Outdated and unsupported infrastructure is still one of the biggest challenges for many businesses transitioning into the digital era.
With technology shifting at a break-neck pace, it’s understandable many platforms have a short lifecycle. Operating systems, workloads, IT hardware - all these things aren’t made to last forever, forcing businesses to move on or face being caught out by product end-of-life (EOL).
However, despite the proven future-proofing benefits of new digital cloud platforms, companies still hold out on outdated platforms to save on costs and avoid perceived risky migrations.
According to Gartner, 75% of companies still using Microsoft Windows Server 2008 will not have finished more than 80% of their migrations to a supported platform by January 2023.
So, why is this a problem? Is it that bad to stay with unsupported platforms for a little longer?
Keeping increasingly expensive, obsolete technology to put off a move to a new and supported digital solution - while in itself a major task - creates a lot more unnecessary risk than a move does, especially for your employee security in a time where remote working is more important.
- Rising costs: For starters, end-of-life (EOL) and unsupported legacy solutions incur a lot of debt over time. You have to pay extraorbitant fees to keep them up and running past the end of support date, you don’t get new fixes or updates, and you don’t get security patches - all of which will cost a significant amount to get from extended support should you continue to put off your migration.
- Compliance: There’s potential legal issues, common in regulated industries like finance and healthcare, for not having the latest systems capable of protecting sensitive customer data and business information.
- Unreliability: Software incompatibilities may inevitably arise, when core applications your users rely on for their day-to-day work stop being optimised for your end-of-life infrastructure platform, resulting in performance drops and lack of new features.
While leaders are often aware of these facts, some are unaware of the number of critical resources they have running on these unsupported applications and systems and the growing inter-dependencies that make it harder to upgrade later while minimising downtime.
In short, it’s understandable moving to a new platform is a complex and risky task in itself - but staying with unsupported infrastructure costs more and is riskier than any short-term stability.
So, how do you balance this very difficult task? How do you prepare to move over applications and infrastructure to a new platform, while minimising downtime, risk and costs?
The answer is different for every business, but there are some common and recommended considerations that can make your transition from unsupported infrastructure much smoother.
Start with formally identifying end-of-life systems
Migrating to a supported, future-proof platform is always the preferred option, but often the biggest roadblock is being unprepared and unable to justify cost or risk of moving core systems to a new platform to key stakeholders and IT users.
To get around this, it’s recommended to start with cataloguing your existing technology stack to properly identify the systems that are approaching end-of-life or are already past the EOL date.
Sometimes it comes down to business leaders being unaware of the full extent of unsupported infrastructure that the business will be burdened by should they go unattended do, including:
- Operating Systems (OS): Are you running on operating systems that are about to hit or are already over the end-of-support deadline? Using Windows Server 2008 or 2012 for business critical applications in 2020 and beyond, for example, and relying on expensive extended support from Microsoft - and later third-party groups once extended support is cut - will only get more expensive and risky the longer your business puts off the move.
- Hardware: Is your on-premise infrastructure still supported by vendor or reputable third-parties? Are you getting reliable firmware updates and patches, or are you over the EOL date? The benefits of moving from on-site servers to the cloud is well documented, but buy-in is a lot easier if the extent of risk can be formally identified and conveyed.
- Software applications: Are the business-critical apps your employees need for their day-to-day operations still supported by the vendor? Is it a custom in-house application with dependencies on legacy infrastructure? These questions need answers that must be recognised by leaders in order to prepare for a future migration successfully and ensure apps that can’t be left behind are properly carried over to the new systems.
Formal categorisation of obsolete business infrastructure and systems will help relevant decision-makers understand the potential issues that can arise in the near future, and help build more informed urgency to prepare for a business migration to supported platforms - and help prevent a knee-jerk reaction to upgrade based on the need to have the latest technology.
Every business has a varying level of complexity in their environments. It will take months or years to properly retire and replace. What you can do is use the valuable period before end of support occurs to fully document EOL dates of your infrastructure so you can set up the right alerts and convey the urgency of upgrading to supporting systems far easier.
Apply compensating controls to reduce impending risk
As recommended by Gartner, there are several helpful controls that can be put in place to reduce your company’s overall risk (and potential headaches) when in the face of soon-to-be EOL, unsupported infrastructure - and somewhat ease your future migration efforts.
For starters, it’s common for legacy on-premise systems to often run environments and instances that are forgotten, unused or otherwise not fulfilling a useful task.
These servers and virtual machines should be identified and decommissioned to lessen immediate risk - if your in-house IT team is unable to do so, we recommend consulting with an experienced partner to help you identify these items.
Virtualising end-of-life systems is also beneficial for security and lessening risk, as it reduces dependency on outdated hardware. Having snapshots of systems for backup and restoration in the event of a breach or loss of data is essential, and should be looked at ahead of time.
Consult with an experienced cloud partner
Sometimes all it takes is a conversation with a consultancy or professional services partner to see the exact risks of unsupported infrastructure across your business to convey the need to act sooner rather than later to both business leaders and in-house IT.
If you’ve struggled to identify which applications, systems and servers are in imminent need of retirement, it’s always highly recommended to seek assistance from an experienced Cloud Managed Services partner, who has handled migrations to new platforms and have the knowledge necessary to guide your own unique journey from unsupported legacy infrastructure to the future-proof cloud, end-to-end.