Why your server can't live forever: 4 crucial reasons to upgrade

You've endured a big but successful project to get your website up and running and it's been happily doing it's thing for a few years now. So why are your IT people getting nervous? After all, if it ain't broke, why fix it, right?

You know phones. Servers are not phones. Mostly.

Remember back to your first mobile phone, you know, the extremely oversized brick with a keypad? These days it is rare to spot someone using a phone like that, they just don't work the way we need them to now. Pretty much all of the phones on the market (in Australia) have fancy touch screens and are using the latest and most advanced tech available. Well, just like your old Nokia 3315 or Original Blackberry, a web server is much the same: it gets old. The technology that servers are built on become outdated and so does the software that runs on them. They become End-of-life (EOL) products and it's a good idea to upgrade them when that happens.

Think of a Blackberry phone as an old web server, a server with a vertical VPS stack, fixed CPU & bandwidth which operates from a single location. Sure it worked great back-in-the-day, but when it goes down, someone in the physical world has to work on rebooting it - which can have a significant impact on any business. Compare that phone to a Galaxy Note8, now that as a web server is going to elastically scale based on the amount of traffic, reboot itself as needed with no downtime and have co-location redundancy...

Okay I get it, servers get old. But why do I need to upgrade when my website seems perfectly fine?

Running a website on an older server, particularly one that has End-of-Life (EOL) software is particularly dangerous for four primary reasons:

1. The creator of the software no longer supports the product:

When a server or software is EOL, there is nobody left to solve any errors. It is not possible to request new features. Often there is a new version to replace older versions, but it is not expected to run on older platforms, so if you're interested in the latest features or bug fixes, your old server may not be up to the task. Software vendors typically test applications on current and most-recent versions of any particular operating system, so attempting an upgrade on an old server can have unforeseen (and expensive) complications. For example, our preferred website platform Silverstripe requires newer versions of PHP with each iteration. This means for customers on older servers they can't upgrade their websites without moving to a newer server.

2. Having EOL software exposes your website to cyber attacks:

When software is no longer maintained, there will be no one applying important security patches to keep the software strong. This greatly increases the chances of your site being infected and open to fraud that you could be liable for. Upgraded servers have the latest firmware and patching updates, keeping devices secure and in compliance with government specifications and industry best practice.

3. Integrations will have stopped or eventually will stop working:

This is because you have no control over the other end of the integration. For example, a payment page would be connected to a payment gateway and those kind of gateways are always kept up-to-date to ensure the best protection against fraud. The provider of that payment gateway will upgrade their own technology to beat cyber crime and your integration to their site may stop working. Similarly with ReCaptcha, which protects forms against robot spam, if the ReCaptcha failed then you could end up with 100's of spam emails all of a sudden in your enquiry box. Just this month we had a customer connected to an old ReCaptcha service that Google decided to quietly discontinue. Without ReCaptcha protecting their forms, the spam emails they received went from zero to 500+ per day.

4. Server performance declines with age and capacity:

On average, a VPS server's performance erodes by 14% annually. By the fifth year, a server has only 40% of the performance it had when it was new. Basically, older systems are just not as fast as new ones! Additionally, servers will run slow once performance reaches about 70% of maximum capacity, including drive space (you've probably noticed your iPhone doing the same?). Newer systems typically ship with more processing & storage capacity as the price of these items also decline over time.

What if my website hasn’t broken yet, does that still mean I need to upgrade?

While it could be perfectly OK to keep running an old web server with a 10 year old hard disc, this type of server would need to run a similar vintage of software to keep doing its job, with a bunch of white-bearded old programmers on hand who still remember how to look after it. Some smart folks over at Dell Computing suggested that, starting in the fourth year, support costs increase about 40% and by the seventh have hit 400%. It's just not economically feasible to fix issues when they arise on an old system. You could be sitting on a ticking timebomb of costs! Ultimately, upgraded servers mean better website performance & security.

If it has been a long while since you upgraded your web server, or you have an interest in reducing the threat of a cyber attack (or you just like shiny new phones?) then you should consider upgrading. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, there are many different hosting packages to suit. So why wait until something breaks? Reap the benefits of a fast, new server and upgrade today with Internetrix.

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