Protecting yourself from the risks of obsolete technology

By Larry Velez, Sinu founder and CTO

According to a recent New York Times report, on April 28, Microsoft issued a warning about a security hole that affects various versions of Internet Explorer. The flaw allows attackers to steal data from computers after they persuade people to visit websites with malicious code. According to the report: “The company [Microsoft] said it was aware of ‘limited, targeted attacks’ that tried to exploit the flaw, though it did not provide more details about them.”

This was especially troubling for the millions of people still using Windows XP, because Microsoft stopped technical support and security updates for that operating system in April. Microsoft has since released a patch to Internet Explorer for Windows XP,  trying to ride a fine line between their decision to stop supporting XP and trying to address the negative publicity they received due to the recent vulnerability. Keep in mind that any support to XP, however minimal, is a cost to Microsoft and slows its ability to move forward so we can expect them to resist any  XP support moving forward.

The ‘retirement’ of XP reminds us about the important security issues around the devices we use every day. Alongside keeping systems updated, there is a very real risk associated with solutions and devices that the industry has deemed ‘out of date.’ 

Something similar happens in technology. The 3-year-old original iPad ‘One’ works just fine, but all of the latest apps no longer support iOS 5, so a perfectly good piece of hardware will become increasingly obsolete.

Microsoft’s Windows XP will be one of the higher profile products to earn this obsolete status. Since it was so successful and used on millions of machines, the IRS, banks, and many other large organizations are slow to replace it. Smaller businesses are luckier because they do not need to replace tens of thousands of machines running on that operating system.

The larger issue that needs to be addressed is the lifespan of your business devices. We used to consider a replacement cycle of 5-8 years in the world of desktop PCs, but today, with mobile devices, it's 1-4 years depending on the device. (For more information about replacement plans, see Sinu's blog post from 3/28/13: When is your hardware 'good enough'? Creating a hardware replacement plan to support productivity.)

As you plan your company’s operating budget, assume a 3-4 year lifespan for your hardware devices and plan accordingly. Use the Sinu Store as a guideline of what today’s devices cost and plan to replace 20-30% of your company’s devices yearly to ensure no device is more than 4 years old. (To access the Sinu Store, go to Sinu Support and click the STORE tab on the far right.) Your business will be healthier, your team more productive, and your budget will have fewer surprises if you plan according to the lifecycle now dictated by today’s technology industry.