Get ready to upgrade if you use Windows Server 2003

If your business uses Windows Server 2003 as its server operating system, it’s important to communicate to your IT staff that all security updates, fixes, and support from Microsoft will end as of July 14, 2015.

What does this mean for your organization? Without the availability of security patches, your network infrastructure will be susceptible to any security vulnerabilities that arise after July 2015. In addition, incident support will no longer be available from Microsoft; your business may also quickly find itself out of compliance if it has certain mandates it must follow for handling data (such as in health care).

But you have time to manage the termination of this extended support if you start planning now.

Begin by assessing your current server operating system. Determine whether or not you’re using Windows Server 2003; if you are, identify which applications and workloads are currently running on the server operating system. Chances are high that if you’re still using Windows Server 2003, your applications, middleware, database products, and management tools are also past the point of their supported life cycles. If you’re currently running Exchange 2003, for example, an Exchange upgrade will also be necessary once you upgrade your Windows Server software.

Many servers running Windows Server 2003 may still be running on physical hardware, and there is a good chance that these servers are no longer covered by warranty. An upgrade to the latest versions of Windows Server presents the opportunity for a hardware refresh, virtualization of certain workloads, or server consolidation, depending on how many 2003 servers your business is currently running.

Next, map out your goals and desired outcomes for this migration. Windows Server 2003 has been replaced by Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2012 R2. Starting with Windows Server 2012, Microsoft server operating systems are designed to support cloud-based deployments of Windows Server.

Now is a good time to consider migrating to the latest versions of Windows Server (currently Windows Server 2012R2). But before you make the leap to an upgraded server operating system, it’s important to make sure that your business applications are compatible with whatever version of Windows Server you choose.

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Migrating to Windows Server 2008 is also a viable option, but that will require another upgrade in a few years when support for this server operating system ends as well. This is an important point to keep in mind as you budget for migration.

The IT industry is following a drastically different path than it was when Windows Server 2003 servers were initially placed into service. Because of issues like mobility, BYOD (bring your own device), standardization, and cloud deployment, it’s vital that your IT department develop a plan to mitigate and modernize Windows Server 2003 and related application installations as soon as possible.

Shannon Bowen is the IT engineering manager at Communications Engineering Co.

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