How HE institutions can prepare for the end of Microsoft Exchange 2010 support

As the end-of-support deadline for Exchange 2010 nears, higher ed institutions should take proactive steps to upgrade software and avoid security breaches. David Mills, director of product management at BitTitan, explains how

End of support for Microsoft Exchange Server 2010


Microsoft recently announced it has extended its end-of-support deadline for Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 from January 14, 2020 to October 13, 2020. This extension gives organisations that use Exchange 2010 more time to proactively prepare and make the transition to upgraded software.

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The deadline extension is particularly noteworthy for higher education institutions, especially those that rely on older software and are likely to be impacted by the end-of-support deadline. If not diligently addressed, higher ed institutions that don’t upgrade their software can suddenly face a host of complications, including costly and burdensome disruptions that impact faculty, administration and students. Being a multi-tiered organisation that facilitates engagement to various audiences and often uses technology to do so, most universities can’t afford to wait on implementing software upgrades – nor can they afford to face the ramifications of not updating their software. Planning needs to start now.

If not diligently addressed, higher ed institutions that don’t upgrade their software can suddenly face a host of complications.

What will happen to an institution that doesn’t upgrade by the October 2020 deadline? The picture isn’t pretty. Those that still rely on Exchange 2010 beyond the deadline will face various challenges, including:

  • End of technical assistance. After the deadline, universities can no longer rely on general support from Microsoft on Exchange 2010 problems that may occur. This can be especially detrimental to the internal IT team at a university that may rely on Microsoft support to navigate and address larger and more complicated internal software problems.
  • No more software updates. Higher ed institutions will no longer experience automatic updates to their Exchange 2010 software, which will result in a lack of protection of users’ data from ransomware or malicious cyberattacks. This one can be particularly alarming for these organisations, especially with information and data security being listed as the top priority at the 2018 higher education conference Educause.
  • Incoming compliance issues. Running outdated Exchange software that doesn’t adhere to the regulation standards of an industry can pose a larger legal problem if it’s not adequately supported.

The good news is that all these issues can be easily avoided. Higher ed institutions have two main routes they can take to upgrade their software and avoid any disruption to programs or impact to data security. These options include migrating to Microsoft Exchange Online/Office 365 or migrating to Exchange 2016/2019.

Migrating to Exchange Online/Office 365


Making the transition to Microsoft Office 365 may be the ideal option for a higher ed institution. Making the switch to the cloud can result in increased flexibility and collaboration among teachers and students, and in some cases, it may be more cost-effective. It has become a popular choice in higher education and that popularity is expected to continue, with a prediction that cloud computing within the education market is estimated to grow to $25.36 billion by 2021. The cloud has also shown to result in enhanced student engagement, as students are able to better access homework and school-related materials on the cloud or collaborate virtually with other students on a school project. In addition, when transitioning to Office 365, teachers, staff members and students will have access to Microsoft Teams, which will further enhance their ability to communicate and collaborate with each other while saving time.

Making the switch to the cloud can result in increased flexibility and collaboration among teachers and students, and in some cases, it may be more cost-effective.

Upgrading to Exchange Online/Office 365 will also enable educators to access the latest feature enhancements and the entire Microsoft Office suite. It can help a university streamline adoption of current upgrades across various departments and internal organisations. For institutions that have been looking for an opportunity to make the leap to the cloud, this option is the way to go.

Migrate to Exchange 2016/2019


For some higher ed institutions, adopting cloud technologies may not be entirely feasible and an on-premises or hybrid option is needed. In this situation, migrating to a newer instance of Exchange is their best bet.

This option ensures protection from the implications of an out-of-date server by maintaining data security and adhering to compliance standards. It also allows organisations to keep their data centres on-prem for those that wish to do so. However, it is worth noting that if a university is looking to upgrade from Exchange 2010 to Exchange 2019, an additional migration through Exchange 2013 or 2016 will need to be performed first. The good news is certain third-party IT migration tools are able to migrate data directly to Exchange 2019 without this cumbersome middle step.

Implement all-around upgrades


It’s plausible that organisations relying on Exchange 2010 have other software upgrades they need to make, and Exchange 2010 isn’t the only Microsoft product experiencing a lifecycle end in 2020. Support for Windows 7 will discontinue on January 14, 2020. Meanwhile, both Office 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010 have end-of-support deadlines on October 13, 2020.

Institutions that rely on one or more of these products should consider implementing multiple upgrades. They can work with their service provider on exploring bundling these upgrades into a larger project, ensuring that their workplace software is good to go for the foreseeable future.

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Higher ed institutions currently relying on Exchange 2010 may be hesitant to adopt a new workplace system and migrate to new software. However, the truth is that adopting new technologies can result in countless benefits for an organisation. Once a university makes the switch, they can employ more efficient internal workflows among staff, increased collaboration between teachers and students, and optimise their overall cost. But institutions must not wait to implement these upgrades, as doing so requires time to appropriately plan, launch, configure and deploy. Act now to avoid disaster later.