Why Microsoft Windows Server 2003’s Phaseout Could Bring the Computer Rapture

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And when Microsoft phases out regular support for its old software on July 14 -- meaning no more patches and updates -- a shocking number of its users won't be ready to make the switch

If you do not have a strong technical background, there is a chance that you do not know much about what a computer server is or does. A server is a component of software or hardware in computers that will provide functionality for other devices or programs, which are known in the technical world as clients. This architecture is referred to as the client-server model.

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It may be 2015, but the vast majority of businesses and companies worldwide still rely on Microsoft Windows Server 2003 for their computing solutions.

And when Microsoft phases out regular support for its old software on July 14 — meaning no more patches and updates — a shocking number of its users won’t be ready to make the switch. It could be the catalyst of a major computing crisis.

According to a recent CNN Money report, about 21% of computer servers in the $14 billion computer server manufacturing industry still use Windows Server 2003. Even more shocking? An incredible 97% of data centers are using Windows Server 2003 on at least one of their computers. Likewise, a mere 4% of corporate computers use Microsoft Server 2012, the latest version.

Windows Server 2003 is ubiquitous. This aging software handles many processes we rely on every day, from company emails to online shopping transactions. When Windows Server 2003 is phased out, all these processes will likely be exposed.

For data centers, the main challenge won’t be tracking down every computer and server that uses Windows Server 2003 — though that will be a trial in itself. The real work will be upgrading all these computers to new server software, a process that takes about 200 days. During this months-long gap, millions of servers will be vulnerable to hackers.

A similar thing took place last year when Microsoft phased out support for Windows XP. As a result, 95% of ATMs were left exposed and vulnerable to cyberattacks during the transition to new computer software, CNN Money reports. The same year, a hospital that didn’t update its software ended up losing 4.5 million patient records to Heartbleed.

And if a company, for whatever reason, decides to continue using Windows Server 2003? It will have to pay Microsoft $200,000 a year for custom support for an antiquated software system.

As companies scramble to upgrade to a newer software system for their servers throughout the next few months, their gaping network security vulnerabilities will be something that’s impossible to ignore.

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