End-of-Life, and why you should care
Technology. The wonderful application of knowledge for practical purposes. Without technology we wouldn’t be talking to friends, family, customers or suppliers located in a town or city a few miles away, let alone halfway around the world. There’d be no Game of Thrones or Prison Break let alone the regular news programs.
The pace at which technology has grown, and continues to grow, leaves the casual bystander in awe. Unable to follow every new development, nor understand the importance of each new release. Before you know it, you start to hear that the technology, that which you’ve come to rely on and built entire business processes around has reached what has become known as “end-of-life.”
What does End-of-Life Mean?
End-of-Life (EoL / EOL) is the designated state applied to hardware or software products deemed by the manufacturer to have reached the end of its useful life. Typically, this occurs many years after the production of hardware or software development has ceased. It can also mean that the software on a particular hardware product (firmware) cannot be developed any further due to hardware limitations; such as an under-powered processor or a shortage of memory.
What that means for the owner or system administrator is that:
- No further development, updates or improvements will be made to the particular product or product line the manufacturer is retiring.
- Technical support for the product will typically be unavailable or severely limited for that product after the expiration of existing support contracts.
- The manufacture of new or spare parts will be drastically slowed or ceased entirely (most manufacturers allow for a period of hardware replacements).
- Limited or no compatibility with new features will exist, and certain features or functionality may become limited or become unavailable entirely.
Why You Should Care
It is all-too-easy to just shrug your shoulders and assume that there’s no harm in ignoring an EOL announcement for a particular product. Updating or replacing a part of your network is the stuff nightmares are made of; particularly if getting a window of opportunity to actually do the update or replacement is difficult – especially if the downtime is longer than planned.
While there doesn’t necessarily have to be any problems, the truth is that there are many hidden and often severe risks and expenses associated with trying to be willfully ignoring an EOL product.
First and foremost is the obvious. If the product is EOL, warranties, support and firmware updates will end soon or have already ceased with no option to renew or extend. This leaves you relying on the hardiness of the technology. If a problem occurs, there’s no official means to receive help troubleshooting and getting things running again. Every hour of downtime for troubleshooting is an hour of lost opportunity and can often be a significant cost to your business.
The second reason is less immediately apparent. Suppose the network is doing what it has been doing and everything is (relatively) quiet for your IT team and you aren’t taking advantage of any “advanced” features, it makes sense to squeeze as much life out of it as possible, but eventually something is going to break. For most basic networking scenarios, replacements are relatively inexpensive, but what if you have something proprietary that is no longer manufactured?
It is at that point that many IT managers realise that ignoring that EOL product didn’t really save a lot of money, because the longer a product or system is EOL, the more expensive repairs can become. Fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong with squeezing your investments as much as possible, but always do so with caution and a solid plan for upgrades and replacements.
Finally, you should care because the primary driver behind a product going EOL isn’t, as many believe, that the manufacturer is trying to force you to buy the “next latest thing” that does more or less the same thing as your current box. Sometimes a product goes EOL because the manufacturer is moving away from a certain technology or has decided to move out of a particular segment. But, most often a certain product or system is EOL because major advances have been made and new functionality has necessitated better hardware or software. There’s no telling what new functionality or feature has been developed to keep your network secure and greatly improve the workflow of your business, maximising the return on investment by increasing productivity or even just simplifying day-to-day operations.
What You Can Do
Well, it largely depends on your situation and what type of EOL or soon-to-be-EOL product you currently have. Considerations such as the current performance along with any projected usage patterns (for WiFi), increased load (for switching) or a change in policies (for CCTV) and what budget, if any, exists for upgrades and replacements weigh heavy in deciding what can be done.
For most, an upgrade to a cloud-managed product – such as Nebula – offers a migration path from the traditional one-time-purchase model that often has limitations on expansion, to a platform that grows with your business.