The Silver Lining of Microsoft End-of-Support

Microsoft’s decision to end support for a number of popular products has left some people in the small-to-midsize business (SMB) community fuming. Others are confused as to what they should do, while still others are ignoring the problem.

The fact is, nothing can be done to change Microsoft’s decision, and using products that are unprotected, unsupported and outdated simply isn’t worth the risk. The best approach is to view Microsoft end-of-support as an opportunity to evaluate and optimize your IT infrastructure.

The first step is to assess the state of your network and determine what core IT functions you really need. You may be missing key functions, or you could be maintaining functions that were useful at one point but are no longer necessary. Perhaps you can move certain functions to the cloud. The decisions you make should be based on your organization’s needs five years from now.

Most businesses use a file and print server to store and print important documents, and an internal web server to share information. An Active Directory server, the central repository and security checkpoint for users, groups and computers, should be part of every business network as applications are increasingly dispersed across local and cloud computing services.

You may have an Exchange email server, which many organizations are moving to the cloud because it’s both a seamless process and a cost-effective solution. SQL Server serves as a backend database for business applications, SharePoint server provides an internal, web-based collaboration platform, and a remote desktop or terminal server provides remote access to business applications.

If you’re using Small Business Server 2003, it’s time to choose an alternative.

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.

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.

If you’re still using Windows XP, you have a number of options.

Many organizations are choosing Windows 7 because of the learning curve with Windows 8, although a soon-to-be-released upgrade for Windows 8 is designed to make it work more like Windows 7. Apple products such as OS X and iPads are becoming more and more popular in the workplace. Many Mac users need to run Windows on their Mac for application compatibility but enjoy the freedom of switching back and forth between operating systems.

Atlantic-IT.net has helped many customers work through this process. As your outsourced IT department, we can help you develop a plan that fits into your budget and minimizes disruption to your business.