Windows Server 2003 End of Life: What Does this Mean for your Business?

Joe Reithmeier October 2, 2014

As many organizations already know—or will soon find out—Microsoft is ending all support for Windows Server 2003 on July 14, 2015. While that date may seem far enough away in the future, if a business is still running Widows Server 2003, it is important to start right now in setting up a migration plan to upgrade to the latest version, which is currently Windows Server 2012 R2.

There are many reasons why it will be necessary to upgrade from Windows Server 2003, and one prominent one is for security reasons. Business often store vital information on their servers, and after July 14, 2015, the system will no longer be supported by Microsoft. What does this mean? For one, it means the system will be vulnerable to attacks from people trying to again access to this information.

Whenever a bug in Windows Server software is reported, Microsoft will troubleshoot it, and issue a patch to prevent the issue from re-occurring. Not only will Windows Server 2003 no longer receive these patches once support ends, but according to Matt Haedo, IT Implementation Specialist at Miles Technologies,  patches from later versions of Windows Server Software can actually be used to target Windows Server 2003.

Haedo explains that if a patch is issued to Windows Server 2008, for example, someone can take that patch and reverse engineer it to attack a vulnerability in Server 2003 which has a similar code base. “Not only will unpatched vulnerabilities exist [once support ends], but a lot more will be discovered because they will be patched for other operating systems,” says Haedo. “People can then use these patches to target Windows Server 2003. From a security prospective, that’s a very big concern. Businesses that are bound by certain compliance requirements may have to upgrade in order to stay in compliance.

In addition to these security concerns, Haedo says that if a business is still running Windows Server 2003, it may be time to take a big picture look at the company’s IT infrastructure as a whole. “If you are running Server 2003, there is a good chance you’re also running on older hardware and probably have older applications,” he says.

According to Haedo, for businesses running on Server 2003, now is the perfect time to evaluate and potentially upgrade the infrastructure as a whole. “Not investing in your infrastructure holds you back,” he says. “When staying with an older operating system, you could be missing out on tools that can make your business more productive. There’s a 90 percent chance that if you’re running Windows Sever 2003, you’re probably also running outdated software that you use for critical tasks on a daily basis. It’s not just about being more secure; it’s about being more productive.”

Taking into account the software and applications being run on your server not only presents an opportunity to upgrade your business’ productivity, but also shows one of the main reasons why companies need to start planning well in advance for Windows Server 2003 end of life. For a business still running on Windows Sever 2003, upgrading to Windows Server 2012 R2 isn’t something that can happen overnight. More often than not, it requires a full migration plan as many versions of applications that run on Server 2003 aren’t necessarily compatible with its successors.

“A thorough planning process is definitely recommended if not required,” reports Haedo. “If you don’t do a carefully planned out upgrade, you put a lot of things in jeopardy. And that’s the reason to upgrade now. If you upgrade now, you don’t upgrade now. You get the planning process started now.” An extensive migration plan is usually necessary as upgrading to this new software will often require upgrades in hardware as well as newer versions of applications which could require communication with third party vendors.

While some businesses may look at Windows Server 2003 end of life as a costly nuisance, with careful planning ahead and some initial investment, it could pay dividends in the long run via a larger infrastructure upgrade to create a more efficient, productive and secure business.

Interested in learning more about this topic? Check out the latest Miles Technologies Podcast where Haedo discusses discusses Windows Server 2003 end of life and how this is the perfect opportunity for your business to upgrade its technology:

Need to find out more about Windows Sever 2003 end of life or have questions about what your business needs to do in order to upgrade? Contact us to speak with our IT Experts.

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