Are you still running Windows Server 2003? The End is Near(er)!

Back in November 2014, the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued an alert about the end of support for Windows Server 2003. It’s now the end of March of 2015, and the end-of-support date will be here in less than 4 months. Starting on July 15, 2015, Windows Server 2003 will no longer receive security updates, fixes, or technical assistance from Microsoft. To borrow a phrase: the end is near!

The sky, however, is not falling.

Migration from your on-premises server to a different system is not terribly complicated, generally-speaking (the devil’s in the details, of course). And you have options – sort of. You can get a new server and move your stuff, or you can choose to migrate to a cloud-based offering, such as Office 365 and Microsoft Azure. Considering that here at inWorks LLC we believe that you should not be running a server unless you’re in the datacenter business, I suggest that you take the following path:

Take your email to Exchange Online with Office 365. With ridiculously low per-user prices, virtually unlimited disk space, and enterprise-grade features you simply cannot find a better messaging & collaboration system. Some may suggest Exchange hosted by other providers, Google, or Amazon (which recently added its own mail service), and unless you have very specific, compelling reasons for choosing those routes, don’t. Exchange Online will give you the best email, calendaring, contact management system you can buy in terms of usability, functionality, compatibility, extensibility, and some other *ilities I’m probably forgetting.

Take your files to SharePoint Online with Office 365. Some folks are apprehensive about SharePoint Online. It does represent a departure from the typical local server-based file access, with its familiar mapped drives and network shares. It also represents a major step forward for your business, in terms of managing documents and data – and it doesn’t have to be scary, or painful.

With a little bit of advanced planning and proper execution and tools, the transition can be painless, and using SharePoint – liberating. Plus, this is the one opportunity you’ll have to really clean house with your documents!

Even if you don’t take the time to explore SharePoint’s moderately advanced capabilities you will still end up ahead – with things like automatic document versioning, recycle bin, search indexing to make stuff easy to find, top-notch security, simple external sharing, easy access on all devices from anywhere, and so on. I haven’t even talked about building apps on top of SharePoint Online – apps that may not require any code at all! I won’t this time, either, just to keep things brief.

Move business apps to the cloud.
Microsoft Azure provides a datacenter in the sky that’s at your beck and call – pay just for what you use, with no upfront costs and no capital expenditures. Don’t need it anymore? Shut it down and the bill stops.

Anything you want to do that can’t be done with Office 365, can be done in Azure. Virtual machines, websites, storage, custom scripts, databases, et cetera – are now in your business IT tool belt, and with the recent addition of RemoteApp to the already deep and wide set of services that Azure provides, you can deliver even legacy applications from the cloud directly to the desktop, tablet, or phone. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it is really cool.

Sign up for MSOnlineHelpdesk.com. This service grew out of our experience helping other businesses that made the cloud switch. It’s optimized for cloud customers and uses a similar, utility-based cloud model for all your needs, whether cloud or not.

With a monthly subscription you get what essentially amounts to Technology Insurance for your business – in return for a monthly “premium” you get someone who’ll pick up the email when you send in a support request, get back to you right away, answer your question without charge if it doesn’t take long, and get you help at lower support rates if it’s something gnarly. We’ll also handle hardware, software, and licensing procurement, set up backup if you need it, manage remote access to your systems, and provide antivirus software along with central device inventory & management, plus security for your mobile devices.

Don’t believe me? Have questions? Would like to discuss migration planning or ongoing support? Want to talk haiku form? Drop me a line!