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.
Technology is entwined within almost every business function in practically every industry and organization today. It’s imperative to consider the implications of business decisions – from changing your copier brand to firing an employee – on your IT systems. Cards Technology CEO Sam Card discusses common business transitions that impact IT.
Q: What are common changes businesses often fail to realize will impact their IT systems?
Sam Card: Two common business systems that impact your IT network are copiers and phones. Both rely upon your network to function properly but often businesses will switch their copiers out or change to a different phone system without contacting their IT provider. Your provider collaborates with vendors who have products connected to your network to ensure everything is operating correctly so they need to be in the know.
Moving your office, acquiring another business or installing new software are other areas you need to make your IT provider aware of, so you don’t experience excessive downtime during implementation and can capitalize on the benefits of the new product or facilities. It’s important to have your IT provider check out new physical spaces before you purchase or sign a lease to make sure there’s adequate internet and phone service infrastructure to support your technology functions.
Q: There shouldn’t be a problem if some of my staff start working remotely, right?
Sam Card: There are a couple of different options that allow employees to work securely from home. Setting up a VPN connection behind your corporate firewall or if you have a remote desktop gateway with SSL encryption in place, your information will be protected. But you need to inform your IT provider if you have remote employees so that they can be provided access. It’s important that security practices and policies are set up to manage the safety of your business’s data. With Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), you can set up “conditional access,” so the system will block connections from computers or users not meeting compliance requirements.
Q: I had to fire someone on my team, and they didn’t take it very well. What can my IT provider do to make sure that our company remains secure?
Sam Card: It’s important to notify your IT provider right away as they are responsible for creating user accounts and establishing the level of access each employee has to your network. Microsoft EMS offers security rules for mobile device management that can give you control over your employee’s phone to wipe company apps and data if they leave the organization. Whether you’re hiring or terminating employees, let your IT provider know so your network is protected and the billing on “per user” services and applications can be adjusted accordingly.
Sometimes the smallest IT problems can be the biggest irritations. Cards Technology CEO Sam Card talks about the need to quickly take care of small, but pesky, technology issues.
I recently purchased an upgraded mouse with a nice scroll wheel that makes it easy to scroll up and down and left to right. Shortly after buying this mouse, I discovered that the scroll wheel wasn’t “clicking.” The wheel just continually rolled without any brakes to slow it down. This quickly became very annoying. Despite being an IT company with dozens of spare mice in the office, I chose to just keep working with this tremendous annoyance.
When scrolling, I kept flying past what I was trying to read in my web browser; I flew past the email I wanted to look at in Outlook; I zoomed in and out repetitively trying to get the text the right size in my Excel sheets. It was very frustrating, but I was busy so I continued to deal with it and push through my work. Although hindered, I was still able to get my work done.
After about three weeks of this, I was at the breaking point. This mouse was only a few months old, so I emailed the manufacturer and told them what was happening. They instructed me to plug the mouse into a different port, try other applications, clean it with compressed air and test it on a different computer. None of these things worked. I told them their suggestions did not work. They said they were sending me a new mouse and asked that I discard the old, defective one. I thought that was a very nice warranty replacement process!
In passing, I told one of our techs of the problem and how easy the resolution to it was. Funny enough, he had purchased the exact same mouse at home, and he experienced the same problem out of the box! What was even funnier is that, like me, he had dealt with this problem for a long time. About 6 months! That evening he contacted the manufacturer, and they sent him a new mouse as well.
When my new mouse arrived, the tech came to install it. Our service manager’s 20-year-old son who works part-time for us in the summer came to assist. As they were preparing to install the new mouse, he asked why we were replacing the old mouse. The tech explained the situation with the scroll wheel continually spinning when rolled up or down. Our service manager’s son laughed and said, “See this little button below the scroll wheel? When you press it, it toggles between having the brake on the scroll wheel and the wheel spinning freely.”
Why didn’t the manufacturer mention this button before sending us replacement mice? Especially since they knew the model of the mouse we were troubleshooting – you would think they knew it had this button.
Then I added up what this little mouse problem cost our business – the labor costs (one CEO, a technician and an intern!) were high, not to mention how we could have been spending that time on something way more productive. We had a couple of hours of payroll among the CEO, two skilled engineers and our receiving clerk to deal with this problem – a very expensive way to spend time that did not produce any value!
The moral of the story is that you should never force yourself to tolerate simple annoyances. Get in a help desk ticket and hold your IT department accountable to getting these issues fixed. Little problems can add up to big, expensive time and money wasters – take it from someone who tolerated a silly mouse problem for weeks!
As seen in The Maryland Coast Dispatch
The modern workplace relies heavily on the use of technology and a stable IT environment is the backbone of how you do business. So, when a problem emerges, the time spent waiting around for your IT provider can really add up. Sam Card discusses why some IT providers have slow response times, and what you can do about it.
Q: My technology partner promises immediate service, but sometimes I am waiting days to get things addressed. Why is this happening?
Sam Card: Some IT providers make a lot of promises in regard to meeting your company's needs, yet many don’t have the systems in place
to deliver service when you need it most. There are a few reasons for this. First, if organizational roles are not clearly defined, then there is no
set process for how to move through issues quickly. For example, a provider might not have a designated person on hand to answer the phone, or online
requests are treated differently than phone calls. There’s also the risk of different people scheduling overlapping appointments, resulting in double
Not having a proven process to distinguish calls is another reason you might be waiting long for a response. Quick calls should be handled differently than diagnostic visits. Also, there should be a service manager in the office specifically assigned to service issues. If there is no accountability system in place to work through more complicated issues quickly, that could lead to a delayed response.
Q: The IT provider I work with usually comes out the same day, but only if I am in touch before 9:00 a.m. Is this standard procedure?
SC: Unfortunately, you can’t always predict when an issue will arise. And it usually happens once employees have arrived and the day has started. Instead of sticking to rules and timelines, a better way to address tickets is to base them on priority and age. Calculations can be used to figure out where in the pipeline an issue belongs and then work on an appropriate solution. That way, you don’t have to contend with antsy employees, lost revenue and frustrated clients.
Q: So, what should I ask or look for to ensure I don’t experience more downtime than necessary?
SC: Ask about team structure first. You want to make sure your provider has a dedicated service dispatcher that operates as the communication “hub” between the clients and the company. Second, look for a company with a multi-tiered help desk. Smaller, quick turnaround requests should be immediately assigned to T1 technicians, while more complicated issues can be sent to the more seasoned and knowledgeable T2 technicians. This system provides quicker resolution times with the appropriate level of skill.
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.