Don’t underestimate the cost of calling in regular technical support to keep your system running. Experts will come to the rescue, but the best you can hope for is a system that operates distinctly below par.
Most worryingly, if you fail to migrate from outdated software you leave your business wide open to cyber-attacks. SMBs tend to think that because of their size they are not at risk. Think again. Last year 47% of small businesses in the UK suffered problems due to ransomware and attacks are on the increase. When the average cost of a breach ranges from £16,000 to £250,000 for larger outfits, how much damage could this do to your day-to-day business, not to mention its reputation over the long term?
What are the options?
If you’re likely to be affected by Microsoft’s decision to withdraw support for Windows 7, Server 2008/2008R2 and SBS2011, there are three options open to you.
An on-premise system can be achieved by migrating to Server 2016 or Server 2019 and, with the benefit of enhanced features, it will provide a like-for-like resolution with all applications remaining on your hardware at your premises. Alternatively, now is a good time to switch to working in the cloud, where all data and applications are hosted on a third party’s data centre, such as Microsoft 365. The third option is a hybrid solution, which combines an on-premise IT set-up and cloud services, offering the benefits and downsides of both.
Beware the DIY upgrade
We can’t all be IT experts. If you’re using outdated software you probably won’t appreciate the extent to which technology has advanced in recent years. Without professional advice you could unwittingly end up with a solution that is a less than perfect fit for your business – and discover you’re even worse off!
If you opt for a like-for-like upgrade, it could take longer than you expect to carry out the work yourself. You may also need to factor in staff training. It will likely be a stressful experience, too. What are you going to do if, during migration, you realise that your hardware needs updating? What happens if there’s a failure during setting up and you’re caught between a rock and a hard place with access to neither your old system nor a useable new one? And where do you turn if you lose data?
Partnering with an MSP
The hassle-free way to tackle Microsoft’s end of support challenge is to work with a managed service provider (MSP) that will conduct an in-depth assessment of your business needs before recommending the option that is right for you. A reputable MSP will put your interests first, helping you to achieve a flexible, cost-effective IT solution. You really don’t want to go through this process again a few years down the line, so an honest, no fuss explanation and complete transparency are vital.
Has your software reached the end of its commercial lifecycle? Please don’t trust to luck. Seek professional advice now so that, come January 2020, you can focus your energies on achieving your business objectives, secure in the knowledge that your IT system is up to the task.