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Microsoft End-of-Support: Three Months and Counting

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On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer support several of its most widely used desktop and server products, including:

  • Windows XP SP3
  • Office 2003
  • Small Business Server 2003
  • Exchange Server 2003
  • SharePoint Portal Server 2003

End-of-support means that Microsoft will no longer release security patches and updates for these products after their sunset dates. If new security threats emerge, your organization will be vulnerable to attack.

Regulatory compliance is another major concern. For example, a Windows XP machine will not be HIPAA-compliant after support ends, so organizations responsible for protecting sensitive patient data and health information must upgrade. Retailers running point-of-sale and payment systems on XP machines will no longer be PCI compliant.

Using unsupported products simply isn’t worth the risk. But despite the looming deadline, Windows XP remains the second most widely used desktop operating system, with just under 30 percent market share. If you still have XP machines in your IT environment, it’s time to begin enacting a migration plan.

Most organizations are choosing Windows 7 because of the learning curve associated with Windows 8. Windows 7 is now the number one desktop operating system, with about 48 percent of the market, according to Net Market Share. Windows 8 and 8.1 together have about 10 percent. Apple products are becoming more popular in the workplace, although OS X holds less than 3 percent of the market.

End-of-support for Windows XP also offers an opportunity to reevaluate your desktop strategy. We will take up that topic in our next post.

If you’re using Small Business Server 2003, you’ll need to choose an alternative as this popular product is being discontinued. Microsoft is steering small businesses toward Windows Server 2012 Essentials, which enables anytime, anywhere network access on virtually any desktop or mobile device. But Windows Server 2012 Essentials is ideal for fewer than 25 users, whereas Small Business Server supported up to 75 users, so consider your organization’s growth projections when making this decision.

If you’re running Exchange Server 2003, it might be more cost-effective to move your email services to the cloud. SharePoint Portal Server provides an internal, web-based collaboration and file-sharing platform — cloud-based services might prove more efficient here as well.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials does not include Exchange, so you may determine that you don’t need to keep Exchange in house. In this case, Office 365, a cloud-based version of Office, is a solid option. Still, there are considerations: This pay-as-you-go service includes only the latest version of Office, so there may be compatibility issues if you have other software that integrates with Office.

We understand that this process can be overwhelming, so we are here to help you develop a plan that fits into your budget and minimizes disruption to your business. The experts at ICG can help you determine what IT functions you need, what options are available, and how you can benefit from these end-of-support deadlines.

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