April 2014 is a crucial month for you if you’re running older IT equipment. It’s the month when Microsoft officially stop supporting Windows XP and Windows Small Business Server 2003. What does this mean for your business, and what should you be thinking about as a plan for the future?
Microsoft themselves said on their website that “If your organisation has not started the migration to a modern desktop, you are late.“
Windows XP has been considered long in the tooth for quite a while. After all, it’s been over 10 years since we first glanced that brightly coloured start bar, which is ages in computer terms. The fact that Windows XP is still widely deployed, and that modern hardware still tends to ship with drivers for running on XP, is a testament to the quality of the product.
With the end of life looming (and XP already in extended support) these products are now no longer updated, so pose a security risk. Things like out of date web browsers (XP will only allow IE8 – Windows 7 will run IE10) makes the situation more pressing.
Many business users avoided the first upgrade step, which was Windows Vista as it was (rightly) panned by critics for it’s general sluggishness and poor usability. Windows 7 then emerged as the operating system that Vista should have been from the start. However, business users were still wary about making the upgrade due to possible software compatibility issues.
What’s the answer for business desktops on XP?
In our opinion, Windows 8 is a non-starter for most businesses we meet, unless they are already used to the new interface and Metro apps. The learning curve is (perceived to be) too steep for staff members, leading to lack of productivity. Many mainstream ‘line of business’ applications such as Sage Accounts are also unsupported on Windows 8, and upgrades to resolve compatibility issues normally only apply to the latest versions which firms may not be running.
Windows 7 is the prime candidate for replacing XP machines. For those firms who have old (legacy) 16-bit applications, the 32-bit version of Windows 7 can be run which usually runs these programs without a hitch. For software that simply won’t work (and we’ve not come across many examples of this in the past 4 years) you can still use Windows XP Mode within Windows 7 Professional, which runs a virtual XP computer on your desktop – within which you run your XP compatible applications.
What about Small Business Server?
Many of our clients have traditionally been running an in-house Small Business Server. As well as the end of life announcement for Small Business Server 2003, Microsoft have announced the end of Small Business Server as a whole – there will be no new versions after the 2011 product that is currently available.
For most businesses, this is actually a blessing in disguise. Small Business Server has always been a great product in terms of the functionality available for the money, but it typically has issues such as performance creep (gradual slowdown of the server) due to the fact that it’s main components – Exchange Server and the SQL databases that back-end the update services and other applications – tend to want to use all of the resources on the machine.
In terms of moving off Small Business Server 2003, you have a couple of choices:
- Cloud with a local storage/domain server (Server 2012 / 2012 Essentials)
- Private cloud
- On-premises Small Business Server 2011
We think the approach of cloud + local server for file/print/user management is the best approach. This allows the (expensive) Exchange server to be run with Microsoft for a per-user monthly fee, and the local data and application to be kept local.
For those with privacy issues, or a fear of the cloud, local resources can still be deployed in the form of Small Business Server 2011, but the migration is long winded and quite expensive (and the product is part of a dead line).
Can 1-Fix help us move onto supported systems?
We’ve assisted many clients to get Windows 7 desktops deployed in domain and standalone environments, and to get their existing applications working.
We’re also Microsoft Cloud partners, and have helped many firms to migrate from an on-premises Exchange (or Small Business) server to cloud e-mail.
We’re always happy to help or provide some advice around what you should be doing with your current systems. We approach this on a per-case basis, as we need to analyse your applications and needs to suggest the best course of action.
One thing we know for sure – the best course of action isn’t to do nothing, so drop us a line and have a chat with one of our team. We’re ready to help move your business forward.