As popular productivity suite is phased out, organizations should turn their focus to cloud-based Microsoft 365.
Microsoft’s popular Office 2010 productivity suite reaches end-of-life status on Oct. 13. After that date, Microsoft will no longer provide technical support, security updates, patches or bug fixes. All of the Office 2010 apps will continue to function, but users could expose themselves and their companies to serious risks.
Microsoft is advising organizations to either upgrade to one of the business versions of the subscription-based Microsoft 365 or to the premises-based Office 2019, which is sold as a one-time purchase for one computer per license.
Thousands of companies and millions of users are likely to require an upgrade. Microsoft says it sold more than 200 million licenses for Office 2010 over the years, and a good deal of them remain active. As recently as 2017, Office 2010 was still being used by 83 percent of companies surveyed by Spiceworks — three years after Microsoft ended mainstream support and announced the product would be phased out completely in 2020.
“This is a fairly common occurrence when Microsoft updates Office. Users commonly hang on to older versions because they are familiar and seem to be working just fine,” said Don Gulling, CEO, Verteks Consulting. “They often assume that end-of-support just means they won’t be able to call Microsoft for support. That may be the least of their worries, however.”
Security and Compatibility Considerations
The bigger issue is that Microsoft will no longer release security updates and patches, leaving users vulnerable to a broad range of attacks. Some of the last Office 2010 updates were designed to address a variety of remote code execution vulnerabilities that could allow an attacker to take full control of a compromised computer with the ability to view, change or delete data, install programs, or create new accounts with full user rights.
Regulatory compliance is another potential problem. For example, users still running Office 2010 may find themselves out of compliance with a number of different data privacy regulations due to the lack of ongoing security updates. Organizations responsible for protecting personally identifiable information could face significant penalties without upgrades.
In addition to security risks and compliance issues, compatibility with newer devices and applications will likely become a significant issue. Apps built in 2010 simply weren’t designed for a world of smartphones, cloud services, artificial intelligence and 5G wireless networks, and running older applications can put organizations at a competitive disadvantage. With built-in intelligence and the ability to link with cloud services via application programming interfaces, the latest versions of Office apps such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint are smarter and more powerful than ever.
Why Choose Microsoft 365
Although Microsoft offers an on-premises upgrade path with Office 2019, there are several downsides to that approach. Chief among them is the fact that there will be no ongoing feature updates — it is limited to the same features it had when it was released in October 2018 — although there will be occasional updates and patches. Office 2019 also has limited integration with Microsoft web apps such as OneDrive, and the O2019 license does not include access to online versions of Office apps.
In almost any situation, Microsoft 365 will be a superior choice. The subscription model ensures that users are continuously running the most updated version of the software possible, and the newest security features are automatically updated as soon as they’re rolled out. Many versions include both web and desktop versions of Office apps for PC and Mac platforms, along with mobile access to apps and other features.
Microsoft offers several subscription plans for personal, business or enterprise use. Here’s a brief look at the options available for business users:
- Business Basic includes the familiar Office apps Word, Excel and PowerPoint, along with 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage and additional cloud services such as the Teams collaboration app, Exchange and SharePoint.
- Business Standard includes everything in Business Basic but adds the Outlook, Publisher and Access apps.
- Business Premium includes everything in Business Standard but adds Intune and Azure Information Protection cloud services along with advanced cyberthreat protection and device management features.
All the business versions feature more than 1,000 security and privacy controls, including content filtering, multifactor authentication, antimalware and much more. The cloud-based MS365 Advanced Threat Protection service uses AI and machine learning to evaluate signals from endpoint-embedded sensors to detect and stop ransomware attacks, zero-day threats and other advanced malware.
For all its benefits, Microsoft 365 can be tricky to implement. The platform has so many features that it can be difficult to find, access and activate everything. For example, the SANS Software Security Institute reports that many companies don’t implement MS365’s multi-factor authentication (MFA) feature because they don’t fully understand how it works and believe it requires external hardware devices.
Licensing is notoriously confusing. There are entire websites devoted to trying to explain the various options. Evaluating them all can be incredibly time-consuming. In some cases, organizations may need to assign different licenses to different personnel, depending on their job requirements and the features they need.
“Microsoft 365 is a fantastic service and is by far the most cost-effective, secure and reliable way to gain access to the productivity tools businesses have come to rely on,” said Gulling. “But putting everything in place can be a big, messy job that takes your IT administrator away from other day-to-day duties.
“Any company looking to implement MS365 should really consider partnering with a managed services provider who is a Microsoft Partner. Here at Verteks, for example, we have a team of IT professionals certified in Microsoft technologies who can help you access and implement the many features in MS365, and make sure you aren’t paying too much for licenses. By making sure your MS365 is properly deployed and configured, we can help you realize the full potential of this amazing service.”