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Facing Security Risks with the End of Windows 2003 Support

The end of an era is upon the business computing world with the retirement of Windows Business Server 2003, and Microsoft’s decision to end technical computer support for that product in July. This has left many businesses questioning what to do about upgrading their computer services. Many experienced computer consultants are also acknowledging the potential for significant problems for those who choose to continue with Server 2003. Although the switch over to Windows Server 2012 may be a considerable task, the advantages of new system architecture, as well as other more advanced management features makes the upgrade more desirable, rather than taking risks that are present by staying with an obsolete and unsupported operating system (OS).

Managing Security Risks for an Outdated Operating System

The decision to upgrade to a new OS is not one that should be made lightly; however, with Microsoft’s retirement of this popular yet outdated product, computer consultants say it is a concern all businesses should address. Until that time, a company may be able to manage any potential security concerns in several ways, although these methods are not without their faults:
  • Risk Identification and System Prioritization – To protect operating systems, a company must first determine actual security risks, how likely they are to happen, and how such risks can be prevented or contained. Reconfiguring a network to put fewer systems at risk can help, such as setting up a separate VLAN for the control of network access. It may also mean having no computer support to develop a workaround for any problems that slow efficiency and cause other negative effects.

  • Additional Security Tools – Computer service consultants suggest the installation of third-party security tools may help. Such action is dependent upon the current risks present and other issues. New tools may appear to help protect this older OS; however, it is likely that existing third-party programs will also become obsolete, along with the operating system, adding additional risks and functionality concerns.

  • Thorough Disaster Recovery Planning – A very basic, yet cumbersome way of dealing with security risks is to create a disaster backup and recovery plan that can be implemented in case of an attack on the OS, or any functional issues that develop. This is a reactive plan instead of a proactive one which will lead to downtime if it is ever called upon. Computer consultants advise this requires a time-consuming fix that may not prevent the loss of information and depends on complete compliance with keeping data and the entire OS backed up.

    Compliance Considerations

    There is another important aspect a business must consider with the discontinuation of support for Server 2003 that most likely includes any third party software running with it. There is definitely the possibility of increased security breaches that will not be fixed. Companies who store or work with sensitive data may find themselves out of compliance with federal or industry privacy and security regulations. Adding more third-party applications that are not recognized won’t help, even if they do provide adequate protection. At the very least, a business may experience failed security audits. Should they experience a security breach, this lack of compliance could become very costly and damaging to a company’s reputation.

    The bottom line is that no matter what ways are developed to continue to use the outdated Server 2003 OS without the benefit of Microsoft computer support, there will come a time when the negatives in not upgrading will outweigh the positives. A better, more stable option would be for a business to discuss the process of upgrading their OS with professional computer consultants to outline a feasible plan for upgrading. A changeover to Windows Server 2012 may not be without its bumps; however, with the addition of cloud computing services, continued operating system computer support, and other important improvements, it will be well worth the investment!

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    Location

    1100 Walker’s Line, Suite 501
    Burlington, Ontario
    L7N 2G3

    905-407-1001