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I’m looking for the best way to migrate the IT of a small non-profit which I support to a Windows cloud environment. I’d appreciate your advice on choosing an affordable and friendly cloud provider and migration strategy.

Main requirements:

  • The system only needs to be up 10-20 hours a week. In order to save costs I’d like the end users to easily power-up and down the Windows instance as needed.
  • 3 distinct users + 1 technical personnel. Currently only 1 user works at a time (myself).
  • Principal applications:
    • A commercial accounting software that uses SQL Server with a custom collation (possibly Express) as a backend.
    • A custom Access 2003 application.
    • MS Office.
    • Occasionally some ancillary (hopefully...) Win32 apps.
  • Printing to printers attached to the end users' workstation should work readily.
  • Some sort of backup or snapshot allowing the data to be reverted in case of problems.

The current environment consists of a Windows 2003 R2 x64 small-business server acting as domain controller + SQL Server 2008 (Express edition) + SMB filer, and a Windows XP workstation. Users often work remotely using terminal services.

I would envision migrating all the setup to a single Windows 201x cloud instance. All the users are trusted; I have no concern about intentional security breeches, so they can all login to the server as far as I'm concerned.

closed as off-topic by joeqwerty, yagmoth555, Andrew Schulman, Ward, Dave M Mar 12 '18 at 21:51

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    Hi, please hire a presale consultant. I would just replace the server with a newer setup and ask o365 osbl deal and same deal with the windows licence, but thats just me, please ask someone that can view the setup and give you real world advice based on fact – yagmoth555 Mar 12 '18 at 0:39
  • I would envision migrating all the setup to a single Windows 201x cloud instance. All the users are trusted, I have no concern about intentional security breeches so they can all login to the server as far as I'm concerned. – YitzikC Mar 12 '18 at 7:19
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    "I’d appreciate your advice on choosing an affordable and friendly cloud provider" - And we would appreciate you not asking for product recommendtations which are off topic as per site rules. – TomTom Mar 12 '18 at 9:44
  • There's a difference between asking to help choose a provider, and asking for help on how to choose a provider. But in this case the requirements are well-defined, so it should come down to just finding the provider that meets them best. – Andrew Schulman Mar 12 '18 at 15:26
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This isn't exactly what you asked for, mainly because product and service recommendations are off-topic.

That said:

  • Office 365 charges by user and can definitely get you newer versions than 2003. (Does your custom Access 2003 application support versions of Office higher than 2003? Please test thoroughly.)
  • Azure Active Directory would suit your purposes better than a domain controller that you switch off when you're not using. For three users, basic would be $3 a month.
  • Many cloud providers offer instances with SQL Express. You would need to make certain that the accounting software worked with the version of SQL Express in the cloud, however.
  • You didn't specifically mention this, but for 3 employees who work remotely it might be worth investigating Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. Off the top of my head, both Azure and Amazon offer VDI. Both can provide you with a desktop more modern than XP.

The cloud provider aspect doesn't strike me as the trickiest aspect of your question. Ensuring needed compatibility for your existing application does. Yagmoth555's suggestion to hire a consultant is probably a good idea.

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    The Access 2003 can probably be ported to a newer Access, but apparently that's not trivial, so we'd rather leave it. Hopefully some time in the future we could hire a consultant to migrate it and upsize it to use an SQL server backend. – YitzikC Mar 12 '18 at 7:21

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