What does that mean to YOU?

On April 8, 2014 not only will Microsoft retire Windows XP but it will also retire Exchange Server (email) 2003 and Office 2003.

Let’s look at the Exchange issue first. Many small businesses are still running SBS (Small Business Server) 2003 as it was one of Microsoft’s most stable platforms for small businesses. SBS 2003 has Exchange 2003 integrated into it as its email platform. And there is no way to just upgrade Exchange. All newer versions of Exchange run on a 64-bit platform meaning a new server is probably in your future (before April 2014) if you are still running SBS 2003 or Exchange 2003. Email is a mission critical system for most small businesses so this is something that needs a long hard look as it is probably going to involve upgrading or replacing your server or looking at other alternatives.

Office 2003 has been around for over 10 years. In tech terms it might as well be 100. Not much time left. You can check what version you are using by going to ‘Help’ and then ‘About’ and this should display what version of Office you are running. You can do this in any of the Office suite of programs (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc…).This is not a free upgrade, your best bet may be to purchase the latest version of Microsoft Office 2013. While upgrading to Office 2013 probably doesn’t mean you need a new machine it does mean you have to consider the fact that the user interface is different and will require some re-training or at a minimum some frustrated users (at least until they get use to the new interface i.e. the “Ribbon”). At a minimum I would suggest having users new to the interface spend a couple of hours on some of the free Microsoft training videos or search out YouTube training videos for whatever version of Office you upgrade to.

Of course some of the same implications of XP going away can be found with Exchange and Office 2003 going away. Let’s review some of the issues:

  1. Security – Microsoft will no longer release security updates as of April 8, 2014. This means both Office 2003 and Exchange servers will be more vulnerable to harmful malware such as viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Anti-virus software will also not be able to fully protect you once they are no longer supported.
  2. Software Issues – No more updates. Since Microsoft will no longer be releasing fixes and updates many software and hardware vendors will no longer support their products that work in conjunction with Office 2003 or Exchange server 2003.
  3. No Support – nowhere to turn, no one to call at Microsoft. Online and phone based technical support will no longer be available from Microsoft. This is especially troubling for Exchange Server since even the experts sometimes need support from Microsoft on their server products.
  4. Down time – The risk of system failure and business disruption could increase because of the end of Microsoft support, lack of application support.

The bottom line is past April 8th you DO NOT want to be running Exchange Server 2003 or Office 2003 or XP. Microsoft has given fair warning. The bad guys know not everyone will heed this warning. And I’m sure there are a ton of bad guys out there waiting for April 8th to release their malware knowing Microsoft won’t lift a finger to fix it. Don’t be easy prey for them.