Most small businesses waited until the last minute to deal with the loss of support by Microsoft, some to their chagrin.
David Cameron, President of Conduit Systems offer these thoughts on how to handle the problem.
- Conduct a sweep of the legacy programs and take stock of what the company has in place: When equipment is operational and application software is processing data, it is all too easy to overlook the landscape 12-24 months hence. Small Business executives are good planners and strategists; however, they often overlook the viability of technological tools used to fuel the business. Take a snapshot of your IT infrastructure and operation and plan for an orderly migration to upgraded applications and new equipment.
- Back up all important files before any migration, leveraging the hybrid cloud: NEVER initiate changes without first backing up data. Whenever possible, include a plan to abort the migration and return to the original state if necessary. It’s not necessary to purchase duplicate equipment to support the migration or run systems in parallel. Instead, consider a cloud system. Small Businesses should engage cloud services to provision whatever resources are required to establish the new system. The next step would be to stress test the new system so as to avoid overload, similar to what happened to the websites that consumers visited when enrolling in healthcare insurance exchanges. Once development and/or testing of the new system is complete, terminate the cloud services. In effect, companies that use this method will have paid for resources used only for the time needed, thereby avoiding the capital expense of hardware and software tests.
- Provide extra back up for all legacy programs that are not compatible with future upgrades: Now that Small Businesses have backed up the data, it is time to take a look at the equipment that can run the legacy application if it’s needed in the future. Now would be the time to consider “bare metal” backup model or imaging of the entire computer system – data, application, OS. Also consider virtualization, where a physical image can be converted into a virtual image running on new hardware. This move ensures that data across the board will be safely stored when it comes time for future upgrades.
- Revisit your centralized management policy and make updates where needed based on new servers: Having a centralized management policy for employees to reference when it comes to storing and sharing data is a key element to ensuring all data is safe and protected. Oftentimes, companies will create these policies and never return to update and/or revise them. Now might be a good time to dust off the policy to upgrade it in tandem with new backup strategies and software/hardware upgrades. Keeping this policy current is essential for protecting data and to serve as a reminder to employees about how they should be saving data and which data they should be saving. Furthermore, it provides an update about how the company is managing all of the upgrades.
- Plan for future upgrades and begin to take steps for the Windows 7 end of support: One can no longer purchase the packaged/retail version of Windows 7. The OEM version remains for those selling new computers. The question is: how much longer will the OEM version be available? Typical Microsoft strategy involves the retiring of the retail version followed by the sun setting on the OEM version, usually 12-18 months later. This translates into having to purchase a new computer with the latest operating system – in today’s terms, Windows 8.
Many businesses have recently purchased new computers due to the end of life for Windows XP. The majority of these purchases came either with Windows 7 installed or with a Windows 8 license (but with Windows 7 pre-installed under the OS downgrade rights). Baring a run on tablet devices and/or the requirement for touch-screen applications, there is no immediate concern relative to Windows 7 end of support. Windows 7 was released in 2009. Its life expectancy should bring it into 2017 or 2018 at the earliest. Now there is also rumor of a Windows 9 release date sometime in 2015 or early 2016. Will Windows 8 succumb to the same fate as Windows Vista? Perhaps we are in a game of OS leapfrog and we’ll have to set our eyes on new equipment, upgraded applications, and a migration to Windows 9.