IT Strategic Planning for 2021 and Beyond

Strategic IT Planning is a collaborative process taken with clients to understand their business needs and goals, that ultimately allows the IT budget to appropriately align with the organizational priorities. As 2021 is quickly approaching, it’s time to start planning to ensure you hit next year’s IT goals. If you haven’t yet done any sort of strategic IT planning, check out these tips to help get you started before the new year 


#1 – Asset Management  

Identify what equipment is currently performing well and what might need to be replaced to continue ensuring that work operations are happening at maximum efficiency. This step typically involves gathering all your company’s hardware and software inventory information and completing an IT audit. From there, your internal IT department or an MSP like Five Nines can identify and fill in technology gaps to minimize downtime. 

#2 – Document End-of-Support vs. End-of-Life Dates  

An end-of-support date means the product provider has decided to no longer provide a support line, while the end-of-life date is a term to describe when a product is no longer for sale. Knowing and documenting these dates for all of your equipment will ensure future IT audits run smoothly and unexpected surprises do not arise. Surprises can range from compromised data security, decreased productivity, higher maintenance costs, non-compliance issues, and problems with scalability just to name a few.  

#3 – IT Risk Assessment  

The end of the year is a great time to run an IT Risk Assessment. In this process, you’ll look at what was effective and ineffective in your IT infrastructure this yearCreate a series of questions that assess your standards, guidelines, and best practices. Use the same assessment on an annual basis to begin to understand where the gaps are and how to best fill them.  

#4 – Consider your talent  

Whether it’s an IT services partner or an internal team member, decide who you need on your team to execute the strategy you’ve developed for your business. If you’re needing to bring in an external partner or new hire, you’ll want to include this cost in your overall budget and consider what the return on the investment may be. 

#5 – Budgeting  

With remote work being heavily prevalent right now, you should ask yourself these questions: do you feel like the year went smoothly from a technology standpoint and did your workforce transition seamlessly from work to home? If not, you may want to consider budgeting for more equipment or services that could alleviate some pressure from your teams. 

Topics: End of Life, Business Continuity, Strategic Planning, End of Support

What Do End-Of-Support and End-Of-Life Dates Really Mean?

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Have you ever run into technological terms where you don't fully understand their meaning? Have you felt this way when hearing your technology is approaching "end-of-life" or that a product has an upcoming "end-of-support date"?

We'd like to give you a little insight as to what end-of-support dates are, what end-of-life means, as well as what your action items should be when your IT team tells you that one of these is approaching. This way, you will know what your engineer is talking about, and you will have peace of mind when navigating upcoming changes.


End-Of-Support dates

So, what does end-of-support actually mean? It's just how it sounds. This is put into place when a company decides to stop providing support on a specific product or service. Oftentimes this occurs when newer software or hardware is released, and support for the older version is no longer provided.

Think about it this way, whenever your technology breaks, freezes, or simply isn't working correctly, you pick up the phone and call a support line. Imagine not being able to call a support line for one of your products. If something breaks and you're in that position, it becomes a larger problem as it may not have an easy fix. This is why updating your software and hardware, and paying attention to end-of-support dates is so important.


End-Of-Life dates

End-of-life dates are slightly different, as this is the date when the product goes end-of-sale. Utilizing end-of-life hardware can be especially risky, as businesses could experience compromised data security, decreased productivity, higher maintenance costs, problems with scalability, as well as non-compliance.

According to the State of IT Study conducted by Spiceworks, end-of-life is the top driver of new technological purchases as it was reported 57% of purchases were motivated by end-of-life. In fact, 62% of small businesses are driven to purchase new technology due to end-of-life dates that are fast approaching.


Business Reviews/Budgeting

So, what should you do when you hear end-of-support or end-of-life dates that apply to your business are approaching? It's important to set a meeting with your main IT contacts to cover all of your bases. Take time to discuss all of your current products, what you should keep, what isn't necessary, and which of your hardware or software is approaching an end-of-support or end-of-life date. Even if the date is a year away, they tend to sneak up on you, so it's always good to start the discussion in order to be prepared ahead of time.

From there, you will have a clear picture that will help you to budget and prioritize for the upcoming year. You will have the opportunity to really plan ahead and allocate your IT budget dollars in the right places.

For free presentation slides from the 2018 NE Tech Summit titled, "End-of-Life: The Technology Graveyard", click below. This presentation will provide you with tools to create an end-of-life management plan, and will outline upcoming and recent end-of-life dates you should be aware of.

Click Here To Access The Presentation

Topics: End of Life, End of Support

The IT Software Life Cycle: 3 Things To Know

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Your organization's users interact with different IT software platforms every single day, so it's important to ensure they are not playing a role in a potential security breach without even realizing it. If software end of life schedules aren't prioritized, these breaches could happen, which is why IT software life cycles must be top of mind to increase overall up-time and eliminate any possibility of a breach.

What does end of life really mean for software? How do end of life schedules impact the security of your organization? How can you implement application dependency planning to keep IT software life cycles at the top of your to-do list?


End of life schedules are inevitable, all products have a supported life cycle where they will be the most protected and work more efficiently. These end of life schedules represent a period of time when a version of a software product is no longer supported, and security is no longer actively provided, to make room for the newer available versions. Once the end of life date of a product has arrived, the provider will no longer provide security patches or updates for that version, regardless if users are still utilizing it. Companies such as Cisco, VMware, and Microsoft release software end of life dates typically 18 months ahead of time so organizations can plan and budget for these changes.

When analyzing an entire IT environment, it's important to be prepared to transition with these end of life schedules. How can you prepare for potential upcoming changes? Start by mapping out all of the business critical software platforms that are in use, and keep a documentation of them so you know exactly what your organization's IT environment is working with at all times. Using this list, refer to the websites of any vendors used to figure out any deadlines that you must be aware of and keep an inventory of deadlines. Not only does this help you and your IT team to budget changes to your IT infrastructure ahead of time, it also allows your organization to be out in front of any security risk.


If you don't prioritize the life cycle of your IT software, there are significant security risks that can leave your IT environment exposed and vulnerable. According to Security Scorecard, out of 349 breached companies analyzed, 58% were found using products that had exceeded their end of life dates. A potential breach in your organization's IT security could occur if IT software life cycles aren't taken seriously. End of life dates are important to keep in mind, because products don't immediately shut down once end of life is reached. The application will still work the same, but you will be vulnerable to exploits, and the software provider won't create any new patches to fix these potential security risks.


Application dependency planning helps manage all changes within an IT infrastructure, including changes regarding IT software life cycles. It's all about tracking how everything cohesively works together through an application within an operating system. This planning looks to see how applications can update and run within an operating system, making sure the entire application ecosystem is compatible. Tracking how everything cohesively operates helps to manage budget creation, timelines, and allows IT teams to make recommendations during quarterly planning. Working through these IT software requirements within an IT ecosystem helps to gather processes that can be used to benefit and support the entire environment, not to mention keep it protected in the process.

All in all, prioritizing software life cycles is just another way to be sure your IT environment is running as efficiently and securely as possible. For technology to support your organization in the most beneficial way, be sure to pay attention to end of life schedules and implement application dependency planning.

Want more advice on ways you can prepare your users to recognize a potential IT security breach? Click below to download our flier on Social Engineering Red Flags to share with your team!

Click Here For The Free Guide

Topics: End of Life, IT, Tech Solutions, Cybersecurity, IT Software

How To Know When It's Time To replace a server

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To find out how Five Nines goes beyond the tools to inject a human element when checking on your network, download our FREE infographic: 

Click here for our FREE infographic

Your server is a diamond in the rough of the technology that runs your business. It supports all your hard work; projects, processes, and important organizational documents. Taking good care of your server will keep it running at its highest efficiency level, keeping the production of your business focused and continuous.

To accomplish this, it’s important to keep a close eye on the status of your server or servers. You may find yourself asking, "How will I know when it's time to replace my server?"



It's important to look at how long you have had a server. On average, physical servers typically last 3 years without hardware issues such as overheating, or failing parts. Once the 4-6-year mark hits, your server may begin to slow down, or continue to overheat. Once you start seeing a decrease in the performance of your server that is older than 3 years, it may be time to consider a replacement. Replacing the server parts or installing upgrades aren’t as effective as they used to be.



When your server is down, your productivity has the potential to be at a standstill. When employees can’t work, this can cause angst and frustration for everyone and brings business to an unpleasant stop. Losing time and money is never a favorable scenario, so it's paramount you pay attention to how long your server is down, and how often downtime occurs. If your server is older, or has developed issues that cannot be resolved, it may be time to invest in a new one. This could save you money on downtime in the future.



How reliable is your server proving to be? Is your information secure? Are you able to access and share files at the click of a button? Pay attention to the overall performance of your server: speed, storage, accessibility. If you find a flaw in any of these details, you may need to get a second opinion on the reliability of your server.



Pay attention to how problems are detected within your server. If your server does not detect problems at all, you may want to consider building a fail-safe into it. Fail-safes help detect issues with files before they arise, so you can prevent technical problems before they happen. This could help save and lengthen the life of your server.


If a server is decreasing in consistency, and increasing in downtime, it is time to reconsider purchasing a new one. The productivity of your business depends on the efficiency of your server or servers. Be sure to prioritize the upkeep of this key technical component, as it will keep your business technology running smoothly.


Topics: Security, Outsourced IT, End of Life

Windows 7 & Windows 8 End of Sale – What you need to know before upgrading to Windows 10


Windows 10, quickly became a hot topic after its release date in July, 2015. Many people were extremely excited to take the leap and upgrade to the latest software. For those of you who have waited – you are probably in a much better place. Before upgrading it’s vital to understand the details behind the change and the safest way to upgrade your computer.

You may be thinking, “but I have Windows 7 or Windows 8 which goes END OF SALE this year.” End of Sale just means that you will no longer be able to purchase PC’s with this version of Windows pre-installed. Luckily, support for Windows 7 and 8 will be covered until 2020 and 2023 respectively.


What should you know before upgrading to Windows 10?

Windows 10 purchased with the PC (called OEM licensing) can be downgraded to Windows 8.1 or Windows 7. If you purchase a volume license of Windows 10 (which cost more), you can downgrade to ANY previous version of Windows, although we don’t recommend using anything past Windows 7.  

One of the benefits of having Windows 10 pre-installed on your PC is even if you downgrade to Windows 7 or 8.1, you’ll still have access to upgrade to Windows 10 in the future without having to purchase additional software.  Waiting will give Microsoft the chance to work out any bugs that still exist before you roll this version out company wide.

Another reason to wait? Most line of business applications are not yet supported through Windows 10 making it difficult for many businesses to run their typical day-to-day operations.

If & when you chose to upgrade your company software, it will be important to provide training to your team, the new upgrade can take a little time to get used to.

Want to decline the windows upgrade or go back to an older version?

 Click Here For The Instructions 


Topics: End of Life