In less than a year’s time, Microsoft will end support for Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2. That means that from January 14th, 2020 onwards, organisations using these versions of Windows server will no longer receive essential patches and security updates.
For barristers’ chambers, this introduces uncertainty around your IT (and how much it will cost) in the future. Many rely upon Windows 2008 servers to run LEX, MLC, case management booking systems, accounting solutions, and any other line of business software they might need. These chambers will likely want to migrate to something more secure that receives continued support. But how do you upgrade or migrate to a safe and secure alternative, without introducing additional costs or disruption?
In this article, we will explore the options available to chambers, along with some of the hidden complexities and costs of upgrading on-premises servers.
Stay on-premises, or move to the cloud?
In general, barristers’ chambers have three options for upgrading Windows 2008 servers:
1/ Upgrade to Microsoft Server 2016/2019 (along with purchasing any new hardware and software required) and repeat the process and upgrade costs again when that reaches its own end of life;
2/ Ask a service provider or your IT Support Company to host the server and software in their private cloud;
3/ Move to Microsoft Azure cloud service and take advantage of built in security and predictable pricing. All of these options will get you the latest version of Windows Server, but each has its benefits and drawbacks.
The hidden costs of staying on-premises
Understandably, some chambers would prefer to stay on-premises. For many, that’s what they’re used to, and there’s still the perception among chambers that keeping servers, software and data close by is more secure than moving them off-premises. However, there are hidden upgrade costs to consider if you want to keep everything on-premises.
For instance, some software vendors may have embedded their SQL Server licenses into their software packages or may pay for Software Assurance on their SQL licenses each year. However, Microsoft no longer allows software companies to use developer licenses in their implementations – so some chambers may need to purchase a new SQL Server license if they want to deploy LEX, MLC or another Chamber Diary management system on a new server. And if the server they want to use is too old, existing SQL licenses will no longer work on a new server, so they’ll need to procure all new SQL licenses as well.
This means staying on-premises with your upgrade could cost you twice: once for the upgrade licences to Microsoft Server 2016 or 2019, and again for new SQL server licenses.
Having servers onsite also means you need to take care of your own security, backups and Disaster Recovery plans, adding even more costs and potential risks.
Private cloud presents uncertain costs
Another upgrade option is moving your application to your service provider’s private cloud. Using a private cloud means you avoid the SQL server licensing issue, as service providers can ‘lend’ licenses to their private cloud customers through Microsoft’s SPLA programme. However, Microsoft has continued to make private cloud hosting more expensive in recent years, and SQL license costs using this method have increased substantially over the last few years. As providers see their own expenses rise, there’s a chance they may pass the cost on to their clients. With no guarantee that prices will stay the same, private cloud hosting remains a useful, but potentially expensive upgrade path for chambers. Using a private cloud also poses another risk: getting locked into a contract with your current supplier or IT Support Company. Vendor lock in could stop you from getting the best commercial deal, and make your IT less flexible in the future.
The long-term benefits of moving to Azure cloud
The third main approach is rehosting your server workloads and applications in a public cloud service like Microsoft Azure. This could be a big cultural change to how your chambers use its IT. However, from a technical perspective, Azure offers an almost like-for-like hosting experience. As Azure is managed by Microsoft, it means you can move almost all services using Microsoft products or Linux with ease. Because Azure is based worldwide, it also means your services can be hosted in both UK datacentres and other locations as required
.Unlike private cloud hosting, Microsoft is unlikely to hike prices due to the competition from other public cloud providers. Even if Microsoft were to charge more eventually, Azure contracts can offer minimum terms of just one month – meaning you’re never locked in for long.
Moving certain applications to a public cloud can also be done independently, without affecting the rest of your IT setup. Therefore, you can continue using your existing IT systems and Support Company, while getting the full hosting benefits of Azure.
Three general options, one deadline to remember
However you choose to upgrade, it’s important you have an action plan ready well before the deadline on January 14th, 2020 to ensure you aren’t putting your IT estate at risk. At this stage, it’s worth discussing your needs and options with your IT provider so they can help you make the most informed choice.
Paul Coote, Managing Director
Instant On IT
Phone: 020 3855 0055