January 12th is Microsoft’s first “Patch Tuesday” of 2016 and it represents a significant milestone for users of the Internet Explorer browser. This date marks the official end of security updates, patches and technical support for IE versions 7, 8, 9 and 10. Users must upgrade to IE 11 or move to a different browser in order to avoid security risks.

According to NetMarketShare, IE had 37 percent of the browser market in December 2015, representing a continued decline in usage. Google Chrome has steadily gained market share, exceeding 34 percent in December 2015. Other browser platforms have held almost steady, Safari with just over 12 percent and Firefox with just over 9 percent of the market.

IE has a somewhat checkered past due to security issues and add-ons that many users felt were unnecessary. As a result, Microsoft began replacing IE with its new Edge browser in Windows 10. Edge is more modern-looking, streamlined and secure than IE.

Still, many people are still using older versions of IE, and that could spell trouble now that Microsoft is no longer releasing security patches and updates. New security threats are bound to target these browsers, and without security fixes users will be vulnerable to attack. Antivirus software can help but it works best when combined with software updates from Microsoft. Antivirus software can only block known exploits while security patches address vulnerabilities within the software itself.

Microsoft also stopped supporting Windows 8 on January 12th, and will only release updates for Windows 8.1 going forward. However, Windows 8 has less than 3 percent market share, compared to more than 55 percent for Windows 7, more than 10 percent for Windows 8.1 and nearly 10 percent for Windows 10. Remarkably, Windows XP still has almost 11 percent of the market, despite the fact that support ended in April 2014.

In addition to security risks, organizations that continue to use unsupported software face a number of issues:

  • Some websites and web-based applications won’t work properly in older browsers. Older software versions may not be able to read files from newer versions, forcing you to maintain multiple types of the same file.
  • Regulatory compliance. Unsupported operating systems and applications may not be compliant with PCI, HIPAA and other regulations requiring strong security. Organizations must upgrade to ensure protection for sensitive data.
  • Older applications tend to hamper productivity due to poor performance and limited features.
  • If you upgrade some devices and applications but not others, you end up with a confusing mix of platforms that create support headaches. Older platforms are prone to failure, risking downtime and data loss.

In 2013, Atlantic-IT.net recorded a webinar, Microsoft End-of-Support Deadlines: What They Mean to Your Business discussing what happens after support ends and why delaying upgrades creates business risk. It also explains how you can determine what IT functions you need, what options are available, and how to benefit from these end-of-support deadlines. This webinar remains relevant as Microsoft continues to sunset various applications.

We also invite you to call our Support Center for help developing a plan for migrating from unsupported software. Atlantic-IT.net, your outsourced IT department, is here to help you implement the right systems and applications to ensure robust security and best support your business.

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I'm currently a junior at Rutgers University, majoring in Human Resources with a minor in Music. My love for music has already led me to an associates degree in Music from Raritan Valley Community College.