Microsoft End-of-Support: Ignore at Your Own Risk

end of support

On April 8th, Microsoft will end support for server and desktop products that are still very popular and widely used in the small–to-midsize business (SMB) community.

  • Small Business Server 2003. Microsoft’s all-in-one server product includes a file and printer server, Active Directory server and Exchange email server.
  • Exchange Server 2003. Microsoft’s email server may be installed in your environment as part of Small Business Server or as a standalone product.
  • SharePoint Portal Server 2003. Microsoft’s internal web-based application enables collaboration on documents.
  • Windows XP (SP3). This is the second most widely used operating system, running on 38 percent of all PCs.
  • Office 2003. Many businesses continue to use this older version of Microsoft’s market-dominating productivity suite.

Again, these popular Microsoft products that are still being used by thousands of SMBs will be unsupported. Many companies assume this simply means that they won’t be able to call Microsoft for support. That’s the least of their worries.

The biggest issue, which also creates the biggest risk, is that Microsoft will no longer release security patches and updates for these products after their end-of-support dates. If new security threats emerge, Microsoft won’t be able to help you fight them off, leaving your organization perilously vulnerable to attack.

You may have your own antivirus software, but that software works best when combined with software security updates. Patches from Microsoft can prevent zero-day exploits – security threats that exploit vulnerabilities on the day they become known – while a solution from your antivirus software vendor will take time to develop and deploy.

Regulatory compliance also becomes a major concern. For example, a Windows XP machine will not be HIPAA- (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant after support ends. Organizations responsible for protecting sensitive patient data and health information must upgrade.

In addition to security risks and compliance issues, organizations that fail to migrate to newer versions of Microsoft products will face software compatibility issues, internally and externally. For example, older versions of Office (97-2003) can’t read files from newer versions of Office (2010 and 2013) without a patch. You would have to maintain multiple file types of the same file. Outlook 2013 is not compatible with Exchange 2003, so you would need to keep multiple versions of Outlook installed.

By running older applications, you can put your organization at a competitive disadvantage. Older applications have fewer features, hamper performance and create a support nightmare. For example, a feature as simple as search-as-you-type, now considered a critical tool by many users, was introduced in Outlook 2007 and enhanced in Outlook 2010.

Support headaches aren’t just the result of Microsoft pulling the plug on support. If you upgrade your computers and mobile devices and continue to use old software and applications, you end up with a confusing mix of old and new platforms. If you cling to the old hardware, the entire system will be prone to failure.

Atlantic-IT.net, your outsourced IT department, has set up a Microsoft End-of-Support Resource Center with a wide range of content dedicated to this issue. We also encourage you to view Atlantic-IT.net’s free webinar, Microsoft End-of-Support Deadlines: What They Mean to Your Business, as we explain what happens after support ends, why delaying these upgrades creates business risk, how to determine what IT functions are needed, what options are available, and how to benefit from these end-of-support deadlines.