Windows Server 2003 in 2015: Is It Worth the Risk?

Microsoft products usually remain in common usage long after they disappear from the store shelves. Take Windows XP, for example; it was released in October 2001 for PCs (and 2002 for tablets, although you’d be forgiven for missing that edition). Microsoft withdrew all support for the desktop version of XP on April 8, 2014, which is not a bad innings for an ageing OS. We’re guessing that the tablet edition was quietly abandoned some years previously.

The Microsoft lifecycle always involves a 28184160_d379a5d843_bnumber of key stages, and we see the same pattern time and again with operating systems. There will be updates, or patches, issued periodically to keep the software current as it ages. After a few years, Microsoft then announces a point where ‘mainstream’ support concludes. This means that features are frozen and the software is not updated.

A few years later, all support for the product is withdrawn. This is End of Life; no more security updates are provided. At this point, the software becomes a risk because the vendor does not make any effort to patch it, and your computer is essentially left to fend for itself. A very scary thought.

Understanding the Risk

July 2015 will mark the end of life for Windows 2003. This is the point where all support offered by Microsoft will end, as will all patches and updates.

To reiterate:

SUPPORT FOR WINDOWS SERVER 2003 IS NOW LESS THAN FIVE MONTHS AWAY

According to industry estimates, this particular End of Life will leave millions of servers out in the cold, and extremely vulnerable (around 9.1m globally). That’s a state no business should find its data centre in.

Businesses that continue to use Windows 2003 on their servers must understand the problems they will face after that critical End of Life date:

– Applications will start to falter; you’ll see 4262500695_dc3e0aa2b0_othem run more slowly, and crash more frequently, and there will be few people to help you figure out why

– Data will start to be more vulnerable to hacks and data corruption; there will be no patches or updates to defend it

– Regulatory governance problems and compliance issues will start to emerge, which could leave you at the mercy of the Information Commissioner’s office

– Your cost of support goes up as Windows 2003 becomes a more obscure, legacy product

Keeping an old server in action may feel like the cheapest option now. But for all these reasons (and plenty more), at End of Life, all bets are off.

Migration Options

If you’re currently running a Windows 2003 server, it’s best to start the migration process now. Leaving it too late means you have nowhere to go when End of Life actually happens.

We recommend that all 2003 servers are retired as soon as possible, and the data and applications on those servers is moved to either Windows 2012 or a cloud alternative.

If you’re not sure how to plan your migration, speak to Cloud4 now. We don’t just run IT services, we also support businesses that are in the process of switching. And once your Windows 2003 machine is retired, we’ll still be in the picture to offer support and on-going help.

For more information on if and how Server 2003 End of Life will affect your business visit this dedicated site www.server2003endoflife.co.uk.

How Hosted Desktop Fits With a BYOD Implementation

Business MobilityLike it or not, employees are moving towards mobile working at an alarming rate. The tidal wave is unstoppable, and mobile devices are often being used as primary devices rather than a convenient extra on the side. This fast-paced adoption is the driving force behind Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), a trend that sees more employees using personal phones and tablets rather than ones that are supplied by their work.

Straight away, we can see how BYOD brings costs down. It eliminates the need for mobile device procurement or refresh cycles, and it lets the user be more productive using their preferred platform for work and play.

Moving to Virtual

cloud4-computers-hosted-desktopMobile devices work well for us because connection speeds are increasing. This is also driving innovation in two separate, but connected, industries: cloud and virtualisation. Cloud data storage is helping us to move away from fixed workstations, while virtual machines leverage the full capacity of available assets to give us more affordable IT solutions.

Mobile desktops are key to unlocking the power in mobile devices. They let users run applications on practically any modern mobile device that has a good quality internet connection. That means you can get work done no matter where you are in the world, even if you have a 3G or 4G connection to the internet.

But more importantly, all of the data your employee works with is held within the virtual machine. It’s not saved to the mobile device. Many businesses cite security as a major concern in BYOD, but using a mobile device is a great way to bypass many of the risks associated with mobile working. All normal applications work, so there’s no need to take data outside of the corporate network at all.

Additionally, with Cloud4, all hosted desktops are secured with two-factor authentication, and the images are stored in ISO-27001 compliant UK data centres. That means there are fewer compliance risks.

Economise Every Step of the Way

Small businesses have been quick to capitalise on the potential savings that virtualisation and BYOD (or even BYOX) can offer, but enterprises and large businesses are catching on fast. Over a large multi-site organisation, the potential savings in procurement and data centre capacity are enormous.

Hosted desktop also helps you cut waste. One desktop image follows each user on their desktop, laptop and tablet; there’s no need for duplication. The days of over-licensing, or hardware over-provisioning, are over.

Learn More

Cloud4 uses virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to power its virtual machines, using a RDP or Citrix framework. Your data never leaves the UK, and neither do your support calls. What’s more, we take backups, protect against spam and prevent viruses from infecting your machines.

If you’re interested in obtaining virtual desktops for low monthly subscription fee or just have a question please get in touch. Ask us how hosted desktop could fuel your move towards BYOD.

Do You Know Where Your Hosted Desktop Image is Stored?

All businesses have to comply with certain regulations and laws. In some industries – and continents – unmanaged compliance quickly becomes a burden on profitability. If the business doesn’t take its responsibilities seriously, it can end up paying fines and losing its hard-earned reputation.

If your business has its offices in the EU, you need to be careful about data storage. Cloud computing means your data could be stored literally anywhere if you don’t keep a close eye on the services you’re using.

What’s Special About Europe?

Globally, all businesses must meet compliance and governance requirements, and this has been a barrier to cloud adoption for many businesses. It’s not that compliance changes when you use the cloud – but the nature of the services you choose can affect its impact.

In Europe, there’s a law, the Data Protection Directive, which prevents the transmission of personal data to non-EU countries unless it’s dealt with in a compliant manner. There are 11 approved non-EU countries that are considered to be compliant; all others require special care.

Choosing a Provider Overseas

When storing data in the cloud, the business is responsible for that data. It cannot pass the buck to the cloud storage provider. You need to carry out due diligence and ensure your services are fit for purpose.

If you use a US provider, you need to make sure they are Safe Harbor members and regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. US and EU law actually conflicts in some areas, too. Don’t assume that the US is vetted and allowed for data protection compliance: it isn’t.

There’s the added complication of the Patriot Act: the law that lets US authorities gain access to any data held by a US company if they have good reason to do so. It doesn’t matter if the data was generated by a UK company, or is owned by a UK company. The fact is that it’s stored in US locations, so the Patriot Act is applicable.

The issue of compliance could fill a white paper, or even a book, but one thing is clear: it’s immensely complicated. While public cloud and private cloud services sound simple on paper, storing corporate data can be problematic… and storing your clients’ data very risky indeed.

Often, if you use a very large provider, your data may be stored in multiple locations without your knowledge. That makes it impossible for a UK business to know the risk.

Safe Options

As the data controller responsible for security and personal data, you are ultimately in charge of compliance. The fact that your provider does things you don’t know about is no excuse.

For UK companies, by far the safest option is to host data within the UK. This is a simple way to make sure your data is stored according to the laws applicable to you, so you have complete peace of mind. With your data in UK storage, your risk is mitigated and there are fewer fines to worry about too.

Hosted Exchange vs Office 365

Cloud servicesBusinesses are increasingly using cloud computing to save money and improve efficiency. Migrating the on-premise Exchange server is a key step that can improve performance and cut costs. There are essentially two routes to the cloud: a hosted Exchange solution, or a move to Office 365.

Hosted Exchange and Microsoft Office 365 are both valid choices, but they are not the same solution. The former provides email services in the cloud, while the latter is a virtualised version of the Office suite. Both do provide reliable and scalable email services, but there are some fundamental differences that can make or break a successful migration.

About Office 365

Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud version of Office, and it includes desktop software on a rental basis. It ‘feels’ the same as the traditional version, so there’s nothing new to learn. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how eager you are to stay within the Microsoft ecosystem.

Businesses buy Office 365 on a subscription model, and there are various levels of service on the menu. The most basic is Email Only. If you pay more, you’ll get access to Web Apps – online versions of Excel, PowerPoint and Word – with a license to install the desktop equivalents.

Hosted Exchange is Different

Office 365 is purchased from Microsoft, but hosted Exchange is provided by a number of third parties (like Cloud 4, for example). Hosted Exchange always includes Exchange email in the cloud with support for calendars and tasks.

Hosted Exchange providers will tell you exactly where your data is stored, and precisely which countries’ privacy laws are protecting it. This is vital if you need to follow governance procedures to protect sensitive data. If you do business in the UK, it makes sense to choose a provider that will not transfer your business data across international borders.

It’s sensible to check basics like mailbox size, since those irritating mailbox warnings are the number one bugbear people have with traditional Exchange servers. Ensure Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are in place and offer adequate protection. Note that SharePoint access is not normally included with hosted Exchange, but it may be something you can bolt on.

Weighing It Up

If your organisation uses services like Google Apps (including Google Docs and Sheets), Office 365 is overkill, since you need to rent all of the software alongside the service. Sure, you can purchase the Email Only version, but then you may as well go to a third party for hosted Exchange. Even Active Directory support isn’t included on the cheaper plans.

If your goal is to have rock-solid service and unbeatable uptime, hosted Exchange ticks both of those boxes. For small businesses, hosted Exchange provides the core functionality employees need alongside flexibility of choice. SMEs can adopt solutions from other vendors, rather than being tied into Microsoft’s systems for everything.

Your hosted Exchange provider will help you to migrate your Exchange server over to their cloud platform; this is something Microsoft cannot offer with Office 365. Your provider will also let you know how to change your email server details on any devices already in use; Microsoft offers no phone support for SMEs at all.

Convinced? Activate your free hosted Exchange trial now.

Business collaboration…which tool will make it work

A man looking for a cloud solutionWith recent changes in the law, businesses are look at ways to improve business productivity for remote workers within their organisation, consolidating both on-site and off-site employees’ needs. One of the ways business can fulfil the needs of these remote workers is by implementing cloud technology to aid in business agility and productivity. Data itself is the most important thing for remote workers. This is why cloud storage has taken off so dramatically in recent years. Continue reading Business collaboration…which tool will make it work

Are tablets killing the desktop PC?

IDesktop PC for businessesn the second quarter of 2013, PC shipments suffered a drop in shipment by 10.9%, selling only 76 million units. This slump was caused by the increase of inexpensive android tablets, which provide everything that many PC users need in a cheaper, lighter and smaller form factor. Continue reading Are tablets killing the desktop PC?

There’s an app for that! – Or maybe there’s not.

mobile business apps for productivity

In a televised advertisement for the Apple iPhone 3G, the famous trademarked quote “There’s an app for that” was said to describe the library of the Apple App Store. This sparked the beginning of the App wars between Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone Store.

Google beat Apple at their own game. While Apple’s staple quote might suggest that they hold the most amount of apps, Google’s Play Continue reading There’s an app for that! – Or maybe there’s not.

How the Cloud can help Business Start Up to succeed?

Cloud leads entrpeneurs to successIn the last couple of year more new start-up companies than ever have been formed young entrepreneurs and experienced professionals decide that they want to start a business of their own. But these entrepreneurs need technology to function like any other business, Continue reading How the Cloud can help Business Start Up to succeed?