infoTECH Feature

May 20, 2016

End of Life for Internet Explorer

In January 2016, Microsoft (News - Alert) discontinued support for Internet Explorer versions previous to IE11. What impact does this have on the single IT department or global business?

While it shouldn’t impact the average home user with the default Windows Update settings, businesses are a different subject. Many businesses are not always updated to the latest patch level for a number of reasons.

IT Administrators test new releases in “sand boxed” environments to check stability

IT administrators are often restricted by red tape and providing evidence that an application will work with a companies’ applications, websites and operating systems. This is called testing in a “sand boxed” environment, and is usually completed in a pre-production network away from live systems. Microsoft’s decision to no longer support IE spells bad news for IT administrators following this practice, with many only just switching to IE10. Testing new applications is time-consuming, so these companies are faced with a choice: continue to follow this process or release an untested browser?

In its 15th year, Windows XP is not supported by IE11 or Edge

For IT administrators still using Windows XP this is one of the biggest headaches. Not only is the browser no longer supported, the only long-term solution is to migrate the entire operating system. In Microsoft’s defense Windows XP did go out of support in 2014, but premium support was an option for critical updates. Will companies justify this significant purchase any longer?

So what is the Microsoft logic in making this decision?

Microsoft is tired of companies refusing to upgrade from obsolete operating systems and applications. Last year we revealed around 60 percent of companies were still using versions IE8, IE9 and IE10! Microsoft Edge is also on the playing field so this could be a critical move to encourage customers into planning for the imminent demise of Internet Explorer and upgrading to Edge.

But it’s not all doom and gloom move, IE11 offers improved security, better backwards compatibility, heightened performance and support for newer web standards. We always encourage customers to upgrade and stay up-to-date on the latest browser for a faster, more secure browsing experience.  Microsoft has also stated that IE11 is around for the lifespan of Windows 7, 8.1 and 10, so there’s a few years before we need to review this again.

Internally designed applications

Research from 2015 shows that over the past five years the use of customized applications has risen by 60 percent. Spiraling licensing costs from “off the shelf” vendors and the flexibility of in-house application are likely causes. Custom applications face challenges due to Microsoft’s decision to halt support for versions of Internet Explorer 8, 9 and 10. On the bright side the integrated “Enterprise Mode” released for use in IE11 on Windows 7 and later could be a workaround for many companies. Enterprise Mode, which Microsoft shipped as a standalone patch in April 2015, makes IE11 behave like IE8 and even presents the old version to websites and ActiveX controls that are hard-coded for specific browser releases, however this is not an option for Windows XP and older environments.

What solutions exist for small- and mid-sized organizations?

There are two solutions for customers to work around this end-of-life challenge. The first solution is a long-term strategy involving the adoption of a systems management toolset. The toolset enables IT administrators to identify systems with older IE browsers and upgrade users when it suits the business. A systems management tool should also offer functions for swift and efficient deployments:

  1. Cloud-based systems require little to no need for servers.
  2. Agentless models don’t require agents installed on devices.
  3. Endpoints on the network are discovered and inventoried, including software and hardware.
  4. Software is distributed from a single point of control.
  5. Instances requiring troubleshooting are easily resolved with IT professional remote control.

The second alternative is the adoption of virtualized applications. Virtualization serves as a quick-fix option and is a stable way of keeping older applications running on modern platforms. A virtual application is a self-sustained, standalone program that operates its own virtual environment and requires no installation with the operating systems. This means that companies can carry on using their applications without interruption. A cloud-based systems management tool is still useful for IT administrators to deploy the virtual application.

Some additional benefits of virtualization:

  1. Retains a secure older version of IE.
  2. Protects product application investments.
  3. No need to rewrite or buy new applications.
  4. Adopts supported platforms and browser releases.
  5. Access Windows applications from any platform.
  6. All security protocols are preserved.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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