Windows Server 2003 shutdown guide: How to prepare

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The countdown to the end of life date for Windows Server 2003 has begun, with support ending on July 14th. Here Jade Burke takes a look at why it is crucial for businesses to migrate…

The end is nigh for Windows Server 2003 (WS03) with support ending for the server operating system in just a few months. At 12 years old, it has indeed had a long life after its birth on April 24th 2003.

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Last year Microsoft also cut off all support for Window XP, where businesses flocked in their masses to migrate to the next available OS from the tech company. 

Now with the end of life for Server 2003 fast approaching, businesses and institutions need to begin to look at how they can migrate or face exposing themselves to more security hacks and any other vulnerabilities, as Microsoft cuts off all support on July 14th 2015.

Since data can be accessed directly or indirectly from the internet, all major or private information could be stolen once support ends, making the need to migrate even more essential. 

“When Microsoft finally ends its support, without any further patches or security updates this could unwittingly open many organisations to security issues, compliance problems and higher maintenance costs,” adds Tom Goodwin, server and storage manager at Lenovo. Distributors including Westcoast have offered help to those looking to migrate, as Clare Leetham, Microsoft marketing manager at Westcoast, explains: “We 

have a roadshow entitled ‘A Time For Change’. This outlines the risks and the opportunities this once in a decade opportunity opens up to the channel.”

CMS Distribution is also lending a hand to customers, with its wide range of solutions for planning and testing, as well as migrating data centre migrations. 

New server systems

There are various other servers businesses can migrate to including Microsoft Azure and Office 365, however, Windows Server 2012 R2 seems to be one of the preferred choices, since it has been optimised for cloud and virtualisation. No doubt this will also help to improve the efficiency of many businesses since Server 2003 is 12 years old. 

The first step to migrating is to discover and catalogue all of the software and workloads running on WS03. Once customers identify their catalogue they can assess their applications, and next pinpoint what their target destination is. 

Vigilance is key to this crossover and Microsoft hopes that customers will take on board the advice expressed by the tech company. “Microsoft encourages customers who currently run Windows Server 2003 and have not yet begun migration planning to do so immediately,” says a Microsoft spokesperson.

“Readying a company’s apps and data for migration from WS03 can take a substantial amount of planning and time. Customers have great migration options, including the new Windows Server, Microsoft Azure, hosting partners, and Office 365,” adds the spokesperson. 

Owner of AML Midlands, Anthony Lay, is also offering help to customers. “We can aid the support of the server and make sure it will be working, but as far as the apps go, the main support will be aided by the developers,” explains Lay. 

“The end users and ourselves need to make sure we have an upgrade path.”

Windows Server 2012 R2 also comprises a 64-bit operating system, which will help to hold significantly more data and amounts of access memory than the older 2003 server, which had a 32-bit operating system. 

Daley Robinson, from IT provider Stone, believes that the performance of an up-to-date server will bring great opportunities to businesses: “The performance gains are going to be pretty incredible, if you have got an institution that’s been running a 10-year-old server on an operating system.

“Whoever is managing the IT space internally within a business is going to be very used to complaints from users around productivity and the speed of the network. There’s going to be massive performance gains that moving to Windows Server 2012 R2 can give. It’s a fantastic tool that is significantly better in terms of performance.”

With newer servers there is also the opportunity for businesses to make cost and energy savings as well. For example, WS12 R2 will be using about 70 per cent less power compared to older servers, which will help to make a significant impact on businesses. 

An average small and medium business (SMB) Windows 2003 migration project could take between three and four months to complete, meaning migration should be well underway by now. With that said, some are still reluctant to migrate due to legacy software issues and licensing costs. Paul Jeffery, head of category services at Ingram Micro, adds: “The challenges of migrating customers usually lies in the hidden complexities with their existing environments. 

“Quite often there are legacy applications and batch programs that will not migrate easily, if at all, possibly due to hidden 16-bit code. Fortunately there is relatively good compatibility between Windows Server 2003 and Server 2012 R2.”

The distributor is offering key tools and support during the shift. By working with vendors Ingram will be explaining the options available to them, showing how customers can be migrated and offering services that its partners can offer out themselves. 

Similarly, computing firm Lenovo is rolling out help for its partners, while Microsoft has already launched its Migration Assessment and Planning (MAP) toolkit, which helps to prepare and kickstart the planning. 

Watch our live Q&A with Microsoft on the revenue opportunities around Windows Server 2003 end of support. Sign up for FREE here and send your question in.

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Business prospects

With a new server comes new opportunities, something Jeffery deems possible with the migration: “This is an ideal opportunity for the end user to re-assess their needs and also make the best use of new technology features in the later versions of Windows Server and of course the cloud services such as Office 365 and Microsoft Azure.”

As well as this, businesses will be able to make use of the improved virtualisation features, reduced maintenance and increased business agility, with the knowledge that their data is secured safely. Not only that, it gives businesses the chance to take a look at their infrastructure and whether any changes are needed to help modernise it. 

As Paul Ambrose, technical director at PHB Networking, concurs: “For us as a company, it’s a great sales opportunity and for the client a good (though expensive) time to revaluate their IT needs and to start planning for the future.”

The retail industry is also keen to take on-board WS12 R2, as a number of payment processors have confirmed that they will not transact payments on unsupported servers that could have a major impact on businesses.

Cloudy future

Cloud services will most likely lead the way once the adoption of WS12 R2 begins; while businesses will start to see the benefits of the cost-effective applications. 

“In the SMB sector we will certainly see more people taking advantage of Microsoft cloud services such as hosted exchange and Office 365. The cost differential between hybrid cloud and completely on premise makes it an absolute certainty that more end users in that space will do that,” adds Gareth Bray, general manager of server and storage at Exertis.

Plus, this isn’t quite the end of Windows Server 2003 for everyone, as some businesses also have the opportunity to change it into a legacy server so long as it isn’t the primary server. Lay continues: “If you have to use an old server, don’t make it your primary server. Plan for the future and plan on binning it in a few weeks rather than years, and make it a legacy server rather than a primary server.”

On the other hand, Insight Services’ director David Mayer, warns that leaving just one server on WS03 could leave the entire network at risk. “Windows Server 2003 was really stable,” adds Mayer. 

“But as we move to the cloud world, there are a lot of scenarios that weren’t prevalent back then. The big one is that Windows Server 2012 is cloud-ready. The ability to do private, public and hybrid scenarios is huge.”

These new opportunities will only be available once businesses make the switch, showing just how important it is to begin preparation for migration now, before it is too late. 

Goodwin explains: “All technology has a natural lifespan, and Windows Server 2003 has brilliantly supported businesses over the 12 years since its launch.”

Watch our live Q&A with Microsoft on the revenue opportunities around Windows Server 2003 end of support. Sign up for FREE here and send your question in.

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