Microsoft announced End of Life for several of their cornerstone products most law firms use today, including Windows 7 Operating System, Windows 2008 Server Operating System, SQL Server 2008 and Exchange 2010. Time is running out for the proper replacement and migration of these products during the second half of 2019 and beginning of 2020.

Let’s face it… at the end of a hectic work day, the last thing you want to do is dive into the migration logistics of End of Life software. With everything else on your plate – from battling security vulnerabilities to meeting digital transformation goals – does it really matter if software is running beyond its End of Life?

The answer is a resounding, “YES!” Let’s start by considering the consequences of not upgrading or migrating these end of life products at your firm:

  1. Support – Software that is at its End of Life stage means that you will no longer receive support. The last position a firm wants to be in is to have software that Microsoft (or any provider, for that matter) will no longer support. Consider a software product that is heavily used by managing partners, attorneys or paralegals, specifically those products used in billing or to generate revenue for your firm. In the case of software failure of an End of Life product, the risk to the firm is too great.
  2. Security exposure – No support for your software also means no security improvements or bug resolution. In order to protect your infrastructure, you must have proper security patches for possible vulnerabilities and exposure. These security risks will only increase over time as your software becomes more outdated and weaker to threats from cyber criminals or hackers. Running outdated software is just a bad idea, especially considering (according to research from IBM) the average cost of a data breach in 2019 is around $3.86 million.
  3. Incompatible software – New applications come out daily, which are meant to work with recent operating systems. And if you’re running End of Life software (such as Windows 2008 or SQL Server 2008), you’ll miss out on the latest features and your systems will struggle to communicate with each other.
  4. Poor performance – It may seem obvious, but older software runs slowly and is far less efficient. You will waste a lot of time trying to fix issues on your unreliable software products. Upgrades can save you time and keep your team focused and productive.
  5. Issues for your staff – The technology your law firm uses is a direct reflection of how you conduct business. Your team expects you to provide them with resources that will help them not only do their job, but do it well. Having out-of-date software will reduce morale, reduce team engagement, and could actually lead to higher turnover.
  6. Licensing compliance – Every firm wants to make sure all their software products are in compliance with Microsoft licensing guidelines and not involved in any possible fines (that could be crippling to any business). Running End of Life software certainly constitutes as a violation of compliance under various regulatory and GDPR standards.
  7. Increased operating costs – It’s easy to get complacent and say, “Well, we’ve never had any issues with this software before, I’m sure we’ll be fine.” But consider the impact to your bottom line. When a software failure occurs, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have the onsite staff to correct every issue or make improvements. You’ll have to pay for an outside vendor to maintain these products, which will be costly. Plus, keep in mind that Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings offer lower upfront costs and could actually be more affordable.
  8. Slowed acceleration toward digital transformation – It’s no secret that running out-of-date software will slow your progression towards digital transformation. As your competitors move forward with the latest and greatest technology, you will be stuck trying to patch or de-bug software that is simply not functioning at its greatest potential.

Now that you know more about the true danger and challenges around running End of Life software, how can your firm prepare to properly upgrade or migrate? Our recommended strategy:

  1. Find a technology partner to perform an audit. Any good technology consulting firm will offer a free, no obligation network audit to tell you which software platforms or products threaten your environment and give you suggestions for how you can not only upgrade, but improve your efficiency and security.
  2. Undergo an assessment and take inventoryWhether you perform the work internally or partner with IT consulting firm, start by identifying End of Life products your firm currently owns and what applications and group of users depend on them. This will allow you to establish a baseline for the next step.
  3. Design a custom Migration and Upgrade Plan. A proper plan to migrate end users, servers and applications into new operating systems and database engines should be created, complete with timelines, costs associated, and an internal communication plan. You’ll also want to identify the options of moving portions (or all) of your existing environment into the cloud. This will allow for automatic, preventative upgrades.
  4. Deploy and make a plan for ongoing support. Now it’s time to execute your Migration and Upgrade plan. If you have an internal team to do the work and ensure continued maintenance, you’re ahead of the game. But if you’d feel more secure with a team of reliable IT experts, the right partner can guide you along the way (and also provide ongoing support for all of your software and systems).

If you are running Windows 7 Operating System, Windows 2008 Server Operating System, SQL Server 2008, Exchange 2010 or any other software products that you think may be in question, be sure to check Microsoft’s End of Support directory: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/lifecycle/search/1163

The nature of the legal industry means that you’re working with sensitive information and require heightened privacy and security. Therefore, when it comes to the assessment, planning and execution of moving your law firm into a secured, compliant and supported software product versions, be sure to look for a technology consulting firm that understands the legal industry and the specific technologies your team must have in order to be successful. This will guarantee proper execution, with little risk and higher returns.

Enjoy the journey to the Modern Law Firm!