By now everyone knows that Windows Server 2003 is fast approaching end of life. But each organization needs to assess the impact, both in terms of the risks of not removing Windows Server 2003 from the infrastructure, and the rewards of deploying a current server OS in the data center. In this brief blog post, we will examine each, the risks and the benefits, with the hope that your organization will benefit.

On July 14, 2015, Windows Server 2003 reaches end of life. The risks are numerous. End of life means that Microsoft will no longer develop or release security patches or fixes for the operating system. Vulnerabilities will not be remedied. Additionally, you will no longer be able to call Microsoft and get technical support. Should you have a Windows Server 2003 server misbehaving, you will be on your own.

The risks fall into two broad categories, regulatory and preference. Let’s first talk about regulations. The best example is Payment Card Industry or PCI compliance. Strictly speaking, you could maintain Windows Server 2003 servers and survive a PCI audit. However, the risk of failing a PCI audit is enormous.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPPA is another regulatory area at great risk as Windows Server 2003 reaches end of life. Some argue that hiding these servers deep behind multiple firewalls is sufficient, but a closer look at the compliance guidelines will tell you otherwise. And, besides, failing a compliance audit may cripple your organization severely.

Perhaps you are not governed by PCI or HIPPA. Still, maintaining an unsupported and unpatched operating system is just not anyone’s “best practice.” Need I say more?

Upgrade Benefits
Opportunities abound as you look at deploying the newest operating system from Microsoft. Every aspect of the operating system has undergone significant engineering improvement. After all, you can take advantage of 12-plus years of product engineering development.

All of the newer operating systems are 64 bit, so they run faster and provide significantly better performance than they did in 2003. Significant improvements have been made to the networking stack, resulting in better performance and in reduced downtime, often eliminating downtime potentials.

Windows Server 2012 R2 can provide:

  • A modern virtualization platform at much lower costs than the competition
  • Low cost, high performance storage
  • Advanced disaster recovery and data protection
  • Advances in management tools, access security and protection of information

But the greatest opportunity lies in the cloud-aware, hybrid nature of today’s server operating systems. Windows Server 2012 R2 can help you bridge between your on-premises data center and the cloud. You can start to take advantage of the agility, scalability and cost efficiencies of using cloud for your organization. It is not just about getting rid of Windows Server 2003, but, more importantly, it is about taking advantage of this opportunity and moving the data center forward into the 21st century.

So perhaps your organization is governed and needs to stay in compliance. Perhaps your organization can take advantage of the capabilities of a modern operating system, and stay ahead of your competition. Whether it’s risk or reward, Windows Server 2003 end of life is an opportunity, one that you do not want to miss.

For more information see Windows Server 2003 Retirement – Are You Ready?

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