“EOL” is an acronym that can make any IT administrator uneasy, especially one on a tight budget. It signals the impending obsolescence of hardware or software technology and may make you feel like you’re being forced into an upgrade.
Fortunately, that’s not the case. EOL has several different stages associated with it, and many technologies can actually be managed for some time after the manufacturer stops supporting them. If your equipment is approaching its EOL, you can prepare for it and take steps to keep it working as long as possible and maximize your investment.
What Is EOL and What Does It Stand For?
EOL stands for “end of life,” which occurs to hardware and software. It is the stage of a product in which it becomes outdated or unsupported by the manufacturer.
- What is the end of life in hardware? Typically, hardware reaches its end of life when it can’t keep up with the needs of new systems and software.
- What is the end of life in software? EOL software may be outdated or may not work with modern hardware needs.
Every piece of technology reaches obsolescence at some point. It won’t last forever. When hardware or software reaches that point, manufacturers typically suggest replacing or upgrading it to the newest version they offer. It may have more features but, of course, that will cost you. The EOL meaning in hardware also applies to a device that is too outdated to run new versions of software.
Any EOL product that is not properly maintained can spell trouble for a company.
What Happens When Something Reaches EOL?
Knowing what happens when a system reaches EOL allows you to better prepare for it. As a product approaches its EOL, you’ll typically get notifications for it. A popup may appear on your system stating that the software will lose manufacturer support on a certain date, or you may get an email about it. Different manufacturers have different timelines for this process, so it will vary.
Cisco, a major technology provider, for instance, has a helpful milestone table that lays out different dates where they offer certain levels of support. They typically issue notifications about six months before they stop selling a product. After the end-of-sale date, they may offer support and release maintenance patches for a specific number of years, but once that timeframe runs out, you’re on your own.
The biggest risk of a product reaching EOL is that it could open your system up to security breaches. Maintenance patches frequently fix security issues, and these patches often respond to the changing landscape of hackers and technology, which is why they recur.
For example, let’s say hackers come up with a new type of malware. Within a week, a provider may issue a patch, but anyone who doesn’t immediately update their system doesn’t have the protection it offers. Hackers often target these types of businesses, and if you don’t get maintenance patches at all, you could be wide open to new security breaches. Many companies become easy targets when they use out-of-date technology, such as the victims of a huge ransomware hack in 2017.
Other risks associated with EOL products include:
- Compatibility: Other systems that a company has may not play nicely with outdated hardware or software. Of course, if your systems aren’t working together, you’ll likely experience productivity issues. Downtime and errors become more common.
- Hard-to-find components: Spare parts may be incredibly difficult to come by as the technology ages and isn’t produced anymore. After a few years of being EOL, these parts might be harder to find or more expensive to procure.
- Legal ramifications: If you work in a sensitive environment like finances or healthcare, your clients and legal authorities expect you to conduct business responsibly. They trust that you can handle personal data with professionalism and care. If your systems can’t do that, you could face significant penalties, not to mention the damage to your brand’s image.
How to Prepare for EOL in Hardware and Software
If your equipment is on it’s way out, you can minimize the impact of EOL, including safety risks and outdated functionality, by taking a few precautionary measures.
- Ensure security and stability. Review your system carefully, so you’re well-aware of any shortcomings or areas where improvement may be necessary. Fix any bugs present so your system can stand up to the security needs of your company.
- Ensure speed. Much of the time, EOL occurs when software outpaces hardware. If you can, consider making smaller hardware updates that allow your system to keep up with software. Without this step, you may see more downtime and lose productivity.
- Stay up-to-date on new technology. Part of maintaining an EOL product involves knowing when the right time to upgrade is. Learn what the newest products are and follow up on them. Read reviews to make sure the technology works as promised and can meet your needs if you eventually need to switch.
- Update the system as much as possible. Conduct regular updates as long as you can for an EOL product to keep it as prepared as you can.
- Make a plan. Whether you want to start setting aside money for the next piece of equipment or increase maintenance efforts to make the most of your investment, you need to be ready for the unique needs of an EOL product. Consider how it integrates with your system and what other programs would be affected if the EOL product were to go down. Can you adjust appropriately or will you see significant losses in productivity?
It all comes down to preparation. While you want to maintain your product as long as possible, you’ll also want to carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks.
Don’t get so starry-eyed by new features that you underestimate the value of your existing equipment. Minimal adjustments can offer large dividends, and sometimes, the losses in productivity simply aren’t enough to warrant a new investment. Other times, of course, it makes more sense to upgrade. Map out your system and make this consideration carefully.
How to Keep EOL Hardware Running
If you’ve decided to keep your EOL hardware moving, you’ll have to get creative. The best way to do so is to enlist experts who can optimize your system for the issues inherent in EOL products.
They may have better sources for getting those hard-to-find parts and can help with the cost vs. benefits analysis. Experts who know the system can help you meet productivity requirements and security needs with their knowledge of the system and your operation.
Work With a Third-party Maintenance Provider
One way to work with an expert is to use a third-party maintenance provider. As manufacturer support runs out on an EOL product, your third-party maintenance company can step in to help keep things moving and offer proactive maintenance practices.
Here at Worldwide Services, we offer affordable service that can help accomplish a variety of IT tasks, including extending the life of your hardware with minimal downtime. We aim to maximize your uptime and profitability by learning about your business needs and optimizing your system accordingly.
To learn more about a partnership with Worldwide Services, contact us today.