The Dangers of Running Outdated Software and Hardware

Publication date: Mar 02, 2023

Last Published: Oct 19, 2023

Table of Contents
Read Time : 6 minutes

All responsible car owners know that it’s extremely dangerous to be on the road with brakes that are past their life expectancy. At best, worn-out brakes make it more difficult for the driver to safely reach the intended destination. At worst, they can cause an accident and put other people’s lives at risk.

While many business owners don’t realize it, the same principle applies to the risks of outdated software and hardware.

If your business relies on outdated systems, software, and hardware that has reached its end-of-life, moving forward toward achieving your goals may be difficult.

That’s because there are many dangers associated with running outdated technology, including security, performance, and reliability issues.

Understanding the risks of using outdated software will help you make informed decisions about upgrading and maintaining your technology infrastructure.

1. Compromised Security Posture

It’s estimated that around 60 percent of all data breaches occur because of a known but unpatched vulnerability. In other words, businesses with outdated systems that no longer receive patches are at a significantly higher risk of a cyber attack and data breach than those whose systems are not rife with easily exploitable vulnerabilities—many of which can be detected by cybercriminals remotely using readily available vulnerability scanning tools.

A good example of how severely can outdated software and hardware compromise the security posture of a business was provided in 2017 by the WannaCry outbreak. This ransomware attack impacted over 160,000 users around the world, 98 percent of whom were running Windows 7 instead of the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system that was available at the time, Windows 10.

Therefore, businesses should always use the latest versions of all software and hardware solutions they rely on. If frequent patching results in some downtime and loss of revenue, then that’s the price that must be paid because the alternative can be far more expensive.

DoD Contractor’s Guide to CMMC 2.0 Compliance

2. Difficulties With Achieving and Maintaining Compliance

Businesses of all sizes across virtually all industries face the growing challenge of achieving and maintaining compliance with cybersecurity regulations. Relying on outdated technology can make this challenge impossible to overcome because unpatched systems and compliance are like water and oil: they don’t mix.

That’s something all Department of Defense contractors that have already familiarized themselves with the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) know. As stated in the CMMC practice SI.L1-3.14.1, businesses must “identify, report, and correct information and information system flaws in a timely manner.” Those that fail to meet this foundational requirement can forget about obtaining the certification and winning government contracts.

3. Performance Issues Affecting Productivity

Moore’s law dictates that the number of transistors on a computer chip will double every 18 to 24 months, and this law has held true ever since Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, came up with it in 1965. What this means in practice is that personal computers or servers that are just a few years old perform noticeably worse than the latest models—not to mention their dramatically lower energy efficiency.

Likewise, software developers have been taking advantage of the steady increases in compute power to create more sophisticated and feature-rich applications. These applications, however, have higher hardware requirements, so they run optimally only on modern systems, leading to performance issues when installed on outdated hardware.

Several studies have examined the impact of computer performance on employee productivity and found that employees whose software and hardware is fast and responsive are more satisfied, less frustrated, and overall more productive.

4. Data Loss Caused by Poor Reliability

Outdated hardware and software can cause severe reliability problems that may lead to data loss, whose cost is steadily increasing as businesses store more and more data.

In some cases, reliability-related data loss occurs because all modern storage devices have a limited lifespan. That’s true even for the latest solid-state drives (SSDs), all of which store data on flash memory chips that can withstand only a certain number of program-erase cycles before they begin to fail. A business that keeps its data on aging storage devices without proper backups is almost begging to experience a data loss incident.

But reliability-related data loss may also be caused by software, namely by unpatched software bugs and other issues leading to application and system crashes. Additionally, outdated software is by definition not optimized for modern hardware, which further degrades the overall reliability due to various compatibility issues.

5. Lack of Customer Support

The IT industry marches forward at a relentless pace, and it often doesn’t take much time for software and hardware products to stop being supported by their developers. Microsoft, for example, provides five years of mainstream support, followed by another five years of extended support. That may seem like a lot, but the Windows 8.1 operating system, whose extended support ended on January 10, 2023, still has a market share of 2.3 percent.

Cybercriminals see computers running Windows 8.1 and other unsupported operating systems the same way a lion sees a wounded antelope because they contain known vulnerabilities that can be exploited with minimal skills using freely available hacking tools and malware. And since no developers are actively working on fixing these vulnerabilities, they can take their sweet time and attack when it will hurt the most, such as during the holiday season.

The lack of customer support also means that day-to-day technical issues encountered by end users are much more difficult—if not impossible—to fix. This can result in lost productivity for the business and frustrated employees who cannot perform their work efficiently.

6. Lost Revenue and Increased Spending

Each of the above-described dangers of running outdated software and hardware can cause a business to lose revenue or give it no other choice but to spend more money to keep the gears turning. For example, compromised security can result in costly data breaches and associated regulatory fines and legal fees, while productivity-affecting performance issues can make it impossible for employees to complete all assigned tasks.

That’s why businesses that choose not to upgrade their software and hardware because they want to save money in the short run inevitably end up losing money in the long run. And the longer a business waits to upgrade its technology, the more significant the lost revenue and increased spending become.

Bottom-line: Don’t Let Your Software and Hardware Become Outdated

The takeaway here is clear: Businesses should view software and hardware upgrades as investments in their future success—investments that can pay off big time in terms of improved efficiency, productivity, competitiveness, and other important business traits.

But how can businesses prevent their technology from becoming outdated? We at OSIbeyond strongly believe in the cloud-first approach, whose goal is to move all or most software and hardware to the cloud to take advantage of its largely maintenance-free nature.

However, this does not resolve the need to maintain and upgrade endpoints such as laptops and desktop computers, which should not be used in production environment after they are end of life.

Contact OSIbeyond to schedule a meeting and discuss how we can help bring your IT systems current and assist with maintaining lifecycles in the future. Our IT support & strategy services are tailored to meet the needs of small and medium-sized organizations in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

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