November 20, 2013 – March 2014 may seem far away, with July 2015 even further out. However, for businesses running Windows XP Professional, Server 2003 or Small Business Server 2003 these dates – which represent support end-of-life for these three popular products – should already be top of mind. More specifically, this is a perfect time for IT managers to get proactive by considering options and beginning the budgeting process for their next generation of business technology.
Of course, just because Microsoft stops supporting a particular product does not mean the product will stop working. However, the company’s technical support people, who represent the first line of defense when a problem does arise, will no longer be able to help.
In the case of XP, Microsoft will require the software be updated to Windows 7 before they can field a support call. While this may not be a major issue for companies with a few PCs, the cost can be significant for those that have a few dozen or hundreds of desktops, laptops and mobile devices. Server 2003 and Small Business Server 2003 (typically used by firms with 75 or fewer workstations) will need to be replaced entirely, and comparable on-premises mail or file-and-print servers are big-ticket items.
So whether a company is facing an impending need to update software applications on a large number of devices, or is at a point where it must swap out an obsolete server or servers, it is time to start planning. However, before diving into purchasing apples-to-apples replacements, it is worth considering Microsoft Outlook 365, the company’s cloud-based option.
At a cost of just $4 per user per month – a mere $400 for 100 workstations – after setup and licensing fees, Outlook 365 presents a major potential cost savings. It also offers a built-in disaster recovery function. Microsoft automatically backs up to multiple locations, so if a user’s primary cloud goes down, they can put their data (and applications) back up via another path. And, importantly, Outlook 365 users receive automatic software updates as well.
Who should transition to Microsoft’s cloud-based computing? Some would argue that any company with less than 500 employees would be crazy not to take advantage of this platform immediately. At IBS, our advice is not that black and white.
First, while Microsoft talks about the simplicity of the transition, PCs need to be running Outlook 2013 in order for it to work. That means those running 2003 or 2007 – i.e. the vast majority – need to be upgraded to the most current version. While this typically is a hurdle rather than a hindrance, it is important to understand.
Second, Outlook 365 is completely dependent on the Internet. Companies with poor connection reliability due to geography or less-than-stellar ISPs most likely should stick with buying their own, premises-based server and software.
Regardless of whether the choice is clear or cloudy, it is a good idea to partner with a Microsoft support agent that can help navigate the decision-making and implementation processes. For our clients, IBS Network Services lays out the pros and cons of why they should or should not migrate to the cloud, and what the upgrade path would look like. For those that move forward, we are able to handle the entire shift, including working with Microsoft, migrating everything to the cloud and acting as a front-line support option on an ongoing basis. This type of full-service approach provides a seamless and painless transition.
The bottom line? Whether in six months or two years, Microsoft is phasing out three key business products. In turn, companies are faced with the need to invest in their technology. By starting to think about it now, smart organizations have time to thoroughly explore their options, and potentially make some changes that will save them money for years to come.