6 tips for eliminating dangerously old devices

  • Outdated computers and equipment can compromise security, network performance, and power consumption.

  • Discover 6 tips to help you update your network for a more efficient, reliable, secure IT ecosystem.

There is little room for sentimental attachment in enterprise computing. Outdated computers and networking equipment can be dangerous security risks and a significant drag on everything from networking performance to power consumption.

Eliminating legacy and rogue devices can significantly improve the health of the network and eliminate potentially costly liabilities. Identifying the ways that old systems may be dragging you down can be overwhelming, but the following six tips will help get you on your way to a more efficient, reliable, cost-effective IT ecosystem.

1. Plug the (power) drain.

The move to solid-state disks (SSDs) is a common power-saving motivation to upgrade aging systems, but there are more substantial gains to be realized from modern systems with power-gating capabilities that substantially reduce the amount of power chips required while idling.

2. Purge defunct operating systems.

Transition plans for any end-of-life operating systems should be high on the enterprise IT agenda.

3. Don’t be so sure XP is gone.

Even after you have ferreted out and purged all of the Windows XP laptops and desktops from your environment, you still have to look for headless XP machines. These systems are running lightweight file servers and automated compilers for development teams, as well as other ad hoc server-like jobs. Network audits are often necessary to sniff out these dangerously unsupported machines.

4. Check for out-of-date apps. 

Out-of-date apps are just as vulnerable as unsupported operating systems. Legacy enterprise software is a growing source of security vulnerability. Common desktop application layers such as Web browsers, Acrobat Reader, Flash, and Java remain a constant vector for attack and require continual updates. Any computer that can’t handle the latest versions of these application layers should be retired.

5. Don’t trust printers.

An obsolete print server has all of the same power-hogging, vulnerability-opening liabilities of an aged file, database, or application server. An out-of-date printer itself can be a security risk. Printer firmware can be hacked, meaning that printers, too, must be monitored for updates and potentially retired for security reasons.

6. Modernize Wi-Fi access points.

When Wi-Fi access points continue to allow devices on the older 802.11g and 802.11b protocols, it can significantly reduce overall throughput for the entire local network. And access points configured long ago may still be using the compromised TKIP encryption standard. It’s easy to forget about “invisible” network infrastructure, but upgrading Wi-Fi gear to modern standards is just as important as modernizing any other network layer.

These six tips will help your company identify and update systems that would otherwise bring it down (literally), but they may not be enough. If your organization is overloaded with devices so old that the serial numbers are caked in dust, don’t panic. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team’s guide to legacy system risk assessment is an excellent resource, as is an on-site risk assessment from a trusted network security consultant.

Jason Compton Writer About Jason