RIP windows server 2003
Cyber attacks are on the rise, and if you're running an old business Server, it's time to invest in a new one.
In July 2015, support for Microsoft Windows Server 2003 ended. This is a post-event alert!
If you or your clients are still running a Windows Server 2003 or Windows Small Business Server 2003 today, you need to replace it right now. This is not a recommendation, it is an urgent business imperative.
In the beginning...
In 2002, Microsoft released the first workable Small Business Server. There were a few issues with it and, in 2003, a new version was released, which was very reliable and was installed into millions of businesses globally.
In many cases, it was the first server a business ever installed, and it is still there chugging away today. It should now be considered as a ticking time bomb. And it's time to call the bomb Squad before it takes out your data.
The growing risk of cyber attack
The Cyber Security Centre (CSC) was launched in Australia in 2010 to monitor and test technology and to reduce cyber attacks and crimes, Since then, the rate of cyber attacks has increased exponentially. In 2013 and 2014, it increased more than 40 per cent and 20 per cent respectively, according to the director-general of security and head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Duncan Lewis.
Research by the CSC concluded that four simple security strategies reduced 85 per cent of cyber attacks. The third of those four strategies is the one that is important in this instance. It is to patch operating systems.
Operating systems are the software that controls how applications interact with the computer hardware. When they become vulnerable to attack, the hardware and all data on it are exposed to significant risk.
Why should you care?
It is the job of your IT department or service provider to ensure your servers are kept up to date with these patches. However, IT people depend on the patches being delivered by the equipment manufacturers and software vendors. When this support is withdrawn by the vendors – as it is in this case with Microsoft withdrawing support for Windows Server 2003 – there is nothing anyone can do to fix bugs or security holes when they emerge.
There is also a risk of old security bugs that were patched being redesigned to get around the patches, allowing the server to be breached.
And there are other ways these servers may let you down.
If you follow strategy two of the four key CSC strategies - patch applications – you may create your own problem when updated software is no longer compatible with the unsupported operating system.
The result of this is that the updated application, such as your finance package or database system, may cause the server to become unstable and crash.
Any interruption to business caused by such problems will very quickly cost you more than the expense of replacing your aged technology.
Should you need to attach new devices – a USB communications device, a printer or scanner or a storage device, for instance – you may find the hardware is unsupported because of a lack of compatible drivers. This will also limit your ongoing use of the aged server.
Time to act
There are real costs to moving to new technology and many businesses have put off this expense for too long. Australia is viewed globally as a rich target for cyber attacks and we are seeing more of them, with higher dollar amounts being lost to cybercrime each year.
Don't wait to be the victim of a server calamity, be it malicious or just a failure to function. Now is the time to ensure you have a sound migration plan in place and a project signed off to get the change underway.
Even if you can recover your data after a systems outage, making the move to a new platform under duress will significantly increase the cost and the impact of the move.
Recovery is not likely to be an option at the point when an expired Windows Server 2003 fails.
What should you do?
There are many options for your technology update; cloud solutions, hardware solutions, data centre solutions and more, Take the time now to explore which options offer your business the best combination of cost and function, to serve you for the next few years.
Remember that, as a small business, any server you purchase for under $20,000 is eligible for the new infrastructure concession, too (you can read more about the increased asset write-off threshold and how it applies to IT purchases on page 58).
Hanging on to your old Microsoft Windows Server 2003 is neither a sensible nor cost-effective option. Make definite plans to update your technology and, above all, take action now!