How to make peace with ‘end of life’
End of life. Or as we used to say when we were kids, "make die dead." Of course, when we were kids, that statement was usually in reference to the gecko we kept in the mayo jar with holes poked in the lid. In the acronym-filled IT world, it's abbreviated as EOL.
Windows 98 and Millennium Edition (ME) both go EOL in July of 2006. Boy, that's dramatic. But are they really dead?
First off, let's define what EOL really means. For Microsoft, and just about every software vendor out there, EOL means that public technical support will no longer be available for the products in question. Big deal, you say. You never call tech support, and there's still a wealth of information on the Web - including Microsoft's own knowledge base - which you can rely upon if you ever have a problem.
Well, that's partially true. But the most pertinent piece of "no tech support" is that software updates, patches, and hot fixes will no longer be available. This is crucial in these days when a new security breach seems to crop up every day.
This has a ripple effect, especially if an operating system goes EOL. While the operating system itself may be functioning properly, you may have difficulty adding new applications to your PC. Software vendors are loath to support EOL operating systems because even they can't get technical support.
What if one of your software applications goes EOL? Well, that depends on how important the application is to you. If you could live without it for a few days if something goes wrong, then you probably don't have to worry. But if it is a critical application, then you should upgrade to be prudent. After all, if for any reason (for example, incompatibility with the latest Windows update) it should happen to malfunction, you will pretty much have no other choice but to upgrade. As we all have experienced, such upgrades could take days to get up and running properly.
For applications that are supported, it's not unusual for the vendor to develop a special fix, or patch just for you. Of course, "you" carries more weight if you're a large organization. But no vendor will issue a special fix for software that is EOL.
If you're running stand-alone systems or systems that aren't on the Internet, and don't plan on upgrading or changing anything soon, you can probably live with EOL products for a good length of time. But there just aren't too many systems that fit this bill nowadays.
The cynical among us decry the EOL process as simply another method of built-in obsolescence. The fact of the matter, however, is that most vendors simply cannot keep supporting products that have been around for nearly a decade and still deliver and support new products.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., an information technology consultancy. He can be reached at 944-8742 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org