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Today, July 14th 2015, is the date when support ends for Microsoft Windows 2003. One of the most successful server platforms in history goes the way of the dinosaur. What does that mean for your business? Are you ready for the end?

Windows 2003 Server End of SupportWhile Windows 2003 servers will not suddenly stop working they will now be at a higher risk of cyber security dangers such as malicious attacks or data loss. Also, as US-CERT notes “Organizations that are governed by regulatory obligations may find they are no longer able to satisfy compliance requirements while running Windows Server 2003.” While some may not have taken this seriously, it’s much more notable since the government’s breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as during the hearings it was noted that one of the major issues was that they had legacy systems that could not be protected with modern forms of cyber defense.

What can you do? The obvious answer is to upgrade these servers as soon as possible. Another step you can take is to see if it is feasible to move all sensitive data from the Windows 2003 servers and use a combination of segregation and monitoring between the sensitive data and the now legacy servers. A final option is to use a commercial ‘virtual patching’ product of which there are many on the market. Simply put, it is a product that looks at known vulnerabilities and compares them against vulnerabilities on your Windows 2003 server, then creates rules to defend against the vulnerabilities until a patch is applied to fix the issue (although in Windows 2003 the issue will never be patched due to it being end of support).

Don’t get caught without adequate time to plan and budget for upgrades. Be sure to maintain an inventory of all products used by your organization, review at least annually, and then budget and plan for migrations well in advance. Get started today by contacting Dorset Connects


The manageable side of risk management

Maximize opportunity. Minimize worry.

Remember the classic scene in the 1987 movie Wall Street in which Gordon Gekko places a call from a beachfront using a two-pound, football-sized cellphone? The underlying message: only a wealthy robber baron like Gekko could afford such extravagant technology.

Oh, how far we’ve come. By 2025, there will be upwards of 4.7 billion people online. Most data will move through or be stored in the cloud. And there will be 4 billion mobile Internet subscriptions globally. Nearly every business of every size relies on the digital world—from computers and mobile devices to cloud services and social media—to do things Gekko only dreamed of, from updating sales figures from the road to serving global markets in real time.

Rising security threats—to all businesses
Along with the incredible business advancements, SMBs also face security challenges nobody imagined in 1987. According to the security company Symantec, small businesses with 1¬–500 employees were targeted in 41 percent of all attacks in 2013—and attacks are rapidly increasing. In fact, targeted attacks on businesses with 1–2,500 employees rose an alarming 61% from 2012 to 2013.

Why are cybercriminals targeting SMBs? Because smaller businesses have the same valuable bank account information, customer data, and intellectual property as big businesses, often with far less stringent security practices and less advanced technology. Also, because SMBs may serve big businesses, they can be a convenient entry point for infecting their much larger partners and business customers.

Get in front of the problem
Despite the headlines and alarming rhetoric about cyberattacks, SMBs generally do not need to invest in million-dollar digital security solutions even if the resources for such solutions were available. Because most security threats involve malware attacks or insider misuse (losing a laptop, etc.), the most effective solutions are similarly mundane: only use protected software and cloud resources, and keep your software updated.

Focus on implementing products, services, and policies, especially in the following areas:

Identity: Protect mobile devices with customized security by user, location, and device – including the ability to lock devices, reset pins, and remotely wipe data.

Access control: Invest in solutions that ensure secure, remote access to sensitive business applications and data.

Desktop and device management: Use centralized tools to manage all your devices, and keep desktops and devices automatically set to receive the latest security updates.

Data protection: Make sure your software – from server and desktop to email, mobile and cloud — has built-in protections against hackers, malware, and viruses that exceed compliance and privacy standards.

Train your employees: your team is your first line of defense. Ensure all your employees understand the policies in place and how to help implement them. Learn more about how to get your team on board to help.

While cyberattacks can be problematic, there’s no reason to fear. Instead, invest in products and services that are inherently more secure, with security built in and prioritized throughout design and development. And make sure they’re also built for manageability and ease of use—so you can easily take advantage of the exciting benefits afforded by today’s highly connected digital world.

Explore the following resources for information on how to help keep your business protected:

Microsoft Internet Safety & Security Center
Office 365 Trust Center
Microsoft Intune Trust Center

Some of the links on this page do not lead to translated versions of the articles. These pages will display in English only.


Understanding virtualization

You’ve heard about virtualization, but what exactly is it?

Virtualization creates a virtual—rather than physical—version of a computer operating system, computer network resource, or storage device. For instance, with your computer, you can create a virtual machine that behaves like a separate physical computer. In this case, your virtual machine co-exists on the same computer as your regular operating system. With virtualization, you are using software to transform one physical computer into a more useful group of virtual computers.

What are the benefits?
One of the main benefits of virtualization is that it can cut a business’ IT costs. For instance, a business with multiple servers could use server virtualization to reduce the number of physical servers, decreasing maintenance and security costs. It also allows you to get the most out of your existing hardware investments. Rather than buying a new PC, laptop, or server, you can improve your utilization of the hardware you already own. And, you can easily set up redundant systems for disaster recovery, without having to add more hardware.

Virtualization can also help you minimize operating costs (e.g. power bills). Since you are already running the physical computer, adding virtualization can give you more computing power, without increasing utility expenses or requiring more physical space to house a server.

Once you virtualize, it makes it dramatically faster and easier to move the contents of your server to new hardware—whether on-site or in the cloud. This includes simplifying the upgrade process which is especially important if you’re running Windows Server 2003. On July 14, 2015, support will end for this product (incl. Windows Small Business Server 2003). Upgrade now to Windows Server 2012 R2 to help reduce capital costs, maximize your IT investments, and receive scalable data storage and application support for your growing business.

How is virtualization different from cloud technology?
Virtualization and cloud computing are related, but they are not the same thing. Both represent ways to reduce infrastructure costs by making the most of computing resources. Cloud computing allows entire services or applications to run on a network of distributed computers. Public cloud services can be subscription services like web-based email or Office 365, or online communication services like Skype or Lync. A private cloud, on the other hand, offers customizable services housed on your company’s servers or those of an IT solutions provider. Hybrid cloud solutions use aspects of both public and private clouds. In all cases, cloud services appear to be provided by real server hardware, but are in fact served up by virtual hardware. Virtualization is a key component of cloud computing, but even by itself, virtualization can be beneficial to businesses of any size.

Might virtualization be a good solution for your business needs? A Microsoft solutions provider can help—find a partner near you.


Boost sales with social selling

Finding new customers is critical to keeping your business going and increasing profits. But, how do you find and attract the buyers that need your products and services? Calling or emailing a stranger used to be the way.  Now, unsolicited calls and emails are less effective than ever at sparking a conversation. Just look at the statistics: an uninvited call is only 3 percent effective, according to an IBM preference study.1 Compare that to reaching out via a LinkedIn Inmail — recipients are likely to respond 67 percent of the time.2  Social selling is today’s answer to cold calling. Combine the power of customer intelligence technology with principles of social selling and you can easily engage with customers on social media to increase sales.

What is social selling?

Social selling is when you use social media to interact directly with your prospects. You provide value by answering their questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.  But what do you actually do? Pay attention to the customer’s buying and service history. Listen to social networks to gather content created by customers and prospects. Provide relevant and helpful information.

Identify the best prospects  It’s tempting to make or buy a long list of everyone who might possibly ever purchase your services or products. Resist!  Take a step back. Look at your current customer data as a way to profile prospective customers. Understanding their behavior and reasons for buying can help you identify and improve sales with promising prospects. Dig into what customers like about your company, their buying and service history, who they are, and what problems you are solving for them. And you’ll also want to learn more about their world by using social media and the web. Customer intelligence technology like Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online can help you streamline your prospecting and let you focus on building profitable relationships. For instance, Microsoft Social Listening can help you analyze what customers are saying on social media platforms and get the most out of your social media presence.

Boost Your Business with Social Selling

Target your social approach  To be effective at sales, it is helpful to monitor and engage with prospective buyers in social channels. Zero in on the social channels where your customers are most likely to spend time. For instance, if you’re selling handbags, Pinterest may be the best place to find your ideal customers. If you’re an accountant, LinkedIn is a more likely spot.  It’s good to thoughtfully share information, insights, or advice that’s relevant to your audience. By monitoring what’s most popular, you can learn what offers genuine value to them.

Stretch beyond your walls  You can also use technology to expand your reach, work faster, and be more productive. Start with your employees’ devices. Are they all running Windows? If not, your workers might be wasting time struggling with different experiences across their devices. Standardizing on one platform, such as Windows, will improve employee productivity, while allowing for broad device choice, be it based on personal preference or job function.  How about the applications running on your devices? Are they cloud-based? Move to Office 365 and your employees will still get the same Office experience they’re used to, whichever device they use, even if happens to be an iPad or Android-based device.  And you can easily manage these devices and provide more secure mobile access to company data, through cloud-based device and PC management solutions like Microsoft Intune and Office 365.

Make it personal  Pay attention to what customers and prospects are saying. Maybe one of your customers talks online about a personal event such as a promotion or birthday. Or maybe a customer complains about your product through a social channel. How you respond can be critical to how customers perceive your business.

Be an expert  Help customers discover your business by being generous with your time and expertise. You can demonstrate your knowledge by participating in a webinar, writing an eBook, or guest posting on a partner’s blog. As people share your content by cross-referencing or re-tweeting, it helps prospects recognize you as an expert they can trust — and helps build profitable, social relationships

Nurture long-term connections  Building and sustaining relationships are the key principles behind successful social selling. Keep in touch with prospects using social media and emails, even if they don’t purchase from you right away. You can take advantage of Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online to track your communications and help you keep a good rhythm of reaching out to prospects even when you’re on the go, from a Windows device.

1. “Tips to End Cold Calling.” LinkedIn.  https://business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions/prospecting-tool/cold-calling-tips 

2. Microsoft. Always Be Closing: The ABCs of Sales in the Modern Era. 2014. PDF filehttp://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/always-be-closing/default.aspx


Windows Server 2003 End of Support – Migration Options

Windows 2003 Server End of SupportCompanies now have just two days left before Windows Server 2003 End of Support, and getting off the aging software could mean reaching into their wallets. With Windows Server 2003 nearing its end-of-life point, many businesses are looking for ways to migrate away from the software — without suffering downtime or hefty costs.

Microsoft will no longer guarantee security fixes for Windows Server 2003 after the middle of 2015, making companies still using it vulnerable to attack and causing any servers running it to fall out of all compliance requirements. That looming threat makes it imperative for a business running important or mission-critical tasks on the aging OS to give serious thought to migration.

Microsoft positions Windows Server 2012 R2, which is the latest version of its server operating system, as a key piece in its so-called Microsoft Cloud OS initiative. Organizations migrating to a newer Windows platform would see benefits in several key areas.

Windows 2012R2 shines with improvements to its Remote Desktop Services (formerly known as Terminal Server), Hyper-V for virtualizing multiple servers on one piece of hardware, and improved file delivery services.

An inflection point for cloud

One option for Microsoft shops is Azure. The cloud service’s initial costs are far less expensive than investing in new hardware. This point is critically important for organizations running Windows Server 2003 because that OS ran on 32-bit chip architecture; newer software requires 64-bit systems.

Going to the cloud means less data center infrastructure to manage. Billing is done in small intervals, and costs are more closely tied to actual usage. Also, workloads are scalable, without the need to invest in more physical storage.

However, cloud services come with concerns. Costs will accrue over time, and there’s a good chance organizations will eventually spend more on the services than on the hardware itself. Downtime is a potential issue for some, as no provider has demonstrated a perfect track record when it comes to maintaining cloud services. As with any service provider relationship, customers are at the mercy of the cloud provider. So, if Microsoft decides it wants to deprecate, change or remove an Azure feature, it can do so at any time.

Still, it’s a compelling option for businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve. And an increased number of businesses are considering it: 19% of North American respondents to a 2015 IT Priorities survey plan to build a private cloud this year.

One aging platform to another — Windows Server 2008

Windows Server 2008 R2, an x64 operating system released in 2009, is an OS organizations are considering in the interim. It is a stopgap option for companies that need to move off Windows Server 2003, but don’t have the hardware to support the latest and greatest.

Companies that choose this path can reap a number of benefits. In virtualization, Hyper-V has expanded capabilities, including Live Migration and Cluster Shared Volumes using Failover Clustering. Also, Active Directory added a recycle bin feature.

Still, Windows Server 2008 is a burning platform — mainstream support ends in 2015, and extended support expires in 2020.

Wait for Windows 2016

Due out in 2016, the next version of Windows Server is expected to contain a number of improvements. However, since the new OS isn’t expected until 2016, companies wishing to migrate to it directly from Windows Server 2003 would have to bite the bullet and go a few months without security updates — something Microsoft strongly recommends against.

If your business is running any Windows 2003 servers, you need to work with your IT department or consultants to plan for the End of Support on July 15.

This entry was posted in Business Intelligence, Cloud, Technology, Windows and tagged Business, Good for Business, Security, security threats, Windows on June 9, 2015.

To learn more about your options, visit our Windows 2003 Server End of Support page.