What does Microsoft mean by end of support for a product?

The “end of support” for a product, according to Microsoft, typically refers to the cessation or end of updates, security patches, and technical assistance for a particular product. Furthermore, when a product reaches its end of support, Microsoft no longer provides bug fixes, improvements, or other forms of support.  

Microsoft’s end of support for a product typically occurs in two main stages: mainstream support and extended support. Mainstream support usually lasts for 5 years from the date of a product’s initial release. This is also followed by an additional 5 years of extended support. What this means in essence is that it can take up to 10 years after a product’s release for Microsoft’s support to fully end. However, the exact timeline can vary depending on the product and any changes to Microsoft’s policy.  

The end of support has implications for your use of a product as an organization. We will share them with you in this blog and exploit what options to take in instances where your product comes to the end of support stage.   

How long does Microsoft offer support? 

Microsoft’s end of support for a product typically occurs in two main stages. These are…   

1. Mainstream support 

Mainstream support usually lasts for 5 years from the date of a product’s initial release. This is the first stage of Microsoft’s support process. Microsoft during this phase, offers customers who encounter issues with the product support. This support can be in the form of free technical assistance, security updates, critical fixes in various forms. This level of support is available to all users, including business customers. It also includes access to self-help online resources such as knowledge-based articles, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and troubleshooting tools.   

2. Extended support 

Extended support takes effect after the first five (5) years of mainstream support ends. During this phase, Microsoft no longer offers free technical assistance or security updates for the product. Organizations can still receive security updates and bug fixes for any vulnerabilities that may arise. The caveat is that this level of support is only available with an active support contract. This means that the extended support is more limited in scope and typically only available to business customers.    

What happens when a Microsoft’s product reaches the end of support?  

After the extended support period ends, Microsoft will no longer provide any support for the product. There will no longer be a release for any further security updates or bug fixes, and technical assistance will no longer be available. It is at this point that the product can be considered officially End of Life (EOL), usually over a ten-year period. At the end of support, the product becomes vulnerable to potential security threats if not properly updated or replaced.   

There should be a conscious effort to manually update products, and this can be an additional task for your organization. There will be the need to intentionally be on an update spree to protect data and ensure your organization is secured from external security breaches.    

What are the available options for an organization whose Microsoft product is at the end of support stage?  

As an organization, there will be the need to know the products in use and when their end of support and to a large extent, end of life will occur. There should be a process to document all licenses’ start date of use. Adequate preparation must be made in terms of license purchases or seeking expert advice on what to do to avoid a halt to your daily operations, security and data breaches. The options available include…   

1. Upgrade to the latest product version. 

This will mean moving from the older Microsoft product version to the latest Microsoft product version. This can apply to various Microsoft products, including operating systems (such as Windows), productivity suites (such as Microsoft Office) and server software. An existing license purchased with support can also be used to access latest versions of a product.  

However, for European customers, there is the option to consider pre-owned software. Pre-owned software comes with the same value as new software only at a cheaper cost.   

The importance of upgrading to the latest version  

  • New Features and Enhancements 

The latest version often includes new features, improvements, and enhancements over previous versions. This can include enhanced security, better performance, new functionalities, and an overall better user experience. 

  • Bug Fixes and Security Updates 

Upgrading ensures that you have the latest bug fixes and security updates, which helps address vulnerabilities and improve the stability of the software (product). Upgrading ensures that you continue to receive support and updates.  

  • Compatibility 

The latest version may offer better compatibility with newer hardware, third-party software, and emerging technologies. This can be crucial for staying up to date with evolving technology standards. 

  • Performance Improvements 

Newer versions may be optimized for better performance, taking advantage of advancements in technology and hardware. Some Microsoft products may integrate with new services or cloud-based features that are only available in the latest versions.  

2. Migrate to a different platform (from on-premises to cloud) 

Migrating to a different platform means moving away from the unsupported Microsoft product to a newer version of the same product. Doing this will ensure that your software remains secure, receives necessary updates, and is compatible with evolving technologies. Office 365 can serve as your migration option for your on-premises Exchange email server. You then have access to better features and security compared to the older unsupported software.  

3. Engage an independent Microsoft licensing and cloud expert 

Talk to an independent Microsoft license and cloud expert once you purchase and start using Microsoft licenses (software). This will create room for adequate planning to identify and detect products in your organization and when the end of support/life will be due. This will allow the room to start scouting for options and prepare for what the cost or expertise will be required to keep operations running. You don’t want to be inconvenienced in the event of an end of support, the earlier you start planning, the better.   

4. Identify tools and resources made available by Microsoft 

Microsoft offers various tools and resources to assist organizations with their transition to a new product. The tools are varied and include migration guides, upgrade assistance, and training materials.   

As an organization, your IT team should regularly check for updates or changes to Microsoft’s end of support policy for specific products to stay informed and prepared. By staying proactive and informed, you can ensure a smooth transition to a new product and continue to receive the necessary support for your business needs.   

Why do Microsoft products have an end of support time for its products? 

Microsoft has as part of its products’ lifecycle end-of-support timelines to encourage users to upgrade to the latest versions. Engaging in the upgrade ensures they benefit from the newest features, improved efficiency, and enhanced security measures. This approach further safeguards users against vulnerabilities that could be exploited in older software versions.  

End-of-support policies help Microsoft as a manufacturer to consistently align with the ever-changing landscape of technology. As software and hardware evolve, older versions may become obsolete or incompatible with newer technologies.   

Also, by providing a clear timeline for when support will end, Microsoft allows its users to plan accordingly and stay ahead of the curve.  

End-of-support timelines can also serve as a reminder for organizations to regularly evaluate their technology infrastructure and make necessary upgrades to ensure they have the most efficient and secure systems in place. This not only enhances their productivity but also protects them from potential cyber threats.  

As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, it is crucial for users to stay up to date with the latest versions of software and hardware. Microsoft’s end-of-support policies serve as a strategic tool to promote this and ensure a smooth transition for its users.   

Can I continue using the product after the end of support? 

Yes. After the end of support for a Microsoft product, you can technically continue using it. However, doing so could expose your system to significant security vulnerabilities and risks, as Microsoft will no longer provide updates, patches, or technical support for the product.   

This lack of updates includes vital security improvements that protect against new threats, potentially leaving your system and data exposed to hackers and malware. Therefore, while it is possible to keep using the product, it is strongly recommended to upgrade to a supported version to ensure your system’s security and stability.  

Speak to our experts on your Microsoft licensing needs 

As an organization using Microsoft products, understanding the right licenses to buy and how to use them optimally can become a challenge. You will need to keep an eye on how the licenses are operating and if you are getting value for money. In the case of options that exist when products get to their end of support, the choice you make should be made expertly.  

You should be able to plan to know if after an upgrade, your programs will still be compatible with the latest versions available. With our years of experience, we can share similar scenarios and solutions we offered organizations in similar state. The cost component of the upgrade and licenses that needs to be purchased all needs to be attended to, and our experts can help you come up with a workable budget.  

Engaging our team ahead will help you come up with strategies and a road map considering all that needs to be in place for your entire product life cycle within the organization.    

Whatever your migration plans are currently, let’s help you ensure not only will your infrastructure remain secure, but you will be adequately licensed to stay complaint and save on purchases.  

We help large organizations to minimize potential disruptions in their operations and ensure the longevity of their technological solutions. This is all we do, licensing and cloud optimization and savings hence we keep an eye out for any updates in Microsoft terms and agreements, making us proactive with our support.  

Contact our team of experts to assist with a smooth transition to a new product(s) to meet your organization’s needs.   

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