Microsoft to Windows Home Server Users: Upgrade for Security's Sake

Microsoft urges Windows Home Server 2011 users to upgrade to Windows Server Essentials, a prudent move given the current embattled state of cyber-security.

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Small businesses and households that depend on Windows Home Server 2011 for their device, file and media-sharing needs may want to start looking for alternatives.

Over a year ago (April 2016), support ended for the aging server operating system, the software giant reminded users this week. In Microsoft parlance, mainstream support entitles customers to feature updates, security patches and no-charge support in select instances. And as IT watchers can attest, a year is a long time to run an unprotected operating system.

Without the steady stream of security updates mainstream support provides, users may face a bleak future in terms of keeping their data safe.

Running an out-of-date operating system is a risky proposition, cautions Microsoft religiously. Cyber-attackers proved the software maker right with this spring's massive WannaCry ransomware outbreak, when the company extended a security update (MS17-010) to Windows XP, which reached the end of the line more than three years ago.

Echoing his company's frequent warnings on operating system security, Scott M. Johnson, senior program manager of Windows Server Essentials at Microsoft, advised users to migrate to Microsoft's newer, more hacker-resistant offerings. The software giant "recommends bringing in a new device running Windows Server Standard or Windows Server Essentials and migrating your roles, features and data to the new appliance," he wrote in a July 3 blog post.

"Today's new hardware is significantly faster and cheaper and can better handle the latest Windows security infrastructure, roles and features," continued Johnson. "Customers moving to a modern operating system will benefit from dramatically enhanced security, broad device support, higher user productivity, and a lower total cost of ownership through improved management capabilities."

One advantage Windows Server Essentials has over Windows Home Server is the sheer number of backups it supports. A solid data backup strategy can help turn an otherwise destructive ransomware attack into a relatively minor inconvenience.

By spreading ransomware, cyber-attackers are banking on lax data protection habits to get victims to pay up. In a ransomware attack, an infected system's files are wrapped in a layer of encryption, effectively locking users out of their own documents, photos, media files and other data. With backups, and a thoroughly disinfected PC, users can reclaim their files without paying their attackers a ransom.

According to Johnson, Windows Server Essentials has Windows Home Server beat on the backup front.

Windows Home Server supports up to 25 PC backups. Its successor, meanwhile, can handle up to 75 backups. The latest edition (Windows Server Essentials 2016) enables hybrid cloud backup scenarios to Azure cloud storage for more robust data protection, noted Johnson.

In fact, Windows Server Essentials has a more robust storage subsystem overall. It borrows a feature from its commercial Windows Server software called Storage Spaces that enables users to pool their storage while offering greater levels of data redundancy, lessening the impact of data mishaps.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...