Windows Server 2003 is Dead

This should come as a shock to no one, but Windows Server 2003 has officially run its course. And it’s had a good run – 12 years later it’s still one of the most popular platforms used today, which is precisely the problem. It was last estimated that there are still 9 MILLION servers running WS2K3! So maybe this information is a surprise to some of you. Maybe you’re not taking it seriously, or maybe, you just don’t have the means and resources to deal with the migration, and you’re hoping you’ll survive until you do.

The truth of the matter is this: it’s risky to remain on platform.

With the removal of support for Windows Server 2003 comes a major security threat. Without critical security updates and patches for the system, it will quickly become vulnerable. And while some of you may be relying on the fact that you’re not running anything major on 2003, that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t get hacked. And like many things with technology, you don’t know how bad it is until it’s already happened.

Does it Really Matter?

You might be asking yourself if it really matters. Especially if you’re looking at the cost of the migration, and realizing that on top of the extinct platform, you’ve got other hardware and software products that are close to the end of their life-cycle. Migrating is a huge undertaking, and everyone in IT knows why people resist it, but I assure you the risks far outweigh the rewards.

For one, running on an out-of-date platform puts you at risk for non-compliance, which can expose you to fines or terminate relationships with key partners and clients. Compliance is not to be taken lightly. Failing to meet regulatory compliance can bankrupt a company, and reactively dealing with non-compliance is arduous and expensive.

If that’s not enough, the security implications are endless. Not only will Microsoft completely cutoff security patches and hot fixes, they will stop supporting the platform all together. That means if something goes terribly wrong, you’ve got no-one to call. You’ve vulnerable to hackers AND your aging system, with its increased likelihood of failure, will be hung out to dry. If your server melts down, you’ll be unable to recover the data and no one at Microsoft is going to help.

Of course, if you’re already in the process of the migration, and are just having trouble finding the resources to complete it, you can opt for a for-fee custom support contract, that will help you manage until your migration is complete. Beware though; this is not a long-term strategy unless you enjoy hemorrhaging money. These contracts carry a hefty price tag and are not designed to extend much past the end of the product lifecycle. They can buy you some time, but not at a fair price.

And it’s not just Microsoft. If you’re using applications developed and supported by an ISV, you’re going to lose support there to (if you even still have it). It’s not cost-effective or efficient for an ISV to support legacy applications so you’ll be left alone in that regard as well.

Migration can be Complicated

I’ll tell you that you need to migrate, and that’s a no-brainer, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s going to be easy. Forget all the work it’s going to take to simply do the upgrade, there are other things to be aware of.

If you’re running a highly customized solution, chances are you’ve have lines of code that need to be transitioned to the new environment – and that can be a nightmare if the developers are no longer available to you.

And those unsupported applications that your ISV has long since moved past won’t necessarily run on the new server. So while you own the license, you may have to shell out more money for a current version, or worse determine what to do if the application no longer exists at all. You also have to consider what’s going to happen in the short-term to some of the application software you run, because facing another migration in a year or two is in no one’s best interest.

So Now What?

Time is of the essence here. Migrating to Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft Azure or Office 365 should be a top priority. If you’re still running on Windows Server 2003, it’s time to give it up. That particular platform has been replaced 3 times prior to now, so 4th time is a charm in this circumstance.

The good news is that Microsoft has done the work it needs to limit the application migration challenges that created issues for those moving from Windows XP last year. The better news is, the move to Windows Server 2012 R2 comes with a large amount of improvements over the legacy system, which includes everything from integrated virtualization, improved security features, broad scalability, operational roles, and improved performance.

The bottom line is this: it has to be done. It should have been done already but we can’t change the past so we best shape the future. If there are 9 million of you still on Windows Server 2003, that’s a lot of risk out there just waiting to be exploited.

If this isn’t something that can be done in-house or by your current managed services provider, there is still hope. Rand Group continues to help their clients move on from Windows Server 2003, and we would love to help you.

Unsure of your current standing? Get the process started with an Infrastructure Assessment.


– Software Delivered as Promised. No Surprises.

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