Small Business Server 2003 reaches end-of-life: What should SMBs do now?

Ross MacKenzie

'All good things must come to an end' - and Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 is one such thing.

SBS 2003, which has been the cornerstone of IT infrastructures across the globe, will go end-of-life at the start of 2014.

That is not to say that SBS will stop working overnight; but it certainly presents a series of problems that businesses should address sooner rather than later.

A ticking time-bomb

The Microsoft Support Lifecycle is ten years, which means that Windows XP and Office 2003 will both be meeting the same fate. Again, software and licenses will continue to function, but the primary concern for businesses should be that of security.

At end-of-life, Microsoft will not only stop actively supporting SBS 2003, but they will stop releasing security updates and patches. This essentially turns SBS 2003 into a ticking time bomb. Once a vulnerability is exploited, all businesses with an installation could be exposed to attack.

It is time for an upgrade

If your business is running SBS 2003 on an on-premise server, there is a good chance that you may have been considering an upgrade for some time.

The current iteration of Microsoft's offering is Small Business Server 2011; however, this too will be retired at the end of 2013 in favour of Windows Server 2012 Essentials. As well as spelling the end for the much loved SBS, this leaves companies that are taking premeditative action in something of quandary. Install SBS 2011, only to be left with a legacy platform in a matter of months or wait for 2012 Essentials to be released?

Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer to this problem as the circumstances of any given company must be taken into consideration; but the clearest way to sidestep the issue altogether would be to move to the cloud.

Head in the cloud?

For those with outdated hardware and high operational costs, the retirement of SBS 2003 may be the ideal time to seriously consider shifting infrastructure to the cloud.

Monthly subscription models allow businesses to accurately manage their cash flow and the lack of on-premise hardware dramatically cuts capital expenditure on IT projects.

However, cloud based services offer benefits that extend well beyond the savings that businesses experience by adopting the new infrastructure model.

Cloud services are able to grow in tandem with a business, scaling resources as is necessary, to meet the needs of the company. This scalability can prove to be very useful for businesses which might experience strong periods of growth. No longer does infrastructure need to be upgraded or replaced; no longer do additional licenses need to be purchased - businesses can simply move forward, safe in the knowledge that their infrastructure is up-to-date, secure and not carrying any hidden costs further down the line.

Act now

With 2014 rapidly approaching, the time to act is now. Businesses that don't take pre-emptive action to update their system will be left with a legacy installation that lacks support. Even with third party support, the fact that there will be no security updates means that, at some stage, SBS 2003 will fall to those who wish to businesses harm; it is simply a matter of time.

Whether you choose to replace existing infrastructure or begin shifting services to the cloud, it is of vital importance that you take measures to safeguard your business.

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