A technology refresh can mitigate risks and deliver a boost in performance and efficiency.
Organizations commonly put off upgrading outdated technology for as long as possible in order to conserve cash. While older hardware and software may still be functioning adequately, this approach can be extremely costly in the long run due to a multitude of security, productivity and competitive shortcomings.
These issues will become particularly acute in the coming months as multiple Microsoft solutions reach “end-of-life” status. Of particular note, Microsoft will no longer support or update the Windows 7 desktop operating system or the Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 server operating systems after Jan. 14, 2020. Additionally, SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 reach end-of-life in just a few weeks, on July 9.
“There will be significant risks involved with running any of these Windows systems after the end-of-support date,” said Don Gulling, CEO, Verteks. “The most obvious threat is that hackers will specifically target systems in order to exploit unpatched vulnerabilities. In addition, there will most likely be hardware compatibility issues, and some essential business applications may become unsupported.”
Counting the Costs
The 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack illustrated the risk and cost of using older technology. More than 200,000 computer systems in 150 countries were infected over a 48-hour period, resulting in approximately $4 billion in losses. Post-attack forensic analysis found that roughly 98 percent of the computers affected were running Windows 7. Machines running Windows 10 were not affected.
In addition to the direct costs involved with remediating security issues, obsolete technology creates substantial hidden costs in the form of lost productivity. A landmark 2016 study by the IT asset management company Samanage found that U.S. businesses lose up to $1.8 billion a year in wasted productivity due to obsolete technology.
Meanwhile, a 2018 Unisys Corporation study found that employees are increasingly frustrated with workplaces that expect them to work with outdated and slow technology. The study reported that workers using outdated technology are 450 percent more likely to quit their jobs than their counterparts working for companies with new technology.
“Obsolete technology puts workers in a tough spot,” Gulling said. “They are expected to perform at a high level, but they find themselves wasting a ton of time working with older hardware and software that is slow, complicated and crashes more often. There comes a point where the hard and soft costs of aging technology outweigh the replacement costs.”
An upgrade to the Windows 10 operating system should be high on the list of priorities for companies of all sizes. Advanced security features are among the operating system’s most compelling benefits. Enterprise-grade features such as identity and information protection are built right into its core, and it improves data loss prevention by using containers and data separation at the application and file level.
Windows 10 also offers performance increases, a dramatically improved Web browser, support for virtual desktops and several productivity-enhancing features not found in older versions. According to Forrester Consulting’s Total Economic Impact study of Windows 10, organizations that have made the upgrade typically experience a 25 percent improvement in productivity thanks to faster boot times, improved application access and better mobility. The study finds these benefits contribute to a net three-year value of $515 per user, with a 233 percent return on investment (ROI) and a payback period of 13 to 14 months.
It may take a hardware upgrade to realize these benefits. Windows 10 simply may not run as well on older systems due to processor speed and memory limitations. However, potential delays in acquiring new hardware make it imperative that organizations move quickly to begin the upgrade process.
A scarcity of Intel processors combined with volatility created by the U.S. trade war with China has created shortages in the PC market. According to Gartner, PC sales dropped 6.3 percent during the first quarter of 2019 compared with the same period a year ago. The top five PC vendors — HP Inc., Dell, Lenovo, Apple and Microsoft — all reported declines.
Corporate demand for Intel CPUs is extremely high due to increasing use of resource-intensive applications and cloud infrastructure expansion. Additionally, Intel has been prioritizing production of server CPUs, resulting in major delays in the production of its next-generation 10-nanometer processors. U.S. tariffs on goods coming from China have contributed to market volatility, and are driving up costs for U.S.-based manufacturers that rely on these chips to assemble computers.
Money is always an important consideration, and organizations may questions the need to replace IT systems that seem to be functioning. But for those with computers and servers too old to efficiently handle today’s workload or protect against the latest security threats, failure to upgrade could prove to be more costly in the long run.