Small business owners are always keen to find ways to reduce their costs. A question that comes up regularly is whether they still need a server when everything is moving to ‘the cloud’. It’s a question I have been fielding a lot recently due to the imminent demise of Windows Server 2003.
In case you missed the news, as of July 14th 2015, Microsoft is withdrawing extended support for their oldest server product. This means that the chance of a security breach will increase alarmingly after that date. It also means that our ability to support those systems will become limited. I have had to broach this issue with each of our affected customers and early on they want to know if they still need the server at all.
For these reasons, I am strongly advising my customers to migrate away from Windows Server 2003 before July 2015. Customers and colleagues that know me will know that I don’t recommend significant system changes lightly. There has to be a real benefit to the business or an unacceptable level of risk of not making the change. This one falls into the latter camp. It’s just too dangerous.
The initial reaction from my customers has mostly been frustration. They see a piece of equipment working well and supporting their business and yet are forced to get rid of it. They feel manipulated into an expenditure that seems unnecessary.
I find it useful to consider the following more positive perspective:
- Windows Server 2003 has been the backbone of millions of small businesses for 12 years. It has been improved, supported and secured consistently during that time. For a few hundred pounds it has delivered amazing value.
- Although you are comfortable with your old server it is old technology. A replacement will be faster and more robust meaning reduced risk and more efficient staff.
- A new server will last at least 8 years before you are faced with this decision again.
- Replacing the box is not your only option. You could migrate some or all of its functions to the cloud and take advantage of improved mobility and agility.
In determining what to do next my primary piece of advice is to be sceptical of anyone that answers in absolutes without having taken time to understand your business. Your options lie on a continuum that starts at ‘Keep everything in your offices’ and ends at ‘Move everything to the cloud’. The correct answer for you will lie somewhere in between those two points and depends upon a number of factors that you need to take time to understand.
In the intervening time since you bought your server, the way your business operates may well have changed significantly:
- One of our customers has employed a new tier of management that work remotely from iPads. The Head Office still works from a server so the managers email their regular reports, in Word and Excel format, into the Head Office. We are talking to them about migrating this function into the cloud. This will allow their managers to update a single central copy, thereby saving everyone time.
- Another customer has invested in an important application to improve their efficiency and give them commercial advantage over their competitors. This has to run on a server in their office. They have been able to migrate this to a new server with improved performance and uptime.
- A third customer has opted to restructure its business so that it no longer needs a Head Office. All its staff are now working remotely. This has enabled them to dispense with an expensive and problematic infrastructure.
Whatever your situation, the process of considering decommissioning a server presents an opportunity to take a good look at how your business operates. Newer technology could make you more efficient, reduce costs, or bring you competitive advantage.