Server 2003: It’s Now or Never For Ageing Servers

There cannot be a server administrator in the world who’s not aware of the deadline. Windows Server 2003 will reach end of life in less than three months’ time, so if you’re still using it, consider this a red alert. For your data, and your network security, it’s now or never.

Many businesses are facing the very real possibility that their systems are not going to be migrated before the deadline of 14th July.

Risks of Continued Use

From mid-July, Windows Server 2003 will be considered unsupported software, since Microsoft will essentially cut it from its moorings and leave it without any updates at all.

Fortunate users may simply see performance degradation or incompatibility with different peripherals or hardware. This is likely to worsen over time.

For other users, incompatibility may be the least of their problems. We are certain to see increased hacking attempts on Server 2003 machines, not just because they’re unsupported, but because hackers know these machines are likely to be running on autopilot – long since forgotten.

Businesses that carry compliance responsibilities should be well rid of Windows Server 2003 before the cut-off date arrives. Those that continue to use it could face serious compliance problems, leading to fines, penalties and audits.

Ways Forward

Yes, it’s late in the day, but you can still do something about your Windows Server 2003 machine.

Isolation is one option. You could, in theory, cut that machine off from the wider world. But is non-migration even practical, and is it a long-term solution that is worth spending money on? Windows 2003 support is going to become a legacy product within just a few months, and it doesn’t make sense to throw more money at it when better alternatives exist.

You could organise a custom support agreement for your ageing Windows 2003 servers. However, be prepared for a hefty monthly bill to keep those servers online. This is the only way you can guarantee that your server will be secure going forward, yet it could bankrupt the IT budget in the long term.

The best way forward is an upgrade to a newer server, most likely Windows Server 2012, either on-premise or in the cloud. On-premise migration could be a tall order, particularly given the short deadline, but that depends on the resource you have available for testing and deployment.

A cloud move could be the most sensible way to control operational expenses and keep upfront expenditure to a minimum. And while there are going to be costs and hurdles to plan for, it’s going to be cheaper than ringfencing an ageing server, or retaining the necessary knowledge to maintain it.

Cloud4 Solutions

In need a quick exit from the world of Windows Server 2003? We can help migrate your servers safely, securely and without unnecessary downtime. Whether you need a single hosted server or a complete IaaS package, our support will get your data off Windows Server 2003 as soon as you’re ready to migrate.

Get in touch to find out how our scalable, affordable servers could soothe your Server 2003 headache.

Now is the Time to Move to Cloud Servers

Business MobilityVirtual infrastructure is revolutionising IT. The days of the old, dusty data centre are fast becoming old fashioned, and new software-based alternatives are creeping in. For small and medium sized businesses, virtualisation presents enormous benefits, including a reduction in cost, and fewer support and maintenance tasks for the team. Virtual infrastructure is greener, more flexible and less demanding on your staff.

Virtual servers are the corner stone of any software-based data centre, and if your business is still running old physical servers, the time is right to take the first steps towards the cloud. Not only are servers very cost effective, but there’s a good chance some of your oldest machines are ripe for replacement.

Out with the old

In less than three months, Windows Server 2003 will become an unsupported operating system. For the millions of businesses still using it, that will be a costly blow, and many have tried to put their head in the sand and ride out the last few months. However, once July comes, all bets are off. The longer Windows Server 2003 is left unsupported, the more damage hackers could potentially do.

Many businesses keep their old servers running for fear of upsetting the status quo. Often, servers run highly specialised applications that are business critical, and the business sees that as good enough reason to leave the old server well alone. Face it. You don’t need a Chief Data Officer to realise that a business critical database or key application should not be running on server software that has no manufacturer support. Come July, that’s what many organisations will be doing.

Safe migrations

Thousands of businesses have already completed successful cloud migrations, and a big part of the process is having the right cloud servers in place. Virtualisation lets businesses achieve maximum efficiency because hosted services are elastic; they scale up and down automatically, based on business demand.

Compatibility concerns are understandable, so planning is key. With the End of Life phase so near, businesses should refrain from entering panic mode and migrating too quickly, or without the right strategy in place. Working with a provider like Cloud4, they should start pre-work now in order to get valuable data off Windows Server 2003 and into a secure cloud environment, either before 14th July, or as soon as possible afterwards.

No time to lose

Some businesses are still searching for a good reason to move to virtual servers. The demise of Windows Server 2003 is the best catalyst we can think of. While moving legacy applications is certainly a daunting step, there are very good reasons to quit procrastinating and choose a cloud provider that can help. And running an on-premise/ cloud hybrid solution is better than putting your entire data centre at risk.

While a move to the cloud is a huge endeavour, and not without challenges, leaving data on unsupported servers is not a sensible way forward. End of Life is weeks away now. OK, it’s late to act, but it’s not too late to do something about it.

Will July 14 Be the Most Expensive Day of 2015?

The server your business uses to run critical applications could be about to face redundancy. Microsoft is retiring its phenomenally popular Windows Server 2003 operating system on July 14 2015, officially bringing it to the end of its useful life.

4262500695_dc3e0aa2b0_oAccording to vendor Hewlett-Packard, there were still 11 million Windows Server 2003 installations in active use as of May 2014. As the End of Life date approaches, many will now have been migrated or upgraded. But chances are that millions are still waiting their turn.

If your IT department has not yet made haste and asked you for the necessary funds to upgrade, it’s time to remind them. July 14 is not just a deadline for their system administrators: it’s a date the whole business should be ready for.

Not an IT Issue?

When it comes to large migration projects, the IT department isn’t always the department in charge of flicking the switch. While they do a lot of the leg work, the business has to put the wheels in motion, and that means approving the budget for the work and getting buy in from senior management.

Arguing the case is fairly easy. If your server isn’t migrated, your business will get hacked. It’s that simple. Nobody can tell you how long it will take for that to happen, but it will. Worse, nobody at Microsoft will prevent it, nor will they support you as you pick up the pieces.

Any preconceived ideas about server security should be set aside from July. You won’t be able to say that your server is secure, because you simply won’t know that for a fact. You won’t be able to claim that your email mailboxes haven’t been tampered with, either; you just won’t know about it until it’s too late. If you process payments, you’ll be non-compliant. And you won’t be able to promise your clients that you’re holding their personal data appropriately.

Of course, you could set up a custom support agreement and put off the move for a few more months. But if the budget is the issue that’s stalling a proper migration, that kind of contract is not going to make things cheaper. Quite the opposite.

It makes more sense to bite the bullet, invest the money and look at the Windows Server 2003 End of Life as an opportunity to improve and upgrade your infrastructure.

Making the Move28184160_d379a5d843_b

Before End of Life – the official name for the support end date – your business should have migrated away from Windows Server 2003. For some companies, that means migrating a couple of physical servers. Others will need to migrate dozens, or even hundreds. If you take into account the re-platforming and testing needed, there’s very little time to get this done.

Chances are, your system administrators have been desperate to upgrade your server farm since the end of 2014. If you don’t have an approved budget and a strategy for this urgent move, you need to get it signed off yesterday. And if your IT team doesn’t have a plan in place, bring in a consultancy now to accelerate the migration and figure out the best way to host your business critical applications.

Windows Server 2003 in 2015: Is It Worth the Risk?

Microsoft products usually remain in common usage long after they disappear from the store shelves. Take Windows XP, for example; it was released in October 2001 for PCs (and 2002 for tablets, although you’d be forgiven for missing that edition). Microsoft withdrew all support for the desktop version of XP on April 8, 2014, which is not a bad innings for an ageing OS. We’re guessing that the tablet edition was quietly abandoned some years previously.

The Microsoft lifecycle always involves a 28184160_d379a5d843_bnumber of key stages, and we see the same pattern time and again with operating systems. There will be updates, or patches, issued periodically to keep the software current as it ages. After a few years, Microsoft then announces a point where ‘mainstream’ support concludes. This means that features are frozen and the software is not updated.

A few years later, all support for the product is withdrawn. This is End of Life; no more security updates are provided. At this point, the software becomes a risk because the vendor does not make any effort to patch it, and your computer is essentially left to fend for itself. A very scary thought.

Understanding the Risk

July 2015 will mark the end of life for Windows 2003. This is the point where all support offered by Microsoft will end, as will all patches and updates.

To reiterate:

SUPPORT FOR WINDOWS SERVER 2003 IS NOW LESS THAN FIVE MONTHS AWAY

According to industry estimates, this particular End of Life will leave millions of servers out in the cold, and extremely vulnerable (around 9.1m globally). That’s a state no business should find its data centre in.

Businesses that continue to use Windows 2003 on their servers must understand the problems they will face after that critical End of Life date:

– Applications will start to falter; you’ll see 4262500695_dc3e0aa2b0_othem run more slowly, and crash more frequently, and there will be few people to help you figure out why

– Data will start to be more vulnerable to hacks and data corruption; there will be no patches or updates to defend it

– Regulatory governance problems and compliance issues will start to emerge, which could leave you at the mercy of the Information Commissioner’s office

– Your cost of support goes up as Windows 2003 becomes a more obscure, legacy product

Keeping an old server in action may feel like the cheapest option now. But for all these reasons (and plenty more), at End of Life, all bets are off.

Migration Options

If you’re currently running a Windows 2003 server, it’s best to start the migration process now. Leaving it too late means you have nowhere to go when End of Life actually happens.

We recommend that all 2003 servers are retired as soon as possible, and the data and applications on those servers is moved to either Windows 2012 or a cloud alternative.

If you’re not sure how to plan your migration, speak to Cloud4 now. We don’t just run IT services, we also support businesses that are in the process of switching. And once your Windows 2003 machine is retired, we’ll still be in the picture to offer support and on-going help.

For more information on if and how Server 2003 End of Life will affect your business visit this dedicated site www.server2003endoflife.co.uk.