Windows Server 2003 support is ending

Cloud computing - Microsoft Azure

Extended support for Windows Server 2003 will end on 14th July 2015. After that date Microsoft will no longer provide support or issue security updates for any version of Windows Server 2003.

The lack of security updates may not sound like a major concern, but it really is the end of the road for Windows 2003.

Heres why.

Microsoft takes security seriously and continues to release updates and patches for software many years after it is released. For example, just for last month (April 2015) Microsoft released eleven security bulletins, each containing multiple updates across a range of software applications (including Windows, Office, Internet Explorer and other applications). Most of the updates applied to other versions of software, including Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista and Windows 7. The summary of those updates can be reviewed here.

The fact that security updates are still being released for older software, such as Windows Server 2003, highlights the fact that there are thousands of people seeking to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in software that is in widespread use. Generally, the more widely used the software is the more those people will focus on it, and Windows Server 2003 remains in widespread use even after twelve years. In fact, a recent survey by Spiceworks (view here) indicated that 61% of businesses are still using Windows Server 2003!

There is a good chance that Windows Server 2003 is still in use in your organisation, and we feel that now is really the last opportunity to make certain that your systems are checked, and updated, before Microsoft support ends.

If you have been putting this off then it may seem daunting to address the issue in just two months, but it can be done and we have drawn up a simple plan to help you to organise your response to the end of Windows Server 2003 support.

Windows Server 2003 Response Plan

Set your objectives  – Begin by establishing exactly what you are seeking to achieve. At minimum you need to identify instances of Windows Server 2003 and then migrate or upgrade the affected systems to a supported operating system. It may be more sensible, and cost effective, to combine the process with other changes to your systems, such as:

  • Consolidating server systems to reduce the complexity of your environment.
  • Deploying virtualization to make more efficient use of your existing equipment.
  • Deploying ‘Cloud’ hosting to migrate applications to a hosted environment.

Identify what you have – Conduct an inventory to identify all instances of Windows Server 2003, and all of the functions and applications that are present on those instances. Sometimes an application that ‘just works’ may be installed and in use, but at the same time completely ‘off the radar’, so it is critical that you compile an accurate and complete list of all software applications that are deployed.

Identify what you need – It might sound obvious, but there is no point carefully upgrading or migrating a software application that you don’t actually need. Using the inventory list that you compiled, check each application to determine if it is actually needed, who is using it, and what the options are to upgrade or migrate it to another destination. Keep in mind that the majority of applications designed for Windows Server 2003 can operate on Windows Server 2012. Often the easiest way to compile this information is to contact the vendors of each application – it’s their software so they are well placed to advise you.

Design your new systems – Your list of applications will allow you to easily determine an efficient way to proceed. It is likely that the majority of your applications can be migrated to a new or existing server running an up to date software operating system (such as Windows Server 2012), and so you may choose to migrate applications directly. If you have applications that are out of date you may wish to explore later versions, or alternative applications from other vendors. Whatever the situation you need to identify where you can consolidate applications in a way that is both efficient and that delivers the performance and capacity that is needed.

Some technical expertise may be necessary to achieve a good outcome at this point! The details of your design should address not only the requirements of the software that you need to upgrade, but also how those changes fit into your overall technology plan and your existing systems. In many cases, the changes to be made can be combined with other changes being considered to reduce the overall disruption and costs involved.

We have been busy in the last few years assisting customers to update remaining Windows Server 2003 systems, and while it is very close to the ultimate deadline we are ready to assist customers who are now ready to pull the plug on Windows Server 2003 –  if you think you may need some IT support Wollongong, simply give us a call on 1300 138 761 and we will be happy to help.

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