The end of something that one has become familiar with and counts on can be a difficult thing. Fans of popular TV shows are perhaps most acquainted with this feeling, as illustrated by their reactions to the announcement of show finales.
When the prominent series "Friends" ended, many who had been watching the program for its 10-year run were upset that they would no longer be able to enter into the world of six companions and their favorite coffee shop.
More recently, fans of "American Idol" are now dealing with the same problem, having to wave goodbye to a program that, although waning in popularity in recent years, created the genre of modern talent show-based television in this country 15 seasons ago.
The difficulty associated with watching something go away can be even more accurate when one has come to rely on it for his or her livelihood.
End of life: What it means for users
Just as "Friends" fans waited anxiously to see if Rachel would get off the plane and rejoin her longtime love Ross, so too do decision-makers face uncertainty when support is ending for mission-critical technologies. In the past year, users have grappled with several notable end-of-life announcements, including those related to Windows XP, and most recently, Windows Server 2003.
"When a technology nears end of life, decision-makers have some tough decisions to make."
Without support, users lose numerous safeguards, including security patches and updates that protect their system from intruders. Additionally, end of support means the end of customer assistance – the provider is unable to help with any product issues.
When a technology nears end of life, decision-makers have a few questions they must ask themselves, and some tough decisions to make:
- How soon is support ending? How long does the company have to migrate to another solution?
- What options does the company have for this particular type of solution?
- What information or content is stored within the end-of-life technology, and how will these materials be preserved?
- What will upgrading to something newer cost?
While end of life can be a challenge – even more so than losing your favorite program – it is something that businesses must address as quickly as possible, taking proactive measures to ensure their success leading up to end of life.
Best practices for dealing with end of life technologies
BMS Review contributor Bill Keyworth outlined several helpful strategies for businesses dealing with an end-of-life migration:
- Outline business requirements: Before looking at the available replacement options, company stakeholders define the requirements for the next solution. While these can include capabilities featured in the last system, decision-makers should take the opportunity to find something that goes above and beyond their last solution.
- Examine how the solution will impact customers: Sometimes, the system nearing end of life is purely for the use of employees. Other times, it may form the backbone of a client-facing resource. Administrators must consider how the switch will impact their relationships with customers.
- Examine all available options: Keyworth recommends looking beyond generic systems and finding something that can be customized to suit all of the company's priorities and requirements. Keyworth describes a five-step evaluation process – including analyzing, focusing, evaluating, validating and testing – that can be beneficial here.
- Addressing pain points: Keyworth also pointed out that migrating away from an end-of-life system is not just about getting the latest and greatest technology.
"The objective in end-of-life replacement isn't to simply invest in the latest gee-whiz software delivery model, or cloud computing infrastructure, or server virtualization, but to apply the benefits of the newer technology in fettering out and resolving the most obvious pain points in your IT management organization," Keyworth wrote.
- Migrate during off time: While some migrations can be done slowly to reduce the immediate impact, others are best when the change is carried out in one fell swoop. When this latter option is favored, it is best to do the actual migration when the technology is not being used by employees - after office hours or on the weekend. This will prevent workers from not having a system accessible, ensuring productivity is not hampered by the process.
- Train key employees: Finally, before the new solution is deployed, IT managers should ensure that those who will leverage the system are properly trained in its use. Hosting several small training meetings can allow participants to ask questions and get the most out of the meeting. Covering the basics up front will ensure that users understand the main functions, and other, more in-depth training sessions can follow soon after.
Dealing with end-of-life technology can be a challenge, but can also offer opportunity for a business. And thankfully, as opposed to the ill-fated "Friends" spin-off "Joey", the new solution can provide a powerful resource for the enterprise.