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Is Your C-Suite Prepared for the Windows 2003 Apocalypse?

Is Your C-Suite Prepared for the Windows 2003 Apocalypse?
Image credit: REUTERS | Steve Marcus

With the Windows Server 2003's end of service date coming July 14, on the heels of last year’s XP end-of-life, enterprise organizations must stay on their feet to keep their systems current, and most importantly, secure.

Related: Here's How Drastically Microsoft Windows Has Changed Over the Years

The popular opinion is that if you’re one of the millions still running the outdated server operating system (OS), then as of mid-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 July 14, Microsoft will issue no more patches for security vulnerabilities, nonsecurity defects or operational issues, for the Windows Server 2003. Additionally, any third-party products (business applications, etc.) will no longer be supported, leaving an indeterminate number of vulnerabilities that could arise within those apps. One reason that could happen: 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 organization is using WS2003 as its file servers, there is an option to replace those filers with the help of the cloud. And there are a number of hybrid cloud solutions that could be deployed very rapidly -- and provide a host of additional benefits. Those include price.


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 issues for making these decisions, and caching gateways are not always a panacea. The C-suite should be aware of the two flavors of cloud storage gateways in the marketplace:

  • Sync gateways are often used to replace small-to-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 are 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 to $20,000, it’s clear that caching gateways aren’t appropriate for users without large data volumes.

Related: 10 Big Misconceptions About Cloud Computing

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. So, if you plan to make an upgrade, be sure to educate yourself on your options.

So what are the options?

Appliance versus appliance, without the need to buy any special operating system software or third-party branch office storage, can save customers more than 50 percent versus 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 per gigabyte per month and can cost organizations 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, 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 disaster recovery costs, deliver a total cost of ownership (TCO) savings of beyond 90 percent over a three-year period, versus Microsoft solutions. Migrations are easy: 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. You'll:

  • beat the caching cost-curve (up to 100 terabytes per branch).

  • enjoy always-on access to data even when the internet is offline.

  • save 50 percent over Microsoft Windows Server for ROBO (regional branch office) NAS and Backup systems.

  • increase savings on branch storage disaster recovery to more than 80 percent in the first year alone.

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

Related: 4 Reasons Small Businesses Should Migrate to the Cloud