Using 2003 or XP?  Something older?  I have little sympathy for you.  Things get old.  Software is constantly evolving and those creating it utilize new features and capabilities that (in theory) bring you more capabilities and ease of use.  It's impossible for any software developer to support everything they've ever created indefinitely.  Their abilities to continue innovating would grind to a halt.  Even for the largest of companies, like Microsoft.  They MUST cut off support at some point.  Microsoft has, it would seem, set this standard to 10 years.  Given how long that is and the advancements that can be done in 10 years, in my opinion, that is reasonable.  XP and Server 2003 are now 14+ years old.  WELL BEYOND their support life.  

Now I'm confident Microsoft doesn't actively seek to "break" their newer products ability to connect to the older, now unsupported ones, but I would say it's reasonable to EXPECT they no longer test and see if a Windows 10 computer can connect to a 2003 domain.  They MAY, at points, decide to remove functionality from 10 but I'm confident they do so to improve security.  And if that aspect that is removed happens to be the "main" way something was done in an older version that is no longer supported? Well, they warned you!

Ten years is a reasonable time frame.  If you're using what is now antiquated technology, I have little sympathy.

"Fine Lee, but what about me - I use a program that controls a device that requires it run on Windows NT 4.0? [or 2000] [or XP] [or 2003]?". First, is it the cold hard truth that you have no choice about that?  Is it possibly you're running this program /using this device because it means you'd have to spend some money?  Specifically to get a new version that does support the newer operating systems?  Or perhaps there's a competitor that provides similar product but you don't want to spend the money on it and learn it?  Not an excuse. Proper management means when you bought this you should have immediately started planning for it's replacement.  If you can push that replacement, great, but PLAN for it at the time of purchase and you won't put yourself in this position.  That planning means saving/pricing your goods or services so you can save for the devices replacement.  Car manufacturers have to retool or go out of business because every other manufacturer will and put them out of business with newer, better manufacturing methods.  What makes you so special you don't think you have to do this?  Even if you are in a niche market, consider the havoc forced lax security would cause when the device you're using requires you to use outdated software.

At the end of the day, you have the control. the problem is you weigh the risks and think it's worth it.  Until it's not.  Until you're out of business because your ancient software was hacked by malicious people for whatever reason - extortion, competitive advantage, hatred by an exployee, whatever.  And it could have been prevented if you just did the right thing...  I feel for your employees... but NOT you.

Now rant said, there CAN still be, in my opinion and experience, RARE occasions where you can be forced to use out-dated technology.  In those instances, you *MUST* take severe precautions.  Backups.  FREQUENTLY.  And the computer running the unsupported software should be isolated from the rest of the company network.  Find ways to make it work that don't just minimize the chance of a problem with the rest of the network - those ways should all but eliminate that chance!
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by:Jim Dettman (EE MVE)
Ten years is a reasonable time frame.

That's according to you.    Why should someone who has perfectly functioning software and everything that goes with it, which does everything they need it to do, give it up just because it becomes "old"? And why do software vendors like Microsoft grant a *perpetual* license for use of their software?   They are stating right up front when you buy it that you can use it forever.

 The flip side of this is that updating is not painless by any means.  Case in point; just recently updated a client to Office 2016 and a new color laser.  They now cannot perform a simple business function, which is to print a envelope with an address.

 Word sends the media size to the printer, but not the media type, so it says "Print on a #10 envelope".  Default media stock is plain paper.  Printer however is smart enough to realize that your not printing on plain white and refuses to print a #10 envelope on anything but envelopes or card stock (because it needs to adjust the fuser temperature).  End result; the print job is stuck and cannot be printed.

 Yup, all that "new" technology they just spent some good money on has now given them *less* then what they had before.  So much for updating.   Viruses don't matter at this point, because they can't even carry out their business.

 That's just one simple example.   What about a company with hundreds or thousands of PC's, employee's that need to be trained, software verified, installed, updated, etc.  The impact of upgrading every few years can be over whelming and a significant cost, all in the name of newer is "better".

 Last, is it the users fault that Microsoft had a flaw in their software allowing this to happen?  No, of course not.

 So before you point the finger at end users and have little sympathy for them, maybe you ought to consider who's fault it really is.

  I actually have a lot of sympathy for them because they are often forced into upgrading when they have no real need to do so.
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by:Lee W, MVP
That's according to you.

Quite right - and I realized I put the "opinion" part in the wrong place and so I've made a slight edit to the above.  

Why should someone who has perfectly functioning software and everything that goes with it, which does everything they need it to do, give it up just because it becomes "old"? And why do software vendors like Microsoft grant a *perpetual* license for use of their software?   They are stating right up front when you buy it that you can use it forever.

Ah, but that's the problem - it's NOT perfectly functioning software.  There are a dozen or more issues corrected with Windows every month.  It's FAR from perfect.  And yes, perpetually licensed software grants the right of perpetual use - HOWEVER, it does not mean that you SHOULD use it.  Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

The flip side of this is that updating is not painless by any means.  Case in point; just recently updated a client to Office 2016 and a new color laser.  They now cannot perform a simple business function, which is to print a envelope with an address.

Word sends the media size to the printer, but not the media type, so it says "Print on a #10 envelope".  Default media stock is plain paper.  Printer however is smart enough to realize that your not printing on plain white and refuses to print a #10 envelope on anything but envelopes or card stock (because it needs to adjust the fuser temperature).  End result; the print job is stuck and cannot be printed.

So you're saying they purchased the wrong product?  They didn't research it well enough? Was the existing printer less than 10 years old?

That's just one simple example.   What about a company with hundreds or thousands of PC's, employee's that need to be trained, software verified, installed, updated, etc.  The impact of upgrading every few years can be over whelming and a significant cost, all in the name of newer is "better".

Define few.  You say few I think 3-5.  And yes, I completely agree - massive upgrades every 3-5 is a burden and frankly, unnecessary.  However, TEN, in my opinion is more than reasonable.  Many hard drives won't last that long.  Or system fans.  Trying to keep hardware > 10 years is not a wise move.  Again, in my opinion.

Last, is it the users fault that Microsoft had a flaw in their software allowing this to happen?  No, of course not.

 So before you point the finger at end users and have little sympathy for them, maybe you ought to consider who's fault it really is.

No, it's not the users fault.  But when people have been routinely using computers for nearly 25 years in most business and as things have only gotten more and more complex, the user needs to understand the complexities and involved.  You cannot reasonably expect TEAMS of people, asked to write a massively complex system that supports so many independent technologies and then the technology manufacturers to all work together flawlessly and without any security issues.  You have to have reasonable expectations.  Given the complexities, it is reasonable in my opinion to ask a software vendor / hardware vendor that makes software for their product to support it for 10 years.  Beyond that, given how technology has advanced historically, is, in my opinion, unrealistic.  

As I said, in the RARE case that new device or program that can provide the functional equivalent of what the old, now very outdated product did is NOT available, then I DO have some sympathy for you.  But in my experience, this is ALMOST always a PICNIC (Problem In Chair, Not In Computer) problem.

And I want to be clear.  I consider 10 years a suitably long period of time to make the vast majority of technological investments allow a sufficient return before replacement.  Not 9 years, not 7 years, not 5 years, not 4 years, not 3 years, not 2 years, and not 1 year.  Or any variation less than 10.  It is my belief that sometimes vendors do - to be blunt - screw the customer - like printer manufacturers who discontinue a printer line and when the new Operating System is released next year, refuse to provide drivers for it.  Or Intuit who decides to cut support after 3 years.  These are not reasonable and I absolutely have sympathy for anyone using those products.  The first time they use them.  Well, at least in the case of the printer manufacturer.  By now, you should know you're going to get screwed by Intuit, whether you're just starting a business or have been in business for years.
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by:Jim Dettman (EE MVE)
I think we see this from two very different angles, but just to follow through on a few things:

Ah, but that's the problem - it's NOT perfectly functioning software.  There are a dozen or more issues corrected with Windows every month.  It's FAR from perfect.

Is that a valid reason though for forcing them to upgrade?  They didn't write the software after all.   All they want to do is use it.    And what happens when they do upgrade?   They trade one set of problems for another and potentially loose features they need.  So why would they want to upgrade if all their needs are met and everything is working as it should?  Why should they have to?   Software doesn't "wear out" after all.

So you're saying they purchased the wrong product?  They didn't research it well enough? Was the existing printer less than 10 years old?

 No, they purchased the right product.   They have a brand new version of Office, which over many versions still has the same flaw in it; it doesn't send the media size and type with a print request.    Now they have a new printer that won't let that happen.  And yes, the existing printer was less than 10 years old.

However, TEN, in my opinion is more than reasonable.  Many hard drives won't last that long.  Or system fans.  Trying to keep hardware > 10 years is not a wise move.  Again, in my opinion.

 That's hardware, not software and we were talking about software.

Given the complexities, it is reasonable in my opinion to ask a software vendor / hardware vendor that makes software for their product to support it for 10 years.  Beyond that, given how technology has advanced historically, is, in my opinion, unrealistic.  

 Given that, I look at it the other way; they should fix the problems they created for as long as the software is in use.  If they don't want it in use forever, then they should not grant a perpetual license for it's use.  That is only fair to the buyer; they know then at what point they need to replace it.

 But to arbitrarily stop supporting a product and forcing someone into a upgrade is not.

 I consider 10 years a suitably long period of time to make the vast majority of technological investments allow a sufficient return before replacement.

 I disagree.  Software is usually a significant expense when either purchased or developed.  I see nothing wrong with keeping a piece of software for more than 10 years.

 Again it doesn't ware out,and if it does the job, they why replace it?

Jim.
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by:Lee W, MVP
Jim,

I believe you are correct - we see things from two different perspectives.  And I welcome your contributions to my initial rant.  

Indeed, I do believe in some areas we can find common ground while still holding different overall opinions.  (Want to run for congress?  Maybe WE can get something done!)

Without calling out your second response as I did in the first, I'll respond to a couple of your points.

I do not (though I - and everyone else should - typically read license agreements.  I have read some and never seen this (or anything like this) stipulation: The software you are granted the perpetual license to use will no longer be supported, repaired, or otherwise updated after it's stated support lifetime.  Any flaws, security or otherwise, will not be addressed after that time.  And I will agree you have an argument on that.  Though I suspect the software developers would fall back on their statement of limited liability as a reason such a stipulation is not in the agreement.

We are talking about software, but hardware is related as OFTEN the reasons cited for continuing to use outdated software is to support outdated hardware (though often that hardware is far more specialized than a plain old computer system).

Again, it's not the user's fault the software has bugs *BUT* the user must, by now - especially in a business environment where technology has been a key asset for two decades or more - recognize that it is COMPLEX and if everyone was a good person, the bugs wouldn't matter as there would be no bad people out there.  But if you insist on using old technology and have an infection, then it's on you at this point.  At least in my opinion.  Software developers should give you a reasonable life for the product you are using.. but as much as they should be fair with you, YOU should be fair with them.  If there's a security bug that everyone - including Microsoft - knows about in Windows 10 for the last 6 months and tomorrow malware uses that to encrypt all your files, you are darn right, that's on Microsoft, not you (not that you'll have much recourse with Microsoft, but then I have definite sympathy for you).  But frankly, I don't believe Microsoft had any obligation to issue WannaCry patches for XP and 2003.  It was NICE of them that they did... but at this point - they've been REPEATEDLY warning people to get off the unsupported systems as have most IT people.

Ok, one quote:
if it does the job, they why replace it?
Since all cars wear out, if you have no car payments, cheap insurance, and it does the job of getting you places, why should you replace your 40 year old car?

Simple.  SAFETY.  The new car has anti-lock brakes, airbags, and other safety equipment the old one - that still does the job - doesn't.  Software is no different in this age of hackers and the malicious people using technology to steal from you.
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by:Jim Dettman (EE MVE)
I suppose in the end that what it boils down to is whether you consider safety a function of software or not.  I would say not.  

 But if you do, the problem is in measuring how safe it is and I don't think you ever can.   You can throw a battery of tests at it, but what's safe today may not be safe tomorrow.

 On the flip side, upgrading is no guarantee of being safe either.   To use your car analogy, if my new vehicle uses a Takata air big, then I'm not very safe am I despite that I now have an air bag.  

 So do I use "safety" as a measure in the decision to upgrade or not?   I don't see how you can.

 One could even make the argument in general that by upgrading into a situation with more complexity then what I currently have, I will probably be less safe than I am now (more complexity = more potential holes).    So in regards to safety, not upgrading may be a better choice.    Sometimes, the Devil you know is better than the one you don't.  

 To wrap this up,  I don't think there are any simple answers here of course, but I don't hold it against people for not wanting to upgrade.  I also don't think software vendors should sunset support for products they release.    If someone calls me on something I wrote 15 years ago, I'm not going to say "sorry, can't support that" just because it's old and they decided to keep it.
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by:Lee W, MVP
Funny, as I was formulating my response to you yesterday, I was going to include a reference to the Takata airbag thing - any time you add new capabilities, you get more complicated and though overall safety can improve, it can also, in some circumstances, become less safe.  I believe there is a net benefit (both with airbags and with new software's increasing complexity).

I guess it depends on how you value things.  To me, safety (security) is extremely important.  And I think most people should feel that way.  As such, people need to take responsibility for their continued existence and accept how technology generally (and technology companies) generally work and the economics attached to it.
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