Windows Server 2003 End of Support
For those of us that use Microsoft server software (and that's probably most of us), there is a key date that we all have on our calendar and are aware of: 7/14/15. That's the date that Microsoft Windows Server 2003 goes out of support for good. No updates, patches, security updates or phone support. 2003 did us all really well for a long time. It was a very stable release that has served organizations in good capacity since its release on 4/24/03. That's a life span of nearly 12 years, which is extraordinary for a software product to be operational, utilized, and relevant for that long a period of time. Windows 2003: RIP 7/14/15.
That being said, it is estimated that there are still nearly 9 million instances of Windows 2003 still running in North America and 22 million worldwide. That is a lot of software that still needs to be addressed by 7/14/15, the last day of support. Is this a big deal? Yes it is, for anyone still running Windows 2003. And why?
I think we all know that without any new updates or patches available, the platform will be much more vulnerable to malicious attacks, which can leave your critical data and IP at risk. Is this is chance that organizations will take? I hope not, but many will. One of the big risks of running Win 2003 after support is that fact that it may put you out of compliance within your industry. If you are subject to SOX, HIPPA, or PCI, using an older, unsupported operating system puts you at compliance risk. Plus, if you have key applications that are still running on 2003, and you experience issues or failures with the applications after the end of 2003 support, you might not have access to the tools needed or support to recover or repair them.
This is all a very long way of saying that organizations that are still running Windows 2003 need to consider upgrading as soon as possible. As we speak to organizations on their plans to upgrade, we tend to hear some of the same responses:
I have plenty to time to upgrade
It's too expensive to upgrade
My applications are working just fine and are tied to those servers, so very hard to move them
My current servers and infrastructure is running well.
I don’t have time to upgrade
All of these are legitimate concerns that organizations voice and are very understandable, but here's the thing: 7/14/15 is coming, whether we like it or not so we must be ready for Win 2003's apocalyptic days. And the only way to get ahead of that is to start planning and working on it now. I would like to hope and think that most organizations have thoroughly planned and worked through their upgrade strategy, but the numbers—9 million Win 2003 instances in NA alone—state that that is probably not the case.
We encourage you to starting thinking about and planning for Win 2003's forthcoming demise. Look at your applications, how you are using your servers and make some decisions based upon what makes sense for you. And if you need, reach out to a trusted partner to help you. A strong Microsoft Partner can look at your environment and applications and tell you where you stand and most importantly, what it will take to get up to 2008 or 2012 in the quickest, most efficient way possible.
We would also suggest that while you are considering your upgrades to newer versions of Windows Server, you are probably going to need to consider updating and refreshing your server hardware as well. This would be a good time to consider looking at Cloud options (see past posts on Getting Ready for the Cloud and Surrounding the Cloud) in place of bringing on new hardware. Again, a trusted partner can help make sense of that as well.
So as we edge closer to 7/14/15 (fifth time I've mentioned today BTW, so I hope it sinks in), be sure to put your plans in place to do you upgrades to move off of Windows Server 2003. And however you get it done—taking care of it internally or using a trusted partner—don’t take the chance of what can happen with running critical applications and servers without support. However you do it, make sure that 7/14/15 is just another date the calendar versus some gloomy impending event and deadline. And reach out for help if you need.