If your business is running Microsoft Windows 7 or Server 2008, you need to prepare for end of life. Sam Card, CEO at Cards Technology, explains what you need to know for your business.
When a product is first released, it is under mainstream support. Users receive software updates, patches and technical support. About 3 to 4 years after the product is launched, the software reaches “end of mainstream support”. At this point – what they call “extended support” – you’ll still receive updates and patches, but no additional features will be developed, and major bugs will not be addressed. Eventually, the product reaches “end of extended support” where the developer releases no updates or patches and no longer provides technical support of any kind.
Microsoft’s Windows 7 and Server 2008 reached the end of mainstream support in January 2015 and will enter the end of extended support on January 14, 2020.
While your operating system will continue to work after January 14, 2020, your security won’t be up to date. This is problematic if you need to meet regulatory requirements, like HIPAA or PCI. Without updates and security patches, you will no longer be compliant.
Ignoring the deadline by failing to upgrade your systems will increase your chance of being hacked. After January 14, 2020, viruses created for Windows 7 or Server 2008 can be more easily transmitted computer-to-computer or spread through phishing. When an operating system is reaching end of life, many 3rd party software developers will also stop supporting their software on the end of life operating system, usually even before the end date. This will affect your team’s productivity because business applications you rely on for daily tasks will eventually stop being compatible with your outdated operating system.
I’ve been having this conversation about end of life with clients since last year. Some even started buying new computers in the fall of last year. But if you don’t have a budget to purchase new hardware along with the upgrades, you can start by upgrading to a valid Windows 10 license. If your equipment is aging and can’t support the operating system upgrade, you can look into leasing options, like hardware as a service or a virtual desktop platform.
We rarely encounter problems with Windows 10 and clients who experienced frequent issues with Windows 7 have been far more satisfied with Windows 10. Overall, it is faster and more user-friendly, offers better organizational tools, includes new security features like Advanced Threat Protection, and increases your control through the start button.
Finding and hiring technology employees for your IT department can be difficult here in Delmarva especially if you’re really not sure exactly what your IT requirements are. Sam Card, CEO at Cards Technology, offers his insight into hiring technology staff members.
Q: What are some common challenges businesses face when looking to hire in-house IT professionals in Delmarva?
Sam Card: The most common challenges I see are that IT job roles aren’t defined by technical skills because many business managers really don’t understand their IT needs. As long as the computers are working, they’re happy. Unfortunately, this lack of knowledge about the role often means there aren’t clear-cut performance metrics, a training path or a career plan for the IT professional. So, a good IT candidate would rather have a growth-oriented job where they can advance in their career.
On top of that, the unemployment rate for IT professionals was only 1.9 percent in 2018, so there aren’t many candidates available.
Q. What advice do you have for Delmarva businesses seeking to hire technology employees?
Sam Card: Don’t hire ad hoc IT staff members just to solve an immediate need. Lay out a plan that will not only keep your computers running but also will align IT with your business goals. This may mean hiring an IT leader with financial, operations and general business skills in addition to technology expertise. If you have a good idea of what expertise and functions you actually need in IT, then you won’t hire someone who is under- or overqualified. Over hiring can be as much of a problem as not hiring someone with enough experience.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to outline the specific technical skills wanted as well as spelling out what the opportunity has to offer to the job candidate. Include specific requirements like, will you depend on them to write IT strategy or will someone else do that? Will this person be responsible for cost management or are they simply there to keep the email running? These are all decisions you have to make when hiring an IT professional. The more you know about your IT infrastructure and its functions, the better equipped you are to define job roles for your technology staff.
And, of course, best business practices call for you to provide well-documented training for job-specific responsibilities as well as operational processes. If employees are only learning socially on the job, their chances for success are much lower.
As seen in The Maryland Coast Dispatch
When it comes to your company's technology, what does satisfactory mean to you? Maybe you're not constantly fighting downtime, but when it happens, it takes a toll on productivity. Sam Card discusses the risks of not knowing when something will go wrong or what it will cost to fix it.
Q: How does a business owner recognize when "satisfactory IT management" isn't benefiting their organization anymore?
Sam Card: There are some definite, measurable signs that you can look for when evaluating your IT partner. Inconsistent response times
is an important one. Let’s say your network is down and you're not sure why, so you call your current IT provider for help. They prefer to come on-site
to diagnose the problem. Sometimes that takes a few hours and other times a few days. There is no consistency of service and every minute of downtime
is costing your company money.
Lack of software automation is another. Software is constantly changing. Updates, bug fixes and newer versions require time and expertise to navigate. Without standardized templates and scheduled installations, a large chunk of your budget could be spent on repetitive activities that could have been automated.
Q: Isn’t the break-fix route of IT services cheaper?
SC: It may seem so at first, however, there are risks of not knowing when something will go wrong or what it will cost to fix it. While hourly, ad hoc or as needed services may seem like the more affordable solution, the costs are open ended. This makes it practically impossible to stick to an IT budget and downright scary when the invoice arrives. Hourly billing also gives no incentive for a break-fix provider to find a permanent solution to an underlying problem.
Have you ever heard the phrase, prevention is better than treatment? That same advice applies to your IT environment. It's certainly important to fix what
isn't working, but without proactive maintenance, you could incur the same issues over and over again.
Q: Can you give us an example of how a managed service model is a better fit for a small business?
SC: Recently, we were asked to assess the IT of a local construction company where the CFO manages their technology. When problems occurred, the CFO contacted their break fix provider. They were experiencing inconsistent response times that caused downtime and delays, and billing by the hour to fix their problems was costly. Software updates were also considered additional billable items and therefore there was no predictable budgeting.
The construction company moved over to our Cards Complete Managed IT Services package, where proactive monitoring was implemented and software templates were created for automation. With downtime practically eliminated, the CFO now focuses on managing the business finances instead of worrying about IT problems. The entire company saw a huge productivity increase.