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Why small businesses need to budget to replace their server this year

3/07/2013 in Technology

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Small businesses are being presented with a rather unpleasant choice when they approach their IT provider for a new PC. A combination of products being ‘retired’ and others being withdrawn from sale mean that the bill for a new PC is about to become far higher than expected.

While hardware and software vendors have been keen to keep us on a continuous upgrade cycle, the economic landscape since 2007 has meant that many small businesses have been avoiding investment in their IT infrastructure.

My customers always warm to the adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”; and although our job is to convey the sound business sense in keeping technology current, financial constraints mean that investment in technology often gets delayed. That is changing right now and the message to some of our customers is that there are now no more options. We wish there were but our hand is being forced.

We’ve all been happily working with Windows XP for over a decade now and there aren’t many small businesses that haven’t benefited significantly from running their email on the excellent Exchange 2003 email server. Both these products will be ‘retired’ from extended support early in 2014.

Although this may feel like a good amount of time another factor has created a kind of perfect storm that is going to spell bad news for small businesses that haven’t been proactively refreshing their systems: Office 2010 is no longer available to buy with a new PC and has been withdrawn from the retail channel. That may sound innocuous but the devil is in the detail.

When you buy a new PC the cheapest way to get Office is under an OEM license. That is a license provided by the PC manufacturer that lives and dies with the machine. The OEM channel can only supply Office 2013 and Outlook 2013 cannot connect to Exchange 2003. With the withdrawal of Office 2010 from the retail channel, if you have an old Exchange 2003 email server and you buy a new PC it won’t be able to connect to your email using Outlook.

There is an option to buy Outlook 2010 through Microsoft’s volume licensing agreement. However, you need to buy a minimum of 5 licenses; the installation is fiddly as it will have to co-exist with Outlook 2013 and the expense will have been wasted when you are finally forced to migrate from Exchange 2003 sometime in the next few months.

That leaves the final conclusion that the best way forward is to migrate from Exchange 2003 to a new email platform – either by replacing your server or by migrating to a hosted email solution such as Office 365. A future blog article will address these options.

Our advice is to start planning the migration process from Exchange 2003 now. This will allow you to understand the issue, plot out a timeline and budget for the upcoming expense. It will also mean that when you need to replace a PC you won’t be surprised to find us recommending an infrastructure upgrade.