Law firms must mind the Microsoft product gap

Law firms must mind the Microsoft product gap

Microsoft recently announced several of their core products would soon reach End of Life. Most will be very familiar to law firms, with many relying still on the Windows 7 Operating System, the Windows 2008 Server Operating System, SQL Server 2008 and Exchange 2010.

On 14 January 2020, there will be no security updates or support from Microsoft for PCs running Windows 7 and although computers will keep running, they will undoubtedly become more vulnerable to security risks; something every law firm needs to avoid.

It is clear law firms understand their responsibilities to manage and protect data and sensitive information, but some appear unaware how unsupported systems are likely to increase the risk of a data breach, with the passage of time only making things worse.

There is also a risk firms will fall foul of compliance regulations too. Cyber Essentials certification, Lexcel accreditation, and Solicitors Regulation Authority standards all require firms to maintain secure operating systems – with support removed, is your Windows 7 OS really current or secure?

Time and resources are an issue

Perhaps more worryingly for a large number of smaller and mid-tier law firms is the fast-approaching end-of-life date for Server 2008 and Exchange 2010. This will require these firms to upgrade, requiring the support of their practice management system (PMS) providers, which is an issue.

For the sensitive business data sitting on the PMS to be migrated successfully to the new applications, will require the time and resources of their PMS providers, who are currently busy with a huge number of such transfers and upgrades.

And of course, it’s is obvious the PMS must be fully compatible and supportive of the newer operating systems and software solutions, which, unfortunately, some are not.

Our experience in the legal sector, with more law firm clients than any other managed service provider, allows us a unique insight into the project management of such an upgrade, carrying out the technical work to facilitate the move and liaising with client and PMS for a seamless outcome.

User acceptance testing proves the rule

Some commentators have opined that when updating to Office 365, the integration between the existing mailbox and the PMS will need to be managed, but in our experience, this misses a critical point.

There is not usually a direct dependency between the PMS and Exchange Server, whether that’s a new Exchange Server version or Exchange Online. The dependency, almost all of the time, is down to the PMS integration with Microsoft Office.

Providing the PMS software supports Office 2013 and above, it will support Office 365 ProPlus – due to architectural differences between 2010 – 2013.

The areas of a PMS upgrade that need direct attention by both the provider and ourselves is the custom integration applied over the top of the PMS solution; custom macros, Office plugins, email tracking solutions and integrations with the firm’s Document Management Systems (DMS) that run alongside PMS solutions.

In simple terms, we would manage the process through implementation and extensive User Acceptance Testing (UAT), collaborating closely with both the PMS provider and the client.

Urgent but not yet critical

Whilst the end-of-life issue is a major stumbling block for firms aware they must upgrade, with little spare capacity in the process, there are a large number of firms who seem unaware of the issue and the likely consequences of doing nothing before the deadline.

Given the need to manage all the day-to-day activity in a law firm, whilst keeping the cursor moving for all their users, planning ahead for every upgrade date can be challenging, especially for firms with only a small in-house IT resource.

But this is a problem that needs a solution as close to the deadline date as possible. If it concerns you and you just need a critical ear to listen to your situation and help find a route through to a successful, speedy outcome, get in touch before it becomes a critical issue with dire consequences.

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