Windows Server 2003: Top tips for migration

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Support for Windows Server 2003 has officially ended today and in the last month, it has been covered as a small-scale apocalypse. 61 per cent of companies still run 2003 servers, which from now on are exposed to security breaches and compliance concerns. Additionally, the $600 per-server fee for extended support, which Microsoft intends to charge, is no pocket money for SMBs.

Why do so many businesses still postpone their migrations? The thing is, migration effort involved in the upgrade is quite substantial, and requires long hours of manual re-installations, re-configurations and recovery, IT operations which are expensive in time and in money. And if that is not a roadblock enough – business continuity interruption in manual migrations tends to be several days.

While that sounds like an unpleasant experience indeed, it turns out that tools now exist for automating most of the migration process.

We’ve sat down to discuss this with Chris Lerner, Senior Support Engineer with one of New Jersey’s retail outlets. Chris has recently migrated 17 WS2003 servers in one week! The whole project was performed by a single tech (Chris himself), without allocating undue resources to the migration project. Here are his tips and conclusions from the transition process:

1. Plan your migration

“Two things were most important in the planning process: understanding what we have, and planning our downtime. When we were faced with a manual migration, we had to allocate 3 to 5 days per server, depending on its applications complexity. Times 17, this mounts to several months of work. That’s how we’ve decided to look for a tool – which brought our times down to several hours per server.”

2. Try to get it done in one concentrated effort

“We’ve had 14 WS2003 servers due for an upgrade, and 3 more were WS2008 which we could technically keep. Using Zinstall WinServ, we have migrated to 2012 not just the 2003s, but also our 2008s – future-proofing the estate. We could have postponed those 3, but then we would have to start another project in short while, which we have now avoided.”

3. Automate all you can

“One of our key decisions was to attempt to avoid manual migration as much as possible. We’ve decided to check if there are tools out there that can help, and have decided on WinServ, which was able to migrate server applications, settings, databases, and, of course, files. This has cut down our total time for the migration project from 3 months to 1 week, and maybe another couple of days of post-migration adjustments. It even allowed us migrate a very sophisticated Avaya software system, one that we could no longer even find the installation media for. We are now evaluating Zinstall’s workstation migration tool, to similarly automate our planned transfer to Windows 10.”

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