Users must be prepared for software obsolescence


POSTED: Sunday, August 23, 2009

Software products typically go through a life cycle, commencing with “;availability”; or the date the product is first sold, through “;end of life,”; aka EOL, or the date the product is no longer supported. Microsoft recently announced that it would extend the EOL of Internet Explorer version 6.0 until 2014. This was a relief for many users of the product because the effects of being declared EOL can be quite drastic.

What does EOL really mean? For just about every software vendor, EOL means that technical support will no longer be available for the products in question. Big deal, you say, I never call tech support, and there's still a wealth of information on the Web to rely upon.

That's partially true. But the most pertinent piece of “;no tech support”; is that software updates, patches, fixes and the like will no longer be available. This is especially crucial these days when a new security breach seems to crop up every day.

This has a ripple effect, especially if a browser goes EOL. While the browser itself may be functioning properly, new Web-based applications may not work right, and there will be no fix short of upgrade or outright replacement. Application software vendors are loath to run on EOL browsers because even they can't get technical support. The same can be said for operating systems.

What if one of your applications goes EOL? If you could live without it for a few days if something goes wrong, you have less to worry about. But if it is a critical application, you should upgrade to a supported version. After all, if for any reason your application should happen to malfunction in the future, you will be forced to upgrade. As many have experienced, such upgrades could take days or even weeks to implement. A planned upgrade should go much smoother.

In the case of Internet Explorer 6.0, many folks (upward of 20 percent of browser market share by most counts) still use the product. Many organizations have applications that remain dependent on IE6, and do not run properly on later versions, or on other browsers such as Firefox. These folks could be severely affected if IE6 went EOL.

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. Microsoft's continued support of IE6 is the exception, not the rule. People need to be aware of EOL dates for all of their software.