Wouldn't it be nice if upgrading your IT infrastructure was as easy as updating an app or operating system on your smart device? Operating from the cloud has made upgrading infrastructure much easier and cost effective for businesses - so what is preventing them from making the switch?
Simply put - small and midsize businesses don't have the time or resources to handle the job alone. However, with the approaching end of support for Windows Server 2003, and the risks associated with outdated systems, CIOs are realizing they need to begin planning before it is too late.
The cloud and the challenges of moving forward
Many organizations are still using outdated operating systems to save money and simplify management of large installed bases. For example, a 2013 Ars Technica profile of U.S. federal government IT highlighted how the Drug Enforcement Agency still depended on Windows Server 2003, in the same way that many other federal agencies stuck with Windows XP.
By continuing to rely on outdated systems, businesses face serious risk of suffering a security breach. Takeshi Numoto, Corporate Vice President of Cloud and Enterprise Marketing at Microsoft, recently commented on these risks associated with still using Windows Server 2003. For emphasis, he also pointed out that the minimum system requirements of Windows Server 2003 are now exceeded by many modern smartphones.
"[R]unning unsupported software carries significant security risks and may result in costly compliance violations," said Numoto. "As you evaluate security risks, keep in mind that even a single unpatched server can be a point of vulnerability for your entire infrastructure."
Cloud as a way forward
Beyond heightened security vulnerabilities, exclusive reliance Windows Server 2003 also leaves organizations at a competitive disadvantage, at a time when many firms have already migrated some of their assets to the cloud. Cloud computing has revolutionized business strategy by opening up new frontiers in how and where workloads are run.
More specifically, instead of doing everything in-house, IT departments can now take advantage of the massive capacity of a platform like Microsoft Azure. Using Azure provides critical advantages such as:
- A pay-as-you-go business model, under which customers only pay for what they use. Expenses would be minimal during times of low activity and would rise as more compute, storage and network resources were needed to handle spikes in demand.
- Accordingly, CAPEX is shifted to OPEX, providing more flexibility in how funds are allocated for business-centric projects. The cloud provider takes care of infrastructure maintenance on its end, as well as operating systems updates and security.
- The security point is important. Azure services are based in data centers with optimized physical and network security. Many SMBs would be unable to afford this level of protection on their own with their legacy systems, but such amenities are included in the price of the cloud service.
Hybrid IT: A great option for SMBs looking for a feasible transition to the cloud
The lingering presence of Windows Server 2003, along with the broader budgetary and logistical issues that it hints at, means that an all-in move to cloud services isn't realistic yet for SMBs. Cloud can, however, be an important part of their infrastructures, albeit usually as part of a hybrid architecture.
Hybrid IT has been one of the most talked-about technology trends in recent years. It essentially entails the combination of a public cloud platform like Azure with legacy on-premises IT systems and/or colocated data center operations. For businesses, this arrangement can provide the best of both worlds:
- Customers get the flexibility, scalability and managed security of cloud services.
- They also get the control of running some applications on-premises to meet legacy constraints and maintain control over user accounts, file systems, etc.
In regard to Windows Server 2003 in particular, the cloud is a possible destination for migration strategies. For example, in a recent blog post we looked at an IDC white paper outlining the advantages of using virtualization and cloud solutions to move applications away from Windows Server 2003. Windows Server 2012 R2 is a viable replacement, plus Windows Server 10 RTM is on the horizon.
The risks of running apps exclusively on outdated platforms increasingly outweighs the benefits, making it an opportune time to start migrating application and modernizing infrastructure. Pinnacle, an Advanced Imaging Solutions company, provides expert assistance and managed network services for planning and executing systems' migration.
For assistance with migration planning, or to get started, contact a Pinnacle representative today!