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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Council Post: Switching Browsers: The End Of Support For IE11 And Legacy Edge

Co-Founder and COO at MiniTool Software Ltd.

Microsoft declared the end of support for Microsoft 365 apps and services for Internet Explorer (IE) 11 by August 17, 2021. The involved apps include more than Microsoft 365. The Microsoft Teams web app (mostly used for online meetings) will no longer support IE11 on November 30, 2020.

Also, Microsoft outlines the support deadline for Edge (now officially called the Legacy Microsoft Edge which was once used to replace default IE). On March 9, 2021, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates for Edge. Early this year, Microsoft started pushing Chromium Edge to replace the Legacy Edge via Windows Update.

Who will be affected? While most consumers prefer using Chrome, Firefox or Safari, a number of businesses still rely on IE and its various compatibility modes to resolve all troubles. Hence, the announcement of Microsoft is a challenge for enterprises.

IE is no longer a browser that enterprises should rely on for web browsing activity, according to Chris Jackson, Microsoft’s worldwide lead for cybersecurity. Despite that, he did not recommend a new browser — such an announcement heralds the future of IE.

For those enterprises that still rely on IE, it is probably a good time to consider switching browsers. Here’s how:

Step One: Analysis

A company should first of all make a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of its user groups, devices and operating systems. There are professional tools to help. For example, Google Analytics tells you where your users are coming from, the most viewed pages, device usage, display resolutions, operating systems, visitor locations and more.

If IE contributed to the majority of users, getting to know the users’ experience is extremely important. Find a way to measure if your business meets user needs and allows them to complete a task easily. As computer performance improves, users also have higher expectations for website design and UX. Do they complain and expect a big update? Will they upgrade to Windows 10 (abandoning IE) from the regional perspective? Find out whether you need to do more to keep these IE users on board.

If only a small percentage of users are using IE on Windows 7 or Windows XP to visit, switching to the prevailing browsers or not should be a big concern. Is it worth sticking to IE for a small group of users? Probably not.

IT admins need to understand that IE is not supporting new web standards. While many sites work fine, more sites encounter multiple problems. But switching from IE to other browsers is not easy; not only is it time-consuming but there is also more labor cost and programming to make a cross-browser compatible website.

Changes can be hard. But as most developers aren’t testing sites for IE, enterprises sticking to IE might end up not being able to use new apps as they come out. These all help companies make a decision. 

Step Two: Test And Development

With all the information collected, enterprises can set up a dedicated test plan targeting browser compatibility. Fortunately, the latest version of browsers such as Chrome and Firefox are well-adopted by most users. It shouldn’t be a problem for users to quickly go through existing applications and find out issues without extra training.

Enterprises should give their teams enough time to run IE and other browsers side by side. Record every incident not compatible with IE then forward them to management for later decisions.

Test results should clearly list the impact brought by removing IE. Critical issues should be addressed first. In some cases, development work might need to be involved, whether it is internal or outsourced. Be sure to have a plan B to deal with potential unexpected project risks.

Step Three: Announcement And Deployment

It is important for enterprises to make an announcement when switching browsers for internal users and customers. Make sure people involved in this change understand the impact. For large companies, consider a gradual deployment instead. For example, deploy the change to North American employees in week one then European employees later.

Summary

There is a long way to go for Microsoft to totally discard its IE users. Enterprises still have enough time to get well-prepared. For most enterprises, this upgrade should be straight forward by following the above steps. However, if the core business of an enterprise heavily relies on IE, this might be a wake-up call.


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