Windows Server 2003 End of Life is Coming

March 23, 2015

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As of July 13, Microsoft will no longer provide any support for Server 2003, including crucial security updates. This is a big deal, because several nonprofit organizations, in an effort to save money, haven’t upgraded their servers from 2003. We have at least three nonprofit clients here in Chattanooga whose networks have at least 1 Server 2003 still in production.

Windows_Server_2K3_Standard_ED_CoverBx

But upgrading to a newer version of Windows Server can be a daunting (and expensive) proposition in terms of both time and finances. In this post, I write about why upgrading to the latest version of Windows Server is a good idea. But I also discuss some alternatives to Windows Server, and why they may (or may not) be a good fit for your organization.

Why Upgrading is a Good Idea
Besides security updates (which are a big deal), here are two reasons why upgrading might be a good idea:

1) Newer versions of Windows Server bring a plethora of new features that organizations can take advantage of. For example, in Windows Server 2012, a new feature called “DirectAccess” makes it easy to setup a VPN – without the confusing hassle or performance hit of using a VPN!

2) Newer versions of Windows Server also fix compatibility with newer software. For example, if your organization operates Microsoft Exchange with your Server 2003, then no version of Microsoft Outlook newer than 2010 will work. But with Server 2012, you can use the latest and greatest Exchange Server.

TechSoup provides software and hardware at hugely discounted rates to qualified nonprofits, so if you’re worried about the cost of upgrading, consider checking their website. However, there are religious and other limitations to what qualifies as a nonprofit they’re willing to help.

But let’s face it: Windows Server can sometimes be overkill for smaller organizations. Often times, smaller nonprofit organizations need to share files among staff members and have a central place to backup their data. Anything else that Windows Server provides just goes by the wayside. Sure, a central user management system is nice in the form of Active Directory, but even that isn’t always necessary.

Is the cost of new Windows Server software, not to mention the cost of new hardware, worth it to prepare for the looming Server 2003 End of Life? Alternatives to Windows Server exist, and I get a kick out of helping smaller nonprofit organizations save oodles of money.

Here are some alternatives:

  1. Use Google Apps for Nonprofits. 
    Google for Nonprofits makes Google services free for registered 501(c)3 organizations, including free advertising and Google’s flagship product, Google Apps for Nonprofits. With Google Apps, your organization can run its email through Google, with your own domain name.

    Not only does this replace Microsoft Exchange, but it also includes 24/7 access from anywhere as well as backups that you don’t have to deal with!We have helped several clients migrate onto, and use, Google Apps for Nonprofits. If you need help, contact us.

  2. Use a NAS instead.
    A NAS, or “Network Attached Storage” device, is a server that lets you easily store data in a central location and share data between users in a network. Smaller NAS devices are often times sold at a fraction of the cost of a new Windows Server operating system and accompanying hardware.

    We’re certified in Synology devices and have installed them not only in our own office but also in several clients’ offices. The easy-to-use web GUI includes amazing features like a 1-click install that gives you two-way sync with Google Drive (a part of Google Apps), Dropbox, and other cloud backup services. Other packages include a robust DNS server, Antivirus software to scan what’s stored on the NAS, and even an iTunes server and a web server!

    Synology-Package-Center

    Screenshot of Synology DSM 5.1’s Package Center

There are many alternatives to Windows Server, and they’re becoming more advances and more numerous as time goes on. These are just a few cost-saving methods your organization may be able to take advantage of. Have a question or comment? Contact us!

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