When Microsoft signed the death warrant on XP it didn’t attract the hysteria of Y2K and it didn’t end in the online world being hacked apart. However, it most likely made your existing phone system obsolete. If you have an already antiquated system then it definitely ensured that your system has become nearly impossible to keep afloat. If your system is over five years old or doesn’t have the latest firmware, you are in this category and need to pay some attention to this.
How, you ask, could a decision to retire a 12 year old operating system impact my ability to communicate effectively with my customers? Simple really. The software used to maintain your phone system and the hardware to support it was built around the idea that XP wouldn’t go away so it was never updated to be supported on Windows 7 and above.
We could blame the manufacturers for not innovating and keeping their software current but the fact is that they do innovate and the old hardware can’t support all those new features that everybody loves like Unified Communications, Presence and SIP. The trend in the telecommunication industry is to only keep the current model up to date and supported. There’s no good reason and usually not the budget for manufacturers to continue to invest in software that can’t offer the latest. It could be argued that Microsoft could have learnt from this model and phased out XP a lot earlier than it did.
As a customer, you’re now in a difficult position. Generally, your IT will do the right thing and update all the PCs to protect their users and data. This is usually done without much thought for the phone system and it’s not until someone attempts to reinstall the software on their new machine that everybody realizes it doesn’t work anymore. Cue impending support call where an expectation is placed on the maintainer to fix the software or install it successfully. What you don’t realize is that this is an impossible task. You are now left in a position where you have to log and pay for support calls to make a change to the system that you used to be able to make by yourself. Eventually, though, this will cease to be an option too. The company maintaining your system is updating all their PCs too to protect their customer’s (your) data and sure, they’ll keep an XP laptop floating around for emergencies, but one day this will stop working too.
There are two consequences to this; the first is a souring of the relationship between the customer and maintainer over something that neither party is responsible for. There is a genuinely odd situation that arises out of this where customers believe that maintainers should solve all issues that result from this for free. It seems to be unique to the telecommunications sector. Would you expect your electrician to modify your fridge because Fisher & Paykel took away the butter conditioner? The second is that changes stop being made to the system; it stops evolving with the business and the ability for users to communicate effectively with their customers is compromised.
But it’s not just end users that are affected. The bread and butter for most support organizations is the ability to make moves, adds, changes (MACs) and diagnose faults remotely. In the event that a system can’t be connected to a network or has no Internet access, maintainers generally have analogue and ISDN modems as backup. In some cases, customers supported in this way don’t even have an old system. Perhaps they have sensitive data and fear the phone system is a way to access it or they just don’t want someone on their network snooping around (most maintainers have better things to do, but that’s for another day!) The old 56K modem seems to have a lease on life with USB models still supported on Windows 7/8. While this means someone can connect to the system, remember that the software needed to make changes doesn’t load anymore! The situation for ISDN modems is even more dire; it was always an expensive way to consume data and fell out of favour with the advent of ADSL so the world stopped producing them. There simply aren’t drivers anymore to make it work. With carriers forcing everyone down the SIP path on the back of the NBN too, the modem back up option is fast becoming a moot point.
Certainly, as a customer, you have the right to search out a new maintainer who can still support your antiquated system, but remember that this maintainer can support you because they haven’t updated their own infrastructure. How safe is your data with that company?
The solution then is to invest in your telephony infrastructure just as you would your IT. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to distinguish between the two. Something that will make no sense to you if the digital, monochrome display handset on your desk wires back to a frame and then to a key system mounted on the wall! This means that you need to replace systems that are failing and replace systems that don’t satisfy your customers’ requirements for contacting you; it means keeping your latest model hardware in shape with the latest firmware and on top of all of that, you need the peace of mind that no one unwanted can access your system without your knowledge.
Stay tuned for our next post where we’ll show you how we leverage Avaya technology to keep you up and running and protected.