Security check: IE11 is on Its Way Out

Microsoft will drop support for Internet Explorer 11, commonly called IE11, in June 2022. With less than one percent of all netizens using the browser as of June 2021 and an intense list of patched and yet-to-be patched security flaws taking up resources, it was only a matter of time until Microsoft pulled the plug.

What does this mean for public safety agencies still dependent on this phased-out web browser for various digital platforms and services? In short: It’s time to move on from IE11, which may mean having a conversation with your IT team and other stakeholders about where you go next.

Tip 1: Get It Out in the Open

A year isn’t necessarily a long time when it comes to upgrading software systems or components. And whether you’re talking about directly supplanting IE11 from your own stack or moving on from a vendor who still requires it as part of a larger software package, you and your people will need time to compare, plan, and dial in on your implementation.

So, get the idea out there early. Tell your most technically inclined staffers about the move, ask them how it will impact your operations, and get input on the best step forward for your specific organization and its specific needs.

With less than a year until IE11 support vanishes altogether, every day you wait is another bit of potential pressure when circumstances do force you to move.

Tip 2: Examine the Full Impact

Every agency’s reason for continuing to use IE11 is different.

In some cases, a fuller-featured software application may use it as part of a critical feature set. Microsoft themselves provided a strong example of this idea—and the troubles it can cause—when their Office 365 apps stopped supporting IE.

In other instances, your people may interface with an entire app through IE11—for example, logging into a web-based portal via IE11 to use an app that won’t perform in Chrome, Safari, or other browsers.

It may be hard to know exactly how deep your agency’s dependence on IE11 goes without input from technical staff or boots-on-ground agents. In some cases, a small subset of users may rely on it in a way that isn’t apparent to the rest of the organization (field-based users whose laptops only work with an IE11 web app version of a fuller app, for example). In others, IE11 may represent a small link in a chain of processes, whose absence will make tasks more difficult or outright impossible to complete.

Regardless, to move on from the legacy browser, you must fully understand the points of your infrastructure that need IE11.

That may include platforms like Salesforce or Gmail, which have either dropped IE11 support or have imminent plans to—alongside other, more industry-specific tools.

Tip 3: Discourage “If It Isn’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” Thinking

In some cases, your agency may be able to continue using IE11 past the support date and continue leveraging apps that need it. This is a very bad idea.

In the absolute best case, forestalling the move away from Internet Explorer pushes you into a circumstance in which it will be more pressing to make the move in the future. In the worst case, you may find yourself high and dry if a connected vendor finds itself unable to provide its critical service to you over the IE11 platform.

In other words—“if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”-style thinking does not apply here. And that’s before even considering the browser’s long, storied history with security issues, which are effectively guaranteed to persist as Microsoft moves its focus completely away from IE.

Don’t let the false sense of security you get from keeping the status quo keep you from making real change, and if possible, don’t let that manner of discourse invade the discussion about an upgrade.  

Tip 4: Include the Vendors in Your Conversation

Until now, a sort of chicken-or-egg situation existed between the vendors whose products rely on IE11 and Microsoft itself—a situation in which neither group wanted to completely move away from the browser.

With Microsoft’s announcement, that game has undoubtedly changed. And frankly speaking, given the info above, the migration on the vendor side has been long overdue.  

Now that the people making the browser have unilaterally drawn a line, you should be able to get—at a minimum—a sense of what your vendors are going to do to ease the transition on your end.

The level of change and effort on your end is naturally linked to the amount your agency currently uses Internet Explorer, but by now, the vendor should have at least some idea of what needs to happen next.

Tip 5: Turn Your Eyes to the Future

In researching this piece, we came across a host of compelling reasons to move away from IE11. (This blog post from a web design firm provides one entertaining and well-written rationale.) One notion we frequently see and agree with is the criticism that IE11 is a roadblock to full digital transformation.

Because it lacks the features offered by other, newer browsers, entire systems can be held back by its inability to support various tasks, formats, or standards.

This isn’t just a move away from a dated browser—it’s a chance for agencies to take a big step forward. Discuss the migration in those terms, and it will likely be easy to see many areas where its presence may be holding you back.

Posted on Aug 17, 2021