Server 2003: Migrate Now or Pay Later
Written by Philip Magson
I always advise clients that the best way to address problems on the horizon, is to deal with them before they appear. With its end of life imminent, Windows Server 2003 is a problem already over the horizon and rapidly approaching. It's not too late to take the steps you need to migrate from Server 2003 - businesses which do not could see their avoidable problem turn into an actual disaster.
Microsoft ends support for Server 2003 on July 14, 2015 - no more patches or security updates will be released after that. In a nutshell, this means organisations still using Server 2003 after that date are exposing themselves to serious security risks, along with numerous compliance issues. From my personal experience, there are still a worrying number of companies without any kind of transitional plan in place ... worse still, many have only a vague idea of the date Server 2003 will end. I'm sure we all remember when Microsoft ended support for Windows XP and companies scrambled to update their operating systems. This time round, the risks of inaction are much worse.
There won't be anything physically stopping businesses using Server 2003 - but, if you do choose to plod on with it, your problems won't be restricted to cyber-threats (as serious as they can be). Out of date, unsupported software quickly slips behind current business standards and regulations, like the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. I have seen plenty of otherwise healthy businesses fall behind industry standards and run up huge costs in the long run - as small problems snowball into devastating ones.
We want our clients to not only be able to cope with a server migration but be in a position to thrive afterwards. There's no need for the migration process to be painful and my advice is to establish a clear, step-by-step plan: first and foremost, this means knowing which servers are operating with the out of date software and what it is going to take to upgrade them. In some cases, a software upgrade (to Windows Server 2012) will be sufficient - in others, a hardware upgrade will be necessary. The rise of cloud computing means many businesses can now leave hardware behind - and take their server processes online with cloud systems like Windows Azure. In either case, you'll save your business time and money by gathering this information ahead of your migration.
It's probably worth pointing out that, rather than an unpleasant chore, a server upgrade is an opportunity to enhance your business' performance. If you're upgrading your hardware, you're also going to be able to take full advantage of the capabilities of new software like Windows Server 2012. Similarly, working within the cloud means taking pressure off real world resources and gaining a flexible platform which can react to problems quickly and manage your business across a global network. I can think of several businesses which were pleasantly surprised to find the server upgrade they had put off for so long, actually streamlined their business, saving them money and time by allowing seamless global integration.
It's amazing how much of an impact a little forward planning can have. With our focus on system security and business recovery, the upgrade from Server 2003 is a no brainer - but the professional benefits go far beyond that - and you're missing out every moment you don't take plunge. If you're unsure about how to begin your migration from Server 2003, check out Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 Migration Planning Assistant. The tool will walk you through every step of a successful migration, and even assess what type of move is going to suit your company best.
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