According to a recent study by Softchoice, 73 percent of organizations are using network devices that end-of-sale, up from 60 percent the previous year. In addition, 6 percent have gear that’s end-of-life, up from 4 percent the previous year.

End-of-sale refers to the date when sale of the product through manufacturer-accredited sources ends. After reaching the end-of-sale date, products are typically supported by the manufacturer for two to five years before reaching their end-of-life date. At tats point, the manufacturer will stop providing support, security updates or bug fixes for the product.

Many organizations continue to use networking equipment beyond its end-of-sale or end-of-life date because the equipment still works. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – or replace it. However, continuing to use out-of-date hardware or software simply because it continues to function comes with significant risk.

Unsupported products that don’t receive critical security patches and updates are susceptible to data breaches and malware attacks. This is particularly true for firewalls, intrusion prevention systems and other security devices that protect the edge of the network. The older a device is, the more likely it has vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers.

Older technology may not be capable of satisfying increasingly stringent compliance regulations for data privacy or meeting the performance demands of modern business applications. Also, the cost to maintain this equipment is significantly higher, and you may find that yourself covering the cost of replacement on an emergency basis when the inevitable failure occurs. Using end-of-sale and especially end-of-life equipment not only creates security and compliance issues, but could very well put your company at a competitive disadvantage.

If your organization is using end-of-sale or end-of-life products, it is important to take immediate steps to reduce risk. Perform a risk assessment and prioritize networking equipment that is critical to day-to-day operations. What equipment failure would have the greatest impact on your organization? What equipment is closest to its end-of-life?

Begin planning and budgeting to replace the most critical networking equipment first.Make sure you understand your current and future requirements related to application performance, security and regulatory compliance before choosing new technology. Depending on the level of risk, you may need to bring in a third party to assist with support, maintenance and troubleshooting.

Of course, the best course of action is to implement an end-of-life management strategy that enables you to keep your networking equipment up-to-date. The first step is to keep a detailed inventory of your networking hardware and software. Understand both the operating cost and operating life of various equipment, and monitor end-of-sale and end-of-life announcements from vendors. Based upon this information, create a timeline for replacing equipment, prioritizing critical equipment over noncritical equipment.

Just keep in mind that the end of a product’s usefullife may come before its official end-of-life. For example, technological innovation and changing market conditions can render a product obsolete, if not useless, before end-of-sale or end-of-life dates are announced. Monitor new products and evolving business and customer needs instead of simply tracking dates on a calendar.

If you’re not sure if end-of-sale or end-of-life products are being used on your network, ICG can help you take inventory of your equipment and conduct a risk assessment. Let us help you make the necessary replacements and develop a strategy that ensures your equipment is current.