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How does outdated software affect business security?

Some things are built to last forever. Unfortunately, software isn’t one of them.  

Much like the food in your fridge, your software has an expiration date. But unlike your groceries, your software doesn’t come with its ‘Use By’ date stamped on the outside. While it will be phased out eventually, businesses are left somewhat in the dark as to when exactly it will happen – and what it means when it does. 

Out-of-date software is more than an inconvenience. There’s a reason why vendors issue regular software updates, and that’s to ensure maximum security, efficiency, and functionality.  

Continue to deploy out-of-date software, and your business will certainly notice the impact. 

So, what exactly can you expect to happen when your software reaches End of Life (EOL), and what will it mean for your business? 

1. All software updates will be phased out 

Once software has reached End of Life, updates will cease to be rolled out. With new technologies emerging and the constant cycle of ‘new’ versions of software, it’s easy to understand why not every version can be supported forever. 

Importantly, and more times than not, it’s a specific version of the software that is being phased out, as opposed to the software itself. But once those updates are halted, the version of the software you use will no longer be supported by a lot of your other systems and technologies. 

So why are these updates important? Every software update has a purpose – whether it’s patching security concerns, improving the user experience, or addressing user complaints. Without these updates, your software is left vulnerable to increasingly advanced cyber threats, as well as poor usability and system downtime. 

Outdated software will inevitably hold your business back from efficient, protected, collaborative and productive output. 

2. Security patches will stop 

Cyber security is not a ‘set it and forget it’ strategy. With threats constantly evolving and becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated, regular security patches are critical to ensuring the protection in place is equipped to handle new risks. 

When software reaches End of Life, security patches will no longer take place. This means your software isn’t monitored for cyber security vulnerabilities or weak spots, leaving your systems exposed to the threats online. 

However, outdated software doesn’t just leave you more exposed to breaches. It also makes a breach significantly more expensive. According to a report from Kaspersky, outdated technology makes security breaches 54% more expensive for SMBs, and 47% more expensive for enterprises. 

Why? Because software that has reached its End of Life can’t detect potential breaches or threats as quickly, meaning it will likely be a lot longer until your business is aware of the infiltration – causing significantly more damage in the process. 

With threats evolving at such a rapid pace, failing to update your systems accordingly leaves you ripe for the picking for malware attacks. It’s no longer a question of ‘if’, but a question of ‘when’. 

3. It may stop working with your other systems 

To work effectively and productively, you need to be able to rely on your systems to integrate, communicate and work together seamlessly – especially in a hybrid and remote working world. 

To do so, you need your systems to be compatible. Software that has reached its End of Life is often no longer supported by other systems, making it almost impossible to work seamlessly and effectively across different programmes and applications. 

The transition of Microsoft Office to MS365 is the perfect example of this – prompting organisations to review their business needs, adapt their cloud strategy, and asses infrastructure and environment.  

Outdated software also prevents you from being able to invest in new technologies and applications, which will only be compatible with the latest operating systems – meaning your business will always be one step behind in terms of your technological capabilities. 

(Read more: Find out about the benefits of Office 365.)

4. Eventually, vendor liability becomes void 

Under normal circumstances, software vendors are liable for any software defects or issues that cost your business financially. Whether it’s significant downtime, a data breach or just a flaw in the system, vendor liability protects your business legally and holds the vendor responsible for any complications. 

However, once your software reaches End of Life, the liability becomes void. This means that your business is legally responsible for any issues that occur as a result of the software, and the vendor cannot be held accountable for any financial or commercial harm.  

Your business becomes solely responsible for the software and its wider impact, meaning you’re on your own should any problems arise. 

5. You risk non-compliance 

In highly regulated industries such as healthcare, financial services, or e-commerce, there are a number of compliance and regulatory standards to meet when it comes to your technology. When dealing with large amounts of sensitive customer data, regulatory bodies need to know you have the right systems in place to effectively handle, store and protect that data. 

Left unchecked, businesses that continue to rely upon obsolete software to handle sensitive data can be faced with heavy fines and legal action if they fail to comply with government and industry regulations. In fact, GDPR fines can cost a business up to 4% of its revenue. 

Prepare for EOL with the right business IT support 

While continuing to deploy outdated software may be convenient in the short term, the long term implications can be far-reaching – from non-compliance to security breaches, system downtimes and increased operational costs. 

Simply deferring updates or ignoring software that is approaching End of Life is not an option. Businesses need an IT partner that can shoulder the weight of evolving software and plan for future needs. 

The right business IT support service anticipates End of Life, business growth, and emerging technologies, and helps you to make plans for successions. We catch outdated software before its expiration date, and help you find the next best solution to fit your needs. 

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