Are those Windows 2003 servers you still haven't updated slowly becoming a headache? The servers reached their official end-of-life (EOL) date several weeks ago, yet millions of platforms are still running on this operating system (OS). For many companies that manage their own infrastructure, upgrading servers may seem like an overwhelming task, not to mention the price tag and time commitments that can come along with it. But there are also many excellent reasons to explore your options —whether it be a traditional upgrade and maintenance of your on-premises servers or making the switch to a cloud-based environment.

4 Reasons to Consider an Upgrade

Although Windows Server 2003 will not stop working as soon as support expires, there are a number of reasons to consider upgrading to a new system.

Reason #1: No More Support

There will be no more updates to fix bugs and security vulnerabilities. In the past five years there have been between 85 and 110 security updates on the Windows 2003 OS annually. Lack of support will leave your system vulnerable to malicious attacks and electronic data loss. While your company's support staff may be able to discover some vulnerabilities, not receiving frequent upgrades to supported servers will seriously impact your ability to keep your system secure.

Reason #2: Compliance Issues

Regulations such as HIPAA, PCI and SOX all require managed servers to run on supported platforms. Non-compliance could result in penalties imposed by regulators as well as theft or loss of data. These issues could seriously erode existing or future customer confidence.

Reason #3: Compatibility Issues

The newest software and hardware programs will no longer be written with your OS in mind. They may still have compatible versions, but those versions will likely be unsupported or under-supported.

Reason #4: Cost

The cost of running Windows 2003 will increase as soon as support stops. Your company will have to spend more to keep the servers online, up-to-date and free from vulnerabilities. Although switching to newer servers might cost more upfront, operational costs of the older servers are likely to surpass the upgrade costs.

What if I'm Not Ready to Upgrade?

We know that in some cases your company may have had to deal with more pressing issues in the past few years. It's true, there is no rule that says you have to do anything about this EOL. Your company may need a significant amount of time to make the change or even to prepare to make the change. Even so, it is best to outline a plan for the transition. At some point, Windows 2003 servers will no longer be compatible with the latest technology, and your company should be prepared for that reality. When it comes down to it, you really only have two choices:

  1. Do Nothing: If you choose this option you will not get any support or patches that are important for the security of your assets. That will leave you vulnerable to malware and viruses, especially as time goes on. It could lead to downtime, loss of productivity and compatibility issues with hardware and software.
  2. Migrate and Upgrade: This is the most logical option, as it entails reviewing your current applications and infrastructure. Remember, even if you have a long road to the upgrade, developing a transition plan for migrating to a modern OS like Windows 2012 is a great first step.

If you need more convincing, review this post for some great insight into why starting the migration process matters.

Migration Steps

One size does not fit all—your needs may be different than any other company in the industry. When you decide you are ready to take the next step, your first task should be to assess your current and future needs and develop a migration plan. The following is a rough outline of the questions and issues your company will need to address when migrating.

Step #1: Needs Assessment

Look at your current applications and infrastructure environment and ask your team and users for feedback. Getting to know users is especially important in order to manage expectations and ensure your team sees every angle. A few surveys and interviews might be necessary to uncover the following:

  • Who are the users and business units needing the targeted servers and applications?
    • How do they connect to the network?
    • What applications do they actually use?
    • What do they anticipate their future technology needs will be?
  • What is the state of the existing architecture?
  • What business cycles need to be considered?
  • What dependencies exist among the hosted systems?
  • Is my current environment set up for optimal use? What can be consolidated?
  • What are my critical and custom applications that will need to be available immediately? Is there a fallback plan?
  • Where does my critical compliance data reside? What applications consume that data?
  • Could there be a better alternative to the current platform?

After assessing your situation, consider this interesting article on taking the critical first steps to upgrading.

Step #2: Migration

Migrate and upgrade your servers to a supportable platform such as 2012. Depending on your in-house expertise, you may need to consider whether to migrate yourself or work with a trusted partner like CenturyLink. Here are some things to keep in mind while planning migration:

  • What is the most effective way to communicate change and updates to the team and users?
  • What can be tested to confirm success?
  • Do you really want to maintain your current infrastructure or is migrating to the Cloud a more sustainable option?
  • Should you do a proof of concept and test out your custom, critical applications in a Windows 2008 or 2012 Cloud environment?

Thinking of migrating to the cloud? We can help with that. We'll be happy to answer all of your questions—our Cloud Adoption Specialists (CAS) are there for you from start to finish as you develop and execute a plan. Check out our website for more info.

If you’re a current CenturyLink customer looking to migrate to the our Cloud, you can contact [email protected] for more information

At CenturyLink Cloud we host many Windows-based products and services, from Windows 2008 and 2012 to IIS and SQL.