In 2010, Microsoft ended mainstream support of Windows Server 2003. And you probably are aware that official end of life for all versions of this workhorse OS – that has served organizations well for over a decade – occurred on July 14, 2015.

End of support refers to the date when Microsoft will no longer be providing updates, automatic fixes or online technical assistance. The operational, regulatory and compliance risks of operating servers no longer receiving updates or technical support can be alarming. In addition, the potential costs of maintaining legacy servers and protecting them from an elevated risk of cybersecurity dangers can take a chunk out of IT budgets. 

Still, a recent survey by Spiceworks found that only 15 percent of organizations have fully migrated away from WS2003. Some have partially migrated and plan to finish their migration in the next six to 12 months (12 percent), beyond the next 12 months (3 percent) and those that don’t know if or when they will get it done (10 percent).

For those IT shops only starting their migration to an upgraded version of WS 2003, Microsoft has designated a four-step migration process to help prioritize tasks. These include:

  1. Discover
    • Determine which applications and workloads are running on Windows Server 2003 today.
  1. Assess
    • Categorize applications and workloads by type, importance, and degree of complexity.
  1. Target
    • Choose a migration destination for each application and workload, either in the data center or in the cloud.
  1. Migrate
    • Build your migration plan – do it yourself, collaborate with a partner or use a service.

Still trying to migrate off Windows Server 2003? We can help.  #CDWSolutionsBlog

Unable to Move Systems? Try These Alternatives

While we recommend server migration as the best option for dealing with WS 2003 end of life, there may be reasons why that course of action will not work – including financial cost. If you find yourself stuck with some systems that just aren’t easy to separate from Windows Server 2003, here are some suggestions:

Move to a cloud-based, SaaS offering instead: Even though that old Fax application is paid for and running, it’s now a security hole because of the Windows Server 2003 base. New applications offer extended features and are better tailored to modern, access-anywhere work styles. We’ve talked to several customers stuck on an old Exchange 2003 or 2007 server because of an old fax system. Two birds with one stone! Move email to an Office 365-hosted Exchange and upgrade your fax capability at the same time. You’ll have fewer servers to manage – a win-win-win!

Try a bigger hammer: To aid the move of an old application to Server 2012 or Server 2008, there are some tools that can help. The Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit or Citrix AppDNA may give remediation hints that you didn’t think of. Sometimes it’s just an older version of ASP.NET libraries.

“Containerize” the application: Although it may cost a little more, technologies like AppZero can wrap the old, Server 2003-dependent application in a portable container that may run on a new version of the OS. You still haven’t modernized the application, but at least it’s not running on a vulnerable OS base

If you still can’t get rid of that Windows Server 2003 operating system, then guard it diligently. Use a comprehensive server management system, like Microsoft Systems Center Operations Manager, to aggregate and report in real-time.

Watch for any failed admin logins or attempts to access services that aren’t directly application-related. Isolate the Server 2003 systems behind another firewall, keep an up-to-date anti-malware system and use NIST or other lock-down standards to harden the system. Finally, assign a senior administrator the responsibility of watching these servers until they can be removed from your production networks.

Interested to learn more about your business’s data center options? Check out our collection of data center-related case studies, data sheets and reference guides for more information.

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