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Migrate-Gate: What to do with Windows 2003 End-of-Life

windows 2003Deflate-Gate was the topic of conversation the past few weeks. Now that the Patriots are Super Bowl champs we can put this made-up, fake controversy to bed. What isn’t fake, however, is Windows 2003 support ending. What to do with End of Life approaching is a big topic of conversation now. It’s Migrate-Gate!

Tick…Tick…Tick. Does this sound familiar? Tick…Tick…Tick…Windows 2003 Servers support is ending. Tick…Tick…Tick 6-months to go and now it’s time to tick…tick…talk about what you need to do.

Assuming that you haven’t gotten sucked into Cats on Glass photos, many of you are probably aware that support for Windows 2003 Server ends on July 14th 2015. That’s this year…that’s this July! Oh wow, it’s coming faster than another Expendables movie!

Windows 2003 is so old, it knew Burger King while it was still a prince, yet many are still using it. It’s been a reliable and pretty stable product that may give you fits from time to time, but at the end of the day gets you where you need to go. Another way to look at it is that it’s a 1989 Honda Accord (both took CDs). Now, your mechanic is telling you that you’ve dumped too much time, money and energy into your car, except in this case it’s Microsoft telling (eh…forcing) you to upgrade your server.

Why Upgrade?

The big thing starting on July 14th is that there will be no more updates or patches from Microsoft, which can result in a less secure and less stable infrastructure for your business. So what does it really mean?

• Goodbye Updates – Say adios, au revoir, sayonara and beannacht (Gaelic) to updates for fix bugs, performance issues and security vulnerabilities. 2013 saw the release of 37 critical updates for Windows Server 2003/R2. Past the end of life date, these critical issues will remain unfixed, leaving you open to cybersecurity dangers such as malicious attacks or electronic data loss.

• Maintenance Costs – Running legacy servers is not cheap. Intrusion detection systems and advanced firewalls are required to protect a now vulnerable Windows Server 2003 platform. Also, think about all the increasing cost for maintaining aging hardware.

• No Compliance – So once support ends, you’ll still need to meet industry wide compliance standards. Regulations such as HIPAA and PCI require regulated industries to run on supported platforms. Those rules are tougher than the NFL’s PSI policy.

• Software and Hardware Compatibility Issues – New software and hardware devices are no longer being built to integrate with Windows Server 2003. By staying with Windows 2003, you could run into compatibility issues and may not be able to run new instances of software or communicate with the latest devices.

{Whitepaper: Windows Server 2003 End-of-Life Action Plan}

Before July you’ll have three options:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Move to an on-prem Windows 2012 environment
  3. Move your workloads into Azure. Sounds easy, right? Before you do anything here are some tips to consider

Three things to consider:

Analyze your environment: Understand the interaction of the servers in the data center environment. Moving one thing can impact another. Map out what is interacting with what and which users are interacting with which applications. Many reasons why Windows 2003 is being used is because of application dependency due to niche and custom applications.

Migration Licensing:  Review short-term and long-term costs of licensing. If you are considering an on-prem solution, understand what your licensing options are. Depending on quantity, customer type and physical vs. virtual there are several licensing programs to consider. Also, with licensing, Microsoft provides backwards compatibility, so Windows 2012 doesn’t necessarily have to be installed. If your application is compatible with an older edition like Windows 2008/R2, volume licensing allows you to run older platforms, so it’s important to work with your application provider to see how these applications can be transitioned to another server operating system. If you are looking to move into the cloud, it’s important to know what your workloads look like to size your Azure service appropriately. Lastly, you need to compare on-prem vs. Azure costs.  Do you want to purchase and own the SW with volume licensing or do you want to subscribe to using it in the cloud?

Consider professional services:  Who tries to make a soufflé without following a recipe? This is a big deal, so why do it alone? There are many pre and post migrations issues to consider so it would be beneficial to speak with experts who know what they are doing. i.e. GreenPages.  (Come on it’s our blog so we can include a plug!)

I would highly recommend registering for our upcoming webinar, “How to Approach a Windows Server 2003 Migration: Key Steps for a Better Transition” for more information. The webinar is being hosted by our Practice Manager of Microsoft Technologies, David Barter on February 19th.

If you haven’t had a discussion about Windows 2003, don’t wait until the last minute as 6 months will come faster than you think.

photo credit:

A backlit keyboard.

Rob O’Shaughnessy

Director of Software Sales & Renewals