Technology Years and Dog Years

Dog owners are used to extrapolating their pet’s age into more human terms by multiplying their age by seven. A 10-year-old dog is roughly the same “age” as a 70-year-old person. A technology year can be more like 20 human years; your 3-year-old computer could be more like a 60-year-old person. If you have a business, old technology can hamper employee retention because there are only so many tricks you can teach an old computer.

It makes good sense to keep your technology younger and more athletic because employees feel old systems hold them back. This is especially true for employees who work remotely, including salespeople. Older systems are not as adaptable for security measures to get to protected data they need to do their jobs better. Nor are they able to accommodate the new ways innovative employees find to do their jobs more efficiently. We’ve talked to many people who have accepted less money at new jobs because they want the opportunity to improve their skills and performance levels in ways that could lead to higher pay later.

The Windows 7 end of life should give business owners with old technology reason to rethink their technology. A 5-year-old system still running Windows 7 is like a 100-year-old person who has really slowed down physically.

That’s well past the retirement age, but even more, it illustrates the problem of old technology. There are no nursing homes for old technology. The industry just doesn’t support old software and old hardware. Technology arteries harden, becoming less flexible and subject to fractures. Even if you have a Windows 10-based system, older versions of office present the same symptoms of aging. Employees are not able take advantage of new features, and that prevents them from increasing their work throughput.

Our clients who have invested in Office 365 subscriptions are benefiting from an improved work environment. Employees are “playing around” with newer, more powerful tools to do their jobs better. The Microsoft Teams tool is a major upgrade over Skype for Business. We’ve seen employees use Teams to set up meetings, share screens and use other collaborative tools, including video conferences, to get more work done faster. Any business that relies on field technicians, for example, can let them use these tools on their cell phones to chat with office-based resources and solve their customers’ problems faster and more efficiently.

If you have Office 365, all these advanced tools are part of your package. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to help you determine the tools and features that are best for your business and to help you set them up with your employees. We can also help you make sure your current hardware has the capacity to help you make use of your new tools.

Windows 7 Support Ends in January 2020

Here’s our first warning: Microsoft will end technical support of its Windows 7 operating system in January 2020. That means there will be no more security patches and bug fixes. Is that bad news? Probably not. Performance-wise, the operating system has outlived its usefulness, and all the special applications and hardware you run off it are probably well beyond their useful service life. We’d bet you’ve likely squeezed out every penny of your ROI, and Microsoft is doing you a favor (of sorts) by nudging you into its next generation OS.

The good news is that you have lots of time to plan for its replacement, and that’s important for businesses who have invested a lot of time, training and money for custom-written or highly customized software. If that’s the case for your business, you have my sympathies, but you should also know you’ve had a really good run.

We’ll talk more about the economics of performance issues in this newsletter (Refreshing Devices Re-Energizes Them – Up to a Point), but if you’re still running Windows 7, you face security issues and the need to carefully plan how you’ll replace your application software.

The loss of security patches and bug fixes will be devastating if you don’t update your technology. Because Windows 7 is an old OS, the bad guys have had lots of time to probe its vulnerabilities. Once the defenses go down, their efforts to crack a system that they can monetize will pick up. They’ll look for ways to get your financial information or disrupt your operations.

We suggest you start your transition planning now. If you have custom-written (proprietary) software, you must find out now if that software can be updated or rewritten. If it can be brought up to date to carry you into the future, your provider will need time to modify or create and test the software, and you’ll need to know how much computing power you’ll need to make it work.

We can help you look at the computer specs needed to meet your processing requirements, and we can work with your software provider to make sure hardware and software are coordinated. Microsoft is planning a massive Windows 10 update this month, and it’s reasonable to expect another update if you plan to have your new system up and running before the end of 2019. Working together, we’ll have the best chance to make sure that your new application software is compatible with the OS updates and that it will work throughout the lifetime of Windows 10 and its successor.

If you’re upgrading your software to work with Windows 10, we can’t encourage you enough to upgrade your hardware, especially if your current hardware is way below current standards. The new OS and application software will be written to work with most up-to-date and most-likely-to-be-improved processors. If you match your hardware and software systems properly, you’ll get performance levels that have the capability to make your business more efficient and profitable for a longer time.

This will move you into a new realm of business and technology management. Once we know how all the ideal pieces should fit together, we can help you budget for your transition – which could be spread out over 18 months or so. We can help you bring in new computers in stages that match your software development, so that you and your employees can test systems and offer feedback to all of your providers.

With proper budgeting, scheduling, testing and training throughout the process, we can help you coordinate all the steps involved so that we can install your system and have all employees trained on their new hardware and software with minimal – if any – downtime.

It’s not too early to start the conversation. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up an appointment to discuss your migration from Windows 7.

The Windows XP Fallout and Buying Technology

More than Windows XP support will disappear after April 8, 2014. Support for Windows Server 2003 and Windows Office 2003 will cease. If you happen to depend on all three, we strongly recommend you begin your exit strategy if you haven’t done so already. And if these aren’t reason enough to upgrade, you may also be eligible for tax breaks on your new technology. Here are a few pointers to get you started or farther along on your 2014 planning.

First and foremost, don’t count on Microsoft not sticking to its guns on stopping support for XP and the 2003 products. As one industry commentator pointed out, the company gave its customers and their support organizations warnings for the last four years. If you haven’t planned your transition, you have only yourself to blame.

Section 179

If you have been dutifully budgeting for your transition from XP and the 2003’s, you should be planning now to buy desktop and laptop computers capable of running 64-bit versions of Windows 7. If Microsoft XP going away is not a strong enough stick to motivate you to buy, the Federal Government has a carrot: Section 179 of the Tax Code.

Section 179 lets you claim a full deduction of the price you pay for new and used computer hardware and off-the-shelf software purchased or leased and put in service between Jan. 1, and Dec. 31, 2013. Off-the-shelf software is software available for purchase by the general public – not custom-written. The value of all qualified purchases and leases is limited to $500,000, and you must use them for business at least 50% of the time.

If you will not make a profit in 2013 and will not pay taxes (this is separate from not filing a tax return), you can carry forward a 50% deduction to a year when you will have a profit and pay taxes.

You should check with your tax advisor to make sure you apply the provisions of Section 179 correctly. In fact, your tax advisor could find more benefits for you.

What to Buy

Computers with Windows 7 operating systems are still available, and we can help you with selecting them and buying them. Windows 7 computers are not readily available in retail stores or from many online vendors. As the time draws near for Microsoft to pull the plug on old technology, supplies will get tighter.

As we’ve talked to people about the upgrade, we’ve been asked about other operating systems, such as Mac and Linux. We don’t expect Linux to be a big player in the consumer or small-business markets. Part of the reason is that most users will find it different from what they’re used to and that there won’t be as many people able to service Linux computers.

Macs, on the other hand, can be a viable alternative. You can run PC programs on Mac systems, and you can use Macs or PCs if you access programs and data files through cloud computing. Another advantage is that Macs are sold through retailers, including both Apple stores and dealers. If you have a computer crash, you can buy a new one, bring it back to the office or your home and start setting it up in a matter of hours. We sometimes wonder if Dell and other major suppliers to business missed the boat by not having a strong retail presence.

In addition to new computers, you should replace your Windows 2003 servers and your Windows Office 2003 software. As with XP, the lack of Microsoft support will make them more vulnerable to attacks from hackers, and your operating efficiency will drop drastically. Attacks and inefficiencies could well cost you much more money than replacing those systems now.

Don’t Forget Your Router

And while we’re on the subject of upgrades, you should also take a look at your router. Verizon, for example, is offering a router – called a gateway – for FIOS® services and technology. While the fiber optic technology is blazing fast, the gateway is more like a gate. If you want or need faster Wi-Fi and/or a stronger network to run multiple computers and devices, including large-screen, high-definition TVs, you’ll want a better consumer-grade product.

A consumer-grade product is better even if you have standard cable for TV, Internet and phone. You will get better network performance with a better router than the gateway your provider supplies.

In both cases, you will still need the provider’s equipment. However, we can set up a bridge to send the Wi-Fi signal to your router.

We can help you select the best routers and Wi-Fi equipment for your office and home-office needs and make sure they are set up to give you all the benefits of your service. Getting a new router makes sense every few years because the components can wear out during the temperature swings that come from normal use.

Put Section 179 of the Tax Code to work for you. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or send us an email to talk about technology purchases that Uncle Sam can help you make.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.