By Nick East

Historically, July 14 has held no real significance in the United States. But this year, it takes on new meaning: It’s the day Microsoft will end its support for the decade-old operating system Windows Server 2003. However, it’s not too late for companies to put in place a plan to migrate away from their tired and worn IT solutions.

There are around 9.1 million instances of WS2003 OSs around the world. Small- and medium-sized businesses are especially vulnerable, as they lack the backup and IT resources found in many larger companies. One thing is certain on July 14 this year: If companies do nothing they may risk everything. Businesses that choose to continue running WS2003 run the risk of major business trauma – perhaps not immediately, but in the near future.

Our research with the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) shows that 72 percent of businesses use infrastructure refresh as an opportunity to refine their IT strategy. Over the past four years, cloud adoption rates have grown by 61.5 percent, resulting in 78 percent of businesses having one or more cloud-based services in use. Another 71 percent expect to retain on-premises IT for the foreseeable future.

The future for most organizations is a hybrid one in which local IT infrastructure is integrated with the cloud. WS2003 end of support could signal the beginning of a new stage in an organization’s IT evolution. A hybrid model also allows you to get the performance and control of on-premises IT with the best of the cloud. Provided “as a service,” the hybrid model allows companies to predict monthly costs and quickly remove services and users when no longer required. With IT as a service, companies can also eradicate any future issues with end-of-life technology.

Bottom line is that it’s easy to improve an IT refresh business case based on predictable OPEX rather than upfront CAPEX. So setup costs are contained and lifetime support efforts and associated costs mitigated.

Migration away from the decade-old operating system doesn’t have to be as painful as many may think. It’s important to understand that although organizations need to act now, they don’t have to change everything all at once. This IT refresh can be an evolution, rather than a headache.

Nick East is  the CEO of Zynstra, a hybrid cloud technology company. Stay connected at @Zynstra.