Top of Golden Gate Bridge peeking out of cloud cover
PHOTO: Robert McLay

Everyone knew it was coming and now here it is — the end of support from Windows 7. But it’s not the only major Microsoft product that has reached the end of the road. Other products like SharePoint Server 2010, Windows Server 2008, Office 2010 and Visual Studio 2010 also facing retirement.

What End-Of-Support Means

According to Microsoft, upon retirement or end-of-support, there will be no new security updates, non-security updates, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates. Any company that is still using them is creating a serious security risk for themselves.

For enterprises requiring more time to move to the latest product, the Extended Security Update (ESU) program is available for certain legacy products as a last resort option. The ESU program provides security updates for up to 3 years, after the End-of-Support date.

At this stage, though, if you don’t know what to do, moving to the cloud would be the obvious solution, although even that takes time. Since the introduction of Office 365 in 2011 Microsoft has been urging enterprises to take this jump and has a number of offerings of to enable it. This is not just a blatant advertisement for Microsoft though. While it is hard to estimate just how widespread Microsoft is, even in the productivity space, statistics from one survey after another show that all its products are firmly embedded in the enterprise.

According to Statista, in its 2019 financial year, Microsoft generated $41.16 billion U.S. dollars from its productivity and business processes segment and a further 39 billion through its intelligent cloud segment. The research cites rapid growth in these two area with 2019 proving to be the company’s most successful year ever in terms of annual revenue. In all, the total figure eclipsed one hundred billion dollars for the second time in the company’s history.

Microsoft is the enterprise productivity champion and although more people use Google apps, according to recent data, the 44.3 % of the productivity market alone it holds has a deep footprint in the enterprise space. And this is not even talking about operating systems and other technology that are used by organizations globally.

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Losing Control?

Brian Mulligan is VP of Sales at the Kelser Corporation, an IT consulting firm in Connecticut. He said that with all these products coming to the end-of-life many organizations are indeed looking at the cloud but are worried that the loss of control that may ensure will hurt their business. “Many people worry that losing control to the cloud will negatively impact their business operations. However, there are many strong and important reasons to consider the move to Office 365 and cloud-based Microsoft offerings that should be considered,” he said. There are three major advantages:

1. Cloud Security

The first of those considerations is that security in the cloud option has much to offer. The  encryption, anti-virus and keeping them up to date for the end user is a major bonus for any organization. Additionally, patching is done automatically, so there is no need to worry about checking for the latest patch release.

Microsoft cloud-based services also supply a service level agreement, leveraging multiple global data centers to minimize the impact of any outage. They have built their cloud offering with redundancy in mind. They also have a 99.9% scheduled uptime which focuses on the reliability that customers not only need, but expect.

2. Physical Hardware

Server and storage costs, licensing and power can become a savings by reducing the amount of physical hardware you need on premises and you would also eliminate the refresh costs. If you have ever had to upgrade the version of your office suite, you know that this is typically a laborious process.

With Office 365, the end user is getting the most up to date versions automatically, minimizing the time that an IT department needs to spend upgrading software. This allows for more of a business focus for the IT department rather than the mundane tasks of updating operating systems and software.

Cost also becomes an issue with capital purchasing and having to purchase the maximum number of licenses needed for your organization. This becomes a rigid, inflexible way of purchasing licenses. By using the cloud version of Microsoft, it allows you to flex and scale as your size ebbs and flows, giving you the ability to plan a predictable monthly expenditure. It also eliminates the costs associated with upgrades.

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3. Collaboration

Collaboration tools such as SharePoint should also be considered when deciding between clouds versus on premises. Making your organization efficient is imperative for all businesses to function to their highest level of capability. Rather than using Dropbox, emailing documents, or putting files on portable media such as flash drives, users can seamlessly update important documents right in a browser and collaborators can see the file change in real time as the updates are happening. This functionality alone can put time back in your already hectic day. “Is the time right for a move to the cloud? Each IT decision-maker has to decide what is best for their organization. However, the time is now to make a decision and upgrade your end-of-life OS and software,” he added.

Stella Samuel is the Team Manager at San Francisco-based Brandnic.com. She adds that Microsoft Cloud has become very important since it’s a cloud computing service offered by Microsoft Corporation. Through the Microsoft cloud, personal data is typically secure and readily available at any time. This should hold even to those who are using updated versions of Windows and other Microsoft products.

Don't Make Hasty Decisions

However, Evan Schneyer, CEO of Outlaw, a contract management company based in New York City, warns against rushing into anything.  He said that any enterprise SaaS vendor in their right mind knows that the idea of a wholesale move away from Microsoft is terrifying to procurement and ops teams everywhere. “So, no, it’s not time for that. Even upgrading to Microsoft’s own cloud products can be a major challenge, and that’s with Microsoft’s own encouragement (or coercion, as is the case with end-of-support announcements),” he said. “I would more say that 2020 is a great time for these same procurement and ops teams to take a more nuanced approach to finding the right tools for more specific jobs in order to meet their constituents’ business requirements.”

He also pointed out that while Microsoft’s Office 365 suite is strong horizontal software that can be used for a wide variety of general tasks, when it comes to more specific needs such as CRM or contracting software, there are other vertical "platforms" that simply address the needs far better, because that’s what they’re built to do!

That said, it is imperative for these vertical vendors to embrace Microsoft’s market-leading position and play as nicely as possible — meaning seamless integrations and doc format translations to and from Microsoft formats — to ensure that they are fully meeting customer needs.