IT pros must update legacy Web applications on Windows 7 PCs, as Microsoft warns IT organizations that the Internet Explorer end of life will be in 17 months.
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The Jan. 12, 2016, end-of-support deadline also affects Internet Explorer (IE) 9 and 10 running on Windows 7 PCs.
Desktop administrators should begin updating their organizations' Web-based applications sooner rather than later, analysts said. If IT professionals get sidetracked with other high-priority jobs and wait until the last minute before migrating end users to newer browsers such as IE 11, this could compromise legacy data.
Procrastination could also delay the migration process past the deadline, and IT shops may not be able to fully test compatibility for updated Web apps, the analysts said.
Some IT pros believe it will be easier to update Web-based applications running on older IE versions compared with upgrading to a new Windows operating system.
"[IE] has become such a transparent piece of technology," said Mike Drips, a Houston-based IT consultant. IE 8 has been around, but with IE 9, 10 and 11, companies may run into scenarios where the applications don't run well, he added. By the time IE 8 is phased out in 2016, enterprises should be caught up, Drips said.
Analysts said they're concerned that many admins will not upgrade legacy Web apps despite the Internet Explorer end of life looming only 17 months away. Indeed, Microsoft warned that it's end of support for Windows Server 2003 was coming and finally stopped support for Windows XP in April. However, Windows XP continues to run on many PCs, and some organizations pay for custom support to ensure data integrity if they have not finished migrating to the newer OS.
"We think of new upgrades with Windows. Whether [you] have manual or automatic Windows Updates, you could have any version of Internet Explorer, and people may not know it," said Drips. He likened the IE updates to Google Chrome upgrades behind the scenes.
One potential obstacle for the browser migration process may reside in bring your own device (BYOD) scenarios. A business may have policies that do not support devices and end users running a browser that's older than IE 8, Drips said.
Browser migration tips
Third-party browser migration tools can help, but organizations need to fix the root cause of the issue, said Michael Silver, vice president of research at Gartner Inc. Industry observers recommended the following best practices to migrate older Web-based apps to a new browser version:
- Start planning for migration of old Web-based apps to a new browser version now.
- Enlist end-user departments to identify applications that may be affected and encourage end users to be part of the testing process.
- Monitor problems to ensure that incompatibility problems do not creep up in another year and that new applications will not encounter similar problems shortly after upgrading.
- Do the best to keep up with Microsoft's latest OS and browser requirements and upgrades.
Whether IT pros can ensure a smooth browser migration to IE 11 will depend on each organization.
"The real answer is to get Microsoft to back off of Windows 7, and this would resolve the issues of delaying the effect," Silver said.
Easier than a Windows XP migration
The difference between this IE 8 situation and Windows XP's recent end of life is that once the updated Web app is tested and working the implementation is easier, Silver said. In comparison, a full-blown Windows migration might require more work as companies may need to deploy new hardware, update the OS and test application and data compatibility across the board.
Microsoft should have grandfathered support of the older versions of the browsers under Windows 7 and started the new policy with Windows 8 to alleviate the potential burden for enterprises, Silver added.
Windows 7 continues to capture the lion's share of the desktop operating system market with 51.2%, Windows XP with 24.8%, and Windows 8.0 and 8.1 with 12.5%, according to Net MarketShare's July report. The remaining 11.5% includes Mac OS, Windows Vista, Linux and others.
Companies may be caught between a rock and a hard place if they can't get their applications to run on IE 11 before support ends for IE 8, Silver said.
IE 8 is the leading version of Internet Explorer today, followed by IE 11. In July 2014, Net MarketShare reported 21.6% of the desktop browser market used IE 8, compared with IE 11 at 16.8%, IE 9 at 9%, IE 10 at 6.3%, Chrome 35 and 36 at 14.8%, Firefox with 9.3%, and others at 22.3%.
It's a smart move by Microsoft because of the way it supported old browser versions, said Gary Schare, president of Browsium Inc., a third-party browser migration tools provider in Redmond, Wash. Supporting old versions was sustainable when the browser only changed every three years, but now the pace is about every 12 months, he said.