How to prepare for Windows Server 2003 end of support

With Windows Server 2003 end of service (EOS) coming on the heels of last year’s XP end-of-life, enterprise organisations must stay on their feet if they’re to keep their systems current, and most importantly, secure.

Popular opinion is that if you’re one of the millions still running the outdated server operating system (OS), then as of July you will be stuck with an unsecure system, unless of course you’re willing to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for custom support (according to Forrester Research).

Unsurprisingly, what you aren’t hearing from your Microsoft sales rep is that other options do exist.

So, what exactly does the C-suite need to know as the WS2003 EOS apocalypse approaches? As of 14 July, 2015, Microsoft will issue no more patches for security vulnerabilities, non-security defects or operational issues for Windows Server 2003. Additionally, any third-party products (business applications, etc.) will no longer be supported, leaving an indeterminate number of vulnerabilities within those apps since defects could surface in the underlying OS that can't be addressed.

Where to start? Considering a non-Microsoft alternative that does not take months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement is a logical option. If your organisation is using WS2003 as file servers, there is an option to replace those filers with the help of the cloud. There are a number of hybrid cloud solutions that can be deployed very rapidly - and provide a host of additional benefits.

Customers often think that cloud storage gateways are the natural evolutionary alternative to their existing branch office strategy. However, data size and access patterns are paramount when making these decisions, and caching gateways are not always a panacea. The C-suite should be aware of the two flavours of cloud storage gateways in the marketplace:

Sync Gateways

Often used to replace small-medium branch office storage. Sync gateways are lower-cost than caching gateways for small datasets and use the cloud as a disaster recovery target, where the authoritative namespace lives at the branch and snapshots are capacity-managed to the cloud.

Caching Gateways

Often used to replace or accelerate enterprise network-attached storage (NAS) systems such as large scale monolithic or scale-out file systems. Caching gateways can present an economic advantage for large, dormant datasets by managing infrequently used data back and forth from the cloud. Caching gateways are often built with higher-power storage technology than sync gateways because Flash technology and high-powered processors are used to manage global locking and buffer data back and forth from the WAN.

Here’s the catch: caching gateways is expensive. What drives pricing is a reliance on high powered servers that require both expensive Flash technology as well as Microsoft storage software to deliver a robust gateway experience. So, as we think of traditional Windows Storage Server installations at the branch that previously cost $5,000 - $20,000 (£3,200 - £12,800), it’s clear that caching gateways aren’t appropriate for users who don’t have large data volumes.

When caching gateways are too expensive, customers often consider just upgrading to Windows Server 2012 for their remote and branch offices. Cost-wise, this is often a more appropriate evolution of storage strategy versus caching gateways if only because it doesn’t require an order-of-magnitude increase in the cost of branch storage for small to medium sites.

But again, this approach represents significant cost and time commitments and if you plan to make an upgrade, be sure to educate yourself on your options.

So what are the options?

Appliance vs. appliance, without the need to buy any special operating system software or third-party branch office storage, can save customers more than 50 per cent vs. Windows Server storage appliances (cloud not included). To protect Windows Server, Microsoft today offers Azure Backup Services for Windows Server. This service sells for $0.20/GB/mo and can cost organisations up to 10 times more than other cloud storage options.

Alternatively, new cloud-ready file servers are available as all-in-one hybrid approaches that leverage private and virtual private cloud storage for disaster recovery (DR) at a fraction of the cost of Azure Backup Server and provide global access to remote office data from anywhere in the world.

These appliances are now built with iPhone-like remote management where there is little or no need for onsite resources for operations such as troubleshooting, configuration changes and software updates. All together, these new systems represent the evolution of the traditional file server and, when measured on appliance and cloud DR costs, deliver a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) savings of beyond 90 per cent over a three year period vs. Microsoft solutions. Migrations are easy, where customers have migrated hundreds of servers per day with the push of a button.

If nothing else, the C-suite must understand how moving off Microsoft to an alternative storage option affects TCO and overall capabilities:

  • Beat the caching cost-curve (up to 100TB per branch)
  • Enjoy always-on access to data even when the internet is offline
  • Save 50 per cent over Microsoft Windows Server for ROBO (regional branch office) NAS and Backup systems
  • Increase savings on branch storage DR to more than 80 per cent in the first year alone

Want further proof? Invite a non-Microsoft file server and storage provider to do a TCO analysis of the remote and branch office strategy and be armed with all the facts before it’s too late.

Jeff Denworth, senior vice president of marketing, CTERA