When a business is humming along, no one wants to rock the boat. Many of us are creatures of habit, and the idea of making a significant change to the software that’s pivotal to your business can be intimidating.

So when software reaches its end of life (EoL), professionals struggle with what to do next. EoL is a term used to describe a software solution that the manufacturer deems no longer useful. But useful is undoubtedly a relative term for the customer, and an estimated 10% of organizations are affected by EoL issues. In reality, this usually means that the vendor will no longer offer technical support, requests for updates, or training.

Still, it seems reasonable to assume that a company should be able to migrate from one system to another before the software enters the EoL stage. So why do so many companies neglect to do so? They simply don’t realize it’s time. For companies juggling a hodgepodge of hardware and software solutions, failing to maintain and keep track of network inventory can leave the business flat-footed.

Whether it’s security and compliance weaknesses, poor reliability and performance, or compatibility issues with your other applications, navigating the perils of EoL software presents a challenge.

If you’re facing this issue, you essentially have three options: ride it out, update the software with a vendor’s new solution, or abandon your software and install another one.

To help you make the right decision, let’s review the pros and cons of each.

Option 1: Ride it out.

There are two excellent reasons for not leaping at the chance to rid your business of

its EoL software. The first is that the solution will still work. If your vendor announces that the program will reach this phase on Dec. 31, your business can still function on Jan. 1. That’s definitely a good thing.

The second good reason? At least in the short term, letting it ride with your current software is the most budget-conscious approach. We call this a short-term strategy because you’re likely to spend the cash later that you saved upfront on ad hoc security patches and consultants to do what the vendor used to do.

Here’s the really bad news: You could be putting your company’s and customers’ data at serious risk. By losing the ability to upgrade your software with critical bug fixes, hackers can waltz right through your front door — no back door required. There are chances security patches could be available, but with a solution that has reached EoL, you’ll likely have to pay for them. Additionally, you may need to include discounts, rebates, or refunds to customers because of poor software performance.

But if you do elect to ride it out a little longer, there is one important step you need to take: Back up your documents regularly. While no one can predict a glitch that can wipe out a system, you’re more likely to encounter one with EoL software. And if you go down, you’ll want to make sure you don’t lose your data in the process.

Option 2: Update your solution with a new version.

As with the first option, there are certainly benefits of upgrading your software with a new release. Of course, the more modern solution is bound to include bells and whistles that will increase the price.

On the other hand, developers included those features for a reason. In many cases, enhancements to a new software solution originate as suggestions from customers — people who may have the same pain points as you.

If you are considering updating your software with an existing vendor, take some time to talk with your sales rep about your concerns with the current version. Better yet, conduct a series of focus groups with power users to get a feel for their likes and dislikes. By gathering that detailed information and bringing it to the vendor, you’ll gain a better understanding of the return on investment. You might also be able to deliver some much-appreciated good news to staff about software improvements.

Option 3: Find another software.

The benefits of installing new software can be plentiful for your company. But before choosing which new software solution to choose, talk with your staff members about their biggest gripes and limitations experienced with the current software. As you meet with new vendors, review that feedback, and see whether the new software addresses their concerns.

The vendor that you migrate to should be able to give you advice on the appropriate steps to move your files and train your staff. You should also talk to vendors about their onboarding process, including backing up your files to ensure no permanent loss of data. Also, you must plan a strategy that includes how to troubleshoot common problems and develop metrics you hope to meet and exceed.

Determining whether to adopt new software when the current version reaches the end of life isn’t an easy decision. The best advice is to do whatever it takes to avoid having to go through this process again any time soon. That means assessing your current inventory to see what’s on the horizon and where you should focus your IT energies next.

In the short term, keeping your current software and vendor might mean a seamless transition and fewer issues. But newer platforms can open doors to advancements in technology you may have never had before. Make sure you weigh all the options before making a choice.

Lee Schwartz

CEO of EnSight+

Lee Schwartz, CEO of EnSight+, has a demonstrated history of working in the utilities industry. He has helped companies achieve better efficiency, productivity, and automation.