Windows 2003 End of Life – What Next?
Posted by Joe Nax on Apr 13, 2015
Windows 2003 End of Life – What Next?
Just as with Windows XP, Microsoft has announced another popular product that will go end of life (EOL) soon. Millions of servers still run Windows 2003 as their operating system. Your server has been humming along with little issue, so on July 14th, when this goes EOL, what does that actually mean to you and your business?
The biggest issue that will arise, may not be apparent until too late. Microsoft will no longer develop and release patches, bug fixes or security updates for the product. This can cause performance issues and major security gaps due to exploits from viruses and spyware. If you are wondering why patching is so important, I only have to remind you that both the Home Depot and Target breaches exploited a ten year old bug in Windows XP and that was before it went EOL. ‘Nuff said?
The next big issue relates to whether you are in a business that takes credit cards or in the healthcare industry. If so, you also risk industry compliance with PCI and HIPAA, respectively. Since these systems will no longer have security patches, they will not be compliant and in the case of an audit, you could lose your certifications.
Lastly, more than likely, if you are running a twelve year old operating system, you are running it on very old hardware. This is robbing you of performance and productivity. Today’s hardware has the ability to run multiple virtual machines on one server, providing better performance and utilizing less resources.
Convinced that you need to upgrade? You have options. If you need to have servers on premise due to performance, security, or other reasons, you can upgrade to Windows 2012 R2. In this operating system, you get improved virtual machine capabilities via Microsoft Hyper-V and it runs in 64 bit only. You can create, deploy and replicate virtual machines on the fly and in most cases without the need to order and wait for hardware to arrive and be configured. Once the virtual machine(s) are deployed, you can then move around your workloads and scale performance to your needs. When you are ready, Windows 2012 R2 also allows for easy migration of workloads to cloud services like Microsoft Azure, which is your next option.
Don’t want to spend precious capital budget on hardware? You can move your workload and data to cloud services like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. With both cloud services, you can get Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), where the hardware is internet based, resources are shared, and your data is redundant across multiple machines – or data centers – depending on your needs. These services allow you to pay monthly as you go, scaling up and down as necessary, and are typically treated as OpEx expenses. Best thing about these solutions is that you never have to worry about patching or upgrading your hardware again. If you are still unsure about the IaaS offerings, think of them as Virtual Machines on the internet. With Microsoft Azure, you can also choose from Platform as a Service (PaaS), where you can get not just the hardware resources, but Microsoft SQL and other supporting applications. They also have offerings for cloud backups; think disaster recovery and business continuity, as well as mobile device management, information rights management, and identity management as part of the broader Azure offerings.
Whichever route you choose, make sure that you plan out the migrations carefully. You will need to evaluate the resource needs of each machine (virtual or physical). You also need to make sure that you have a working (read tested) backup of your data and the server system state, just in case anything goes wrong. Plan for enough downtime that you will not disrupt your business if something goes awry and you have to restore. Post migration, make sure you have a solid test plan to assure that not only can you get to the server, but all of the applications and permissions work as intended. Usually, you will want to invoke user acceptance testing in this part of the process as you don’t want to wonder why it all worked for you, but none of the users can get on first thing Monday morning. And last, but equally important, document everything. Anytime that you rebuild or migrate a server, application or service, it is the best time to create or update your documentation.
There are plenty of resources out in cyber space to help you in this endeavor. If we can be of service, please do not hesitate to contact Virtual Operations. We would like to be your technology partner and help your business succeed!
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