What is the cost of supporting legacy, unsupported software? Who absorbs the cost? These are questions that are left unanswered a lot and there is a constant struggle in the managed services field about whether it is profitable enough to continue supporting old software that is hard to manage.

We run into this a lot and I know from personal encounters that it is down right painful. I once ran into a company that HAD to run a single machine on Windows 98 because they utilized mapping software that they were so emotionally attached to that it was impossible to show them that newer software existed that did more, better. At what point, as a managed services provider, do you say enough is enough of supporting something and tell the customer that the software will be run “at their own risk”? The answer to that lies in how “hungry” a company is to make a few dimes off someone instead of investing their time elsewhere to make more money.

There will come a time that the hardware that the old legacy system is sitting on will fail and even worse perhaps the entire hard drive becomes corrupted. In the case of the Windows 98 guy he would be screwed more ways than one. Sure, he can have all the backups he needs; however, I sincerely hope he still has his installation disks for Windows 98 and hardware for it to run on. Also, much luck to him on security (or lack of it) in Windows 98. The place that I worked for that encountered this guy ultimately just dropped his contract and said “good luck” to him on his outdated, unsupported software. I felt that was the correct measure to take because it was wasting countless man hours trying to fix it and that time could have been better spent on analyzing current customers systems and looking for opportunities elsewhere or just making sure other clients were better supported.

Could they have increased his cost of support and kept it? Sure, but why? The psychology behind it all is that if a person pays more for something they expect a whole lot more even though the reason for increasing the rate is their unwillingness to upgrade. You’ll find yourself at the cross road of telling them “there is nothing that is worth our time doing to fix your unsupported system” and them screaming about how much they pay you to support it.

The best advice? In your SLA you should have a clear statement about how you will not support software that is End-Of-Life and especially software from companies that are defunct and no other third party support is available. Save yourself the headache.

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