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VAR Roundtable: Legacy Apps Hindering Small Business Migration To Cloud, Windows 10

Legacy software and high upgrade costs have kept small and niche end users tethered to outdated Windows servers and operating systems, according to partners at D&H Distributing's New England show.

Legacy software and high upgrade costs have kept small and niche end users tethered to outdated Windows servers and operating systems, according to participants in a panel discussion on the subject this week in Quincy, Mass.

Solution providers participating in a CRN roundtable discussion at D&H Distributing's New England Technology Show. said they are still seeing a lot of Windows Server 2003 and on-premise infrastructure in their customer ecosystems, and don't anticipate seeing wide-scale adoption of Windows 10 until support is terminated for older operating systems.

"There's no way in hell you'll see Windows 10 [in machine shops or manufacturing plants]," said David Dion, chief technology officer at Brick Computer in Rowley, Mass. "We still deploy Windows 98 and XP in those facilities."

[Related: VAR Roundtable: Small VARs Doing More Business With Lenovo, Sophos]

Machine shops typically operate on boxes and machines that are 2 decades old, Dion said, meaning they have to depend on legacy apps because more modern software isn't compatible with the antiquated devices.

Susan Trahant, general manager of Peabody, Mass.-based Land Computer, said end users aren't going to change course after spending thousands of dollars on proprietary software just because Microsoft released a new operating system.

Trahant said many of her customers were jaded by negative experiences with Windows 8 -- which she said they found to be impractical with business apps -- and therefore likely won't go over to Windows 10 until support for Windows 7 is terminated.

"My customers don't even want Windows 8," Trahant said.

Likewise, Lou Giovanetti, co-founder of Woburn, Mass.-based CPU Sales & Service, said many of his clients had legacy business apps that didn't even work on Windows 8, requiring those customers who buy Windows 8 licensing to downgrade to Windows 7.

Similar issues have prevented small businesses from wholeheartedly embracing cloud, Dion said, as many vertical-specific apps have little or no presence in the cloud.

Robert Lloyd, founder of Haddam, Conn.-based TechNet Computing, said a multitude of factors are keeping small businesses from the cloud, including on-premise line-of-business applications, physical locations that can't support more than a DSL connection and misguided customer fears related to security.

Lloyd said many of his legal customers don't want to put documents in the cloud even with battery backups and assurances of compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA).

Dion cited Intuit QuickBooks -- the industry standard for small-business accounting -- as an instance where the on-premise, desktop app is far superior to what's being offered in the cloud, even though hundreds of users could be migrated to the cloud-based version of QuickBooks in the blink of an eye.

"I could see that [QuickBooks online] exploding if they had a good product," Dion said. "But they just don't."

That's in stark contrast to other verticals, such as optical doctors, where Dion said the apps are wholly streamlined in the cloud and work phenomenally.

Stephen Sharpe, an Intuit spokesman, said the online and desktop versions of QuickBooks are two completely separate products, with Intuit providing the core payroll and payment services for its online version while leveraging third-party apps for ancillary services such as customer-relationship management (CRM) and time-tracking software.

"The key differences between the products are very profound," Sharpe said. Still, QuickBooks now has more than 1 million online subscribers, Sharpe said, with more new customers choosing the online version than the desktop version for the first time this year.

And while Land and TechNet have all of their customers off Windows Server 2003 a month after support expired, Brick Computer's Dion said 40 percent of his client base is still using the unsupported server.

The $5,000 to $15,000 price tag for migrating to a new server has deterred many of the medical offices Brick works with from making the move. Dion expects all of his customers will eventually upgrade to Server 2008 or Server 2012, but thinks the process will take time.

The Server 2003 upgrades Brick has done, though, have been very lucrative, with lots of billable hours for staff associated with the migration process itself, Dion said.


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