Some anti-virus companies are announcing timetables for the death of their older products, such as those for Windows 3.1, NT 3.51 and, in some cases OS/2. This raises some issues about the nature of anti-virus software:
Anti-virus software is different because it is essential utility software that becomes less effective as time passes. If you created AV software that caught 100% of known viruses in 1987, today that same software would detect about 0.002% of known viruses. Another way of describing this is that AV software has become 60,000 times more powerful since 1987 - which is probably unique among software packages (I would certainly appreciate a word processor that would help me work 60,000 times faster...). The truth is, that is how fast the virus problem is growing and, to be useful, AV software must keep pace.
This leads to the second difference - AV developers keep releasing updates and upgrades for old platforms, far longer than for other types of software. How long ago did you last hear of anything else new for Windows 3.1? However, there still comes a point when further support is not justified, and each developer has their own criteria for that.
What if you must use the old platform? There may be solid reasons why the old platform must be used, in which case the full situation and all associated risks should be examined. Switching to a solution from another vendor might be an option - developers’ criteria do differ. There are also several reasons why the risks may be lower: Many newer viruses will not work on the old platforms (however, if the system is a server with newer clients, it could still store and allow exchange of infected files, even though they could not execute on the server itself).
The system is probably not having new programs installed and run, meaning less chance of infected software being introduced. Indeed, the installed software is probably very stable (that is one reason it is still being used) and has not changed in years. Together, this might mean that a combination of the last release and update of the AV software (to catch the old viruses that might still be on old media), plus good backups and change control procedures will give an adequate level of protection for some time to come. Ultimately, it depends on the circumstances.
If you are using Windows 3.1, NT 3.51 or OS/2, please contact us to discuss your particular requirements.