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Windows Server 2003 end of life – what does this mean for your business?

On 14 July Microsoft ended support for Windows Server 2003. This means that any companies still using it will no longer be updated, kept secure, nor receive any fixes. Despite this, 60% of businesses are still using Windows Server 2003, and have not yet migrated to an alternative.

With the end of life date around the corner, what does the switch off of support actually mean for your business? We take a look.

Increased security risks

Since Microsoft will no longer provide security updates to Windows Server 2003, the number of attacks on businesses using this server OS is sure to surge. Malware will be rife too, as attackers use the end of life support as an ‘in’ to get a hold of sensitive business data.

Think security updates aren’t that common and therefore necessary? In 2013, 37 critical updates were released for Windows Server 2003/R2. Hackers are always trying to find vulnerabilities in software, and when they discover one, these weaknesses need to be patched up fast before any serious damage is done.

Ade Foxall, CEO of Camwood believes the end of support for Windows Server 2003 could be the biggest security risk of 2015.

Increased costs

Whilst it is possible to surround your server with so many advanced firewalls and other security precautions that an attacker wouldn’t even know it’s there, doing so is expensive. You may think you’re saving money by not migrating to a new OS, but the cost of maintaining legacy systems and aging hardware far outweighs the cost of migration.

In fact, the cost of maintaining each server every year is an estimated to be £1,028.  If you still end up losing customer data as a result of not migrating, you’ll be footing an even larger bill.

Risk of non-compliance

If you continue to use Windows Server 2003, there is a good chance your organisation will cease to meet industry-wide compliance standards. Non-compliance is bad for two reasons: you could begin to lose business, and the operating cost of your firm will rise. This is because non-compliance can result in high transaction fees and your business receiving financial penalties.

Lack of compatibility

Since support is ending, there’s little point in developers making new software and hardware compatible with Windows Server 2003. This means you are bound to run into compatibility issues later down the line, leaving you unable to communicate with certain devices or run new software.

What should businesses do?

Migration is the only answer, but you do have a lot of choice in the OS you choose. According to  research by Spiceworks, 64% of business leaders planning to migrate will make the move to Windows Server 2012 R2. It certainly seems to be the most popular choice, but other available alternatives include Microsoft Azure and Office 365. Microsoft states that moving to any of these options will result in improved performance, less need for maintenance and a rise in both speed and agility.

The software you migrate to isn’t the only option though; you can also choose to adopt a hardware, cloudware or hybrid model. Almost three-quarters of businesses will move either some or all of their applications currently running in Windows Server 2003 to the virtual space, and with good reason.

Cloudware has many benefits over hardware, including:

  • Regular security updates and round the clock protection
  • Unlimited data storage
  • Full access to remote OS install
  • Quick upgrades and system changes, undertaken simply and automatically
  • Full support 24/7, 365 days a year
  • Lower costs, as your monthly subscription is based on requirements and usage

Businesses using cloudware have seen success, too. Some 64% report the cloud has helped them cut costs, 51% have improved IT service levels and 64% aim to invest in more technology as a result.

The average cost saving made by using the cloud over hardware currently stands at ten%, but this is estimated to rise to 18% in five years. Further, 77% of cloud users are confident they will begin to see the financial benefits of the cloud within the next five years.

Just over half (55%) believe their business now has a competitive advantage over others ; thanks to the cloud ; and another 23% expect this to be the case soon.

There are so many benefits to migrating to a newer version of Windows Server, and to the cloud, yet 27% of business leaders still aren’t planning to upgrade every system running Windows Server 2003. By making the move, you’ll have a huge advantage over these businesses, which will be left with no support, a lack of security and higher costs.

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