On “One Guy’s Opinion,” Guy Baroan, founder and president of Baroan Technologies , discusses the technology world through the lens of a successful IT managed service provider.
It might seem early to start talking about Server 2003 end-of-life since it doesn’t happen until July of 2015, more than a year away, but with any migration or upgrade project, it makes sense to get things finished ASAP so you aren’t struggling to get caught up at the last minute. Since it’s so early, you’ve got plenty of time to plan migration projects that are not only affordable, but can actually save you money in the long run. Upgrades also carry the benefit of additional features that make employees more productive and businesses more profitable.
With that in mind, we asked our partner Guy Baroan about how other MSPs can help their clients see the need for upgrading away from old equipment and software.
StorageCraft: What risks would an end-user or business face if they chose to stay on an unsupported platform?
Guy: From a security perspective, they definitely want to have patches and vulnerability assessments from Microsoft—these are in place to protect them. If the software is still supported, Microsoft will find the vulnerabilities and provide a patch. Another thing people may not take into account is that if software goes out of support, hardware vendors often stop supporting it as well. It may not happen right way, but six months or a year after upgrading a server, the hardware vendor may no longer support the drivers that work with the older software, so you’d have to upgrade it anyway.
StorageCraft: What kinds of costs are associated with this type of upgrade or migration project? Is it ultimately worth the cost for most businesses?
Guy: That question has a lot of components. The types of costs really depend on the client. It has to do with what they’re using right now, where they want to go, and how big they want to grow. With the cloud being such a good option these days, you can have virtual servers you pay a monthly fee to run, so rather than buying hardware, you’re basically renting a virtual server. Amazon has a service, VMWare has a service—all of the biggest players are getting into the game of offering virtual server options. If someone is upgrading, they might look at that as an option.
The other thing is that if the client is a small business with just file-level work, they can outsource some of their services like email to a hosted Exchange environment like Office 365. If it’s just files they need locally, they might even be able to use Dropbox for business or Box.com—there are a lot of things they might consider. Some businesses don’t even need a server. They might be able to get away with just moving services to cloud options.
Those that need to upgrade servers can buy a new physical server, which costs between $3,000 and $7,000 depending on services they need. If they’re going to use it for one purpose like file storage or Active Directory, it won’t cost them more than the cost I just mentioned. If they have multiple servers, they can buy one beefier server in the $7,000—$10,000 range, which they can use to virtualize the other servers they had in place, rather than upgrading many pieces of equipment and buying multiple servers. This way they can have three or four virtual servers running on one physical box.
Of course, software licenses need to be upgraded as well, which is an additional cost. It’s certainly not cheap to upgrade a server. Typically we recommend for clients to upgrade every 3-5 year time-frame. In any case, it eventually needs to be done.
Cost will also be affected by how old their desktops are. If they’ve got units still running XP, those will definitely need to be upgraded. It’s not cheap, but it should get done. Upgrading is definitely worth what they pay for it because not only are they getting a supported platform, they’re getting the latest capabilities, which might include offsite replication capabilities, multi-site capabilities, and remote access, and it’s all built-in. Using old technology is not good. Especially beyond five years, anything beyond five years should be upgraded. Newer technology has so many more capabilities that it’s worth the upgrade costs.
StorageCraft: There are a lot of people who might want to stick with Server 2003 because they’re used to it or don’t want the costs involved with upgrading. What would you say to a client who is really stubborn about upgrading? Is there a way they can keep Server 2003 for a while?
Guy: A lot of customers really don’t have a choice. Any of our customers that have compliance needs like HIPAA or Sarbanes-Oxley have no choice but to upgrade. Anybody that deals with any personal information or PHI (personal health information)—any company that has private information about clients will have to upgrade or face a major risk. If they get hacked and that personal information gets out, they have to notify every one of their clients and tell them that their information may have been compromised. The costs associated with this are very high, but there are other costs businesses may not have thought about. If people discover they’re dealing with an organization that had some sort of breach that didn’t do everything they could possibly do to protect themselves beforehand, they might not want to deal with that company anymore. A breach could be business changing—some businesses could go out of business because of something like this—it’s just not worth it. There are so many options like server leasing or things that allow them to upgrade while only paying a low monthly fee.
Businesses have a lot of options but if a client sticks to their guns, you’ve got to protect yourself as their service provider. You’ve got to outline all of the things that could go wrong and explain the vulnerabilities, and explain that if they use something that is supported, Microsoft will work towards fixing any issues that pop up. The alternative means they’re putting their business at risk.
If Microsoft discovers a vulnerability for Server 2008 or 2012, it will be patched, but people will still try to access that vulnerability on 2003 since they have very similar codes. But the 2003 version won’t have a patch. If someone gets in, you’ve got a major issue, and remember this is a server—it’s a much bigger problem than an isolated incident on a workstation. Servers often have all of the files the whole company uses. [MSPS need] to stress to businesses that it’s a major requirement. If something happens, it can take down the whole business. In most cases, it’s in their best interest to upgrade.
StorageCraft– Do you feel there’s an affordable option for pretty much any size of business?
Guy: There is an option for everyone. Anybody can get this resolved and there’s plenty of time between now and next year. If you’re waiting until the last minute to get this done, you’ll be in trouble. This isn’t like upgrading desktops with XP, which can be done pretty quickly. A server is totally different. Businesses really need to think through what they need to update, who they need to contact, what software they’ve got, and then determine if those applications will work on the newest Microsoft Server versions—they may not have up-to-date applications. If everything they’ve got is surrounded by MS Server 2003, they’ve got to make sure these applications will work with newer versions of MS Server, depending on what they move to. It’s not something you can do quickly. You’ve got start the processes early on in order to be in a good place.
StorageCraft: Are there situations where businesses could move into the cloud or take advantage of virtualization and actually save money while upgrading? What types of costs affect businesses who don’t upgrade?
Guy: Yes. It will save them money in the long run. If there’s no support for your software, and admittedly there are a lot of resources already online, but in any case you get to a point where something happens and you need to troubleshoot something and Microsoft won’t help. You might spend hours resolving an issue and the client might not be able to function at 100% while there’s nothing you can do to resolve the issue. Their office is not running efficiently if there’s an issue. A server involves everyone in the office. If people are looking at what they’re paying people in salaries—labor is often the most expensive item at a business—if they’re not getting full efficiency from every employee they have there, they’re spending so much money. If nothing else, upgrading to newer, better, faster, software, and hardware will make their employees far more efficient, and if that’s the case, they’re already saving money. People only have a certain amount of time to do the work, so you’ve got to ask a business, “Do you want to do more work in less time or do you want everybody to struggle with systems that aren’t efficient?”
It just doesn’t make sense not to upgrade. In today’s world hacking has become very profitable. [Hackers] are making lots of money stealing information, and so they’re always looking for ways to get into systems. People really don’t have a choice but to upgrade, but security is just half of the benefit. By upgrading, businesses are not only protecting information, but they’re also providing themselves with better technology to do things faster.
StorageCraft: So basically, investing in the latest technology is the way to go?
Guy: I’ll share an example. In the past we worked with a client that sold glue and they always invested in technology. Every two years they’d upgrade and they always had the best-of-the-best enterprise-grade technology—they must have spent between $100,000 and $200,000 every two years on upgrading the infrastructure. This business only had six people in the office but they were doing as much business as their nearest competitors, who had over 100 employees. The point is this: technology can be your friend if you use it the right way and you invest in it. This company embraced technology and could do things with six people that no one else in the industry could do—his business was thriving because of technology. Everything they did harnessed technology. They had many different automation processes and systems in place—it was an unbelievable sight. This doesn’t work for every business, but if every business looked at technology as something that can help them differentiate themselves from others rather than as a necessary evil, it would be a completely different environment out there today.
Do you have some thoughts on end-of-life? Share it with us in the comments section.
Also, if you’re curious about a great server migration tool, check out StorageCraft ShadowProtect.