How soon will my software go end of life and why should I care? 

Table Of Contents

There are no headings in this document.

What is end-of-life software (EOL)? 

All users of business software will encounter end-of-life software (EOL). It is the term used to describe the point when software vendors stop selling, supporting and patching their software. While there is nothing to stop businesses from using the software beyond this point – and many do continue to use it – doing so poses a real, quantifiable threat to the future success and profitability of your business. 

This may sound dramatic, but it is something every business leader, entrepreneur and small business owner needs to understand.   

Just a few high-profile recent examples of end-of-life software are listed below, but a quick internet search will reveal there are many more: 

  • Skype for Business Online (EOL July 31, 2021) - Microsoft recently announced the start of their EOL program for the integration of Skype for Business with third-party audio conferencing providers. 
  • Windows 10 (EOL October 14, 2025) – Microsoft announced it will end support for Windows 10. 
  • Adobe Flash Player (EOL January 2021) – At this time, Adobe does not support Flash Player (ended December 31, 2020) and blocked Flash content from running in Flash Player starting January 12, 2021. 

So now we’ve explained what EOL is, let’s explain why you should care.  I’ve listed five good reasons below, but first we need to talk about Technical Debt. 

Technical Debt 

EOL software is one of the major – but not the only – factors causing technical debt, which is an inevitable issue for any organization that depends upon software. This is because, like cars, domestic appliances and IT hardware, software begins to age or degrade the minute you purchase it.  

And, because software needs to be continuously updated to improve the user experience and keep pace with changing business requirements, technical debt can accumulate very quickly.   

A useful working definition for technical debt is the combined cost of the multiple maintenance tasks required to keep the product up to date. These will include: 

  • updating tools 
  • upgrading the programming language tools/version 
  • updates to software development kits 
  • Applying patches.  
  • In some cases, it may also consist of the need to rewrite code in the application that has become complex or inefficient as new features are added to the product. 

Technical debt starts to become an issue when a) functionality is compromised or b) the cost of maintaining the application is greater than moving to a newer version or c) both. 

Five Reasons you Should care about end-of-life software 

Not only is EOL software is a major contributor to technical debt, it also bring with it five key risk factors associated which will have an impact way beyond your IT department.   

  1. Security vulnerabilities – EOL poses a major security risk if the issue is not addressed. You may be entitled to continue to use the software, but without security patches from the vendor, the software becomes orders of magnitude more vulnerable to security threats.  

For example, although Microsoft gave advance warning that Windows 7 would be retired in January 2020, research showed that 17 per cent of desktops were still running the operating system as of June 2021. Businesses that failed to adapt paid the price when 98% of the computers impacted by the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack were running Windows 7. 

A firewall and anti-virus are not sufficient protection against vulnerabilities that are unpatchable and that hackers are quick to exploit.    

  1. Compliance issues: Regulated industries like Financial Services, Healthcare and e-commerce deal with lots of sensitive customer data. Entrusting your critical information to a decade-old OS or an unsecured application not only can this result in security lapses, but it could also result in big fines, regulatory issues, company shutdowns, or possibly worse.  
  1. Poor performance and reliability: Chances are, if you’re still running legacy apps or old versions of an Operating System, then you’ve got some ageing servers and workstations hanging around the office too, adding to your risk because these likely out-of-warranty devices are prone to breaking down. Consider that downtime alone could be more costly than an overdue upgrade. 
  1. Cost of serving your customers – The costs of maintaining and bug-fixing any post-EOL software can be steep. The developer of your application may well be spending up to 30% of their time, simply applying updates to the various components within your application. The frustration is that this is of material cost (the average cost of a developer in the UK is £85K p.a. 30% of this is £25.5K p.a). This uses up valuable resources that could enhance your application’s functionality. 

To take just one example, the expense of paying Microsoft to patch an EOL operating system can greatly exceed the price of simply replacing the OS. What about the high cost of a mission-critical app failing? These are all things to consider. 

  1. Slowing down innovation – In addition to the direct costs described above, technical debt can become a significant barrier to digital transformation. As it accumulates, your developers will be forced to work around the limitations of the debt or invest significantly in paying it down. Your subscription or maintenance fees will maintain the software and not enhance it, meaning your functionality will suffer. You may find yourself in a situation where you can’t respond to your customer needs because you have to pay down too much technical debt to be able to accommodate their otherwise easy iterative enhancement. 

Software incompatibility is another issue that will slow down innovation. Very seldom is any piece of software used in isolation from other software and tools. Even if it is just the operating system, but more typically any piece of software will incorporate a wide range of components, plugins, developer tools etc. That means when using EOL software, you can’t always upgrade to the latest and greatest, so you’ll have to hold onto legacy applications (which are likely also EOL or soon-to-be). 

Within the technology industry, there is an unspoken rule that new versions of software should be backward compatible. In other words, any application that can use the older version should be able to use the new release. However, in reality this doesn’t always happen. New versions of technical components of a larger system can contain changes that ‘break the system’. The implications of this are very significant. At best this means a major update, at worst you end up rewriting your application.  I’ve referenced just two examples below: 

  • Angular JS was developed by Google. Millions of applications were built on Angular version 1. When Google created Angular version 2, there was no backward compatibility leading to a big outcry from millions of developers who had to completely rewrite their applications.  
  • Microsoft Silverlight and Microsoft Workflow foundation are two more examples of technologies used by many developers that ended up being ‘end of life’ from Microsoft. 

Over time you may also find it much harder or impossible to find developers that know and are willing to work on the old software. 

You may also find that your software product vendor/developers may not be able to efficiently or reasonably make the product work well on the latest versions of the tools and hence be forced to EOL a piece of software. 

The only good news from this is that Developers need to keep a good focus on ensuring that software is maintained and kept up to date. Why is this good? Underlying tools must be maintained to continue to work and be secure. When these tools are EOLed, they rapidly become security and stability liabilities in your enterprise. Without critical security updates, hackers may take advantage of the unpatched vulnerabilities to attack your business. 

Your business benefits from having current well maintained and supported software running your operations. 

So, what are your options when faced with an EOL date for your software product? 

  • Talk with your software vendor / Developer about their recommended migration path. 
  • If you are using Commercial Packaged Software solutions – consider Cloud subscription versions of your business software with upgrades, maintenance, operating systems, databases, and hardware included in the subscription. 
  • Start creating a migration plan that backdates from the End Of Life date. Make sure your plan will complete at least six months before the EOL date in case your project slips. 

A new way of building software 

We have established that Technical Debt and EOL software are real issues that all businesses should take very seriously. The implications of simply putting your head in the sand just isn’t an option for a business in 2023. The big question is how can I minimize Technical Debt and the implications of EOL software? 

SCAD Software was founded in order to answer this question. For the last two decades we have helped companies of every size, from global organisations to start-ups, to build future-proof software, minimizing technical debt, speeding up innovation and reducing the cost to serve. 
You can find out more here. 

© Copyright 2023 | SCAD Software