With Microsoft Server 2003 end of support (EoS) approaching in July 2015, vendors and solution providers alike are preparing for the onslaught of opportunities and issues in migrating customers to newer technologies. To that end, Dell and Microsoft (MSFT) recently hosted a discussion on what they believe are the most important things to know about the impending EoS.
Both companies outlined some best practices for enterprises and SMBs looking to make the leap to Windows Server 2012 R2 and stressed the importance of the migration in maintaining enterprise security. Here are the top 10 most important takeaways from the event:
- There are roughly 20 million instances of Server 2003 still operating in the SMB and enterprise space – With about 200 days left until the EoS deadline, companies must begin the migration process immediately if they hope to remain compliant after July 14, 2015. About half of the remaining Server 2003 instances are expected to remain unprotected after the compliance deadline, meaning there potentially could be millions of instances of Server 2003 left vulnerable to attack.
- Server virtualization is not the correct choice for every company – While Microsoft is dedicated to moving customers onto its cloud-based services, some companies still need the stability of on-premise solutions for their business. Whether because of security concerns or a lack of bandwidth to effectively run virtualized servers, there is still a place for physical machines in a post-Server 2003 world.
- Many SMBs simply can’t afford the migration process – While the migration to a more modern server is important to protect enterprise assets, many small businesses simply can’t afford to make the leap. Either due to budgetary constraints or reliance on outdated 32-bit programs, migration is a daunting task for many enterprise users.
- Pressure to upgrade servers is not just a money grab from Microsoft – According to Microsoft, Server 2003 is past its prime in every respect. While it initially may cost companies a significant sum to move to Server 2012 R2 or Office 365, they actually will save a lot of hassle and repair fees in the long run. Think of Server 2003 as a 10-year-old car—would you rather shell out the cash for a brand new car, or continue to pay repair fees on a vehicle that’s likely to have issues for the foreseeable future?
- While there are ways to work around non-compliance, there is no tried-and true method for protecting an outdated server – While certain clever users can surely find ways to improve their chances of protecting non-compliant servers after the deadline, Microsoft is urging customers to resist looking for the easy way out. No third parties are able to patch the OS, so any workarounds besides tried-and-true Microsoft patches should be used at your own risk, said Mark Linton, senior director of Portfolio & Product Management, Worldwide EOM Division at Microsoft.
- If you’re worried about meeting the compliance deadline, focus on migrating your most critical workloads first – With less than a year until Microsoft flips the switch on support for 2003, some companies may feel there is simply not enough time to migrate their entire infrastructure to a new server. If that is the case, Microsoft recommends focusing on the mission-critical components of your business first and then shoring up non-essential aspects; this way, if you can’t meet the compliance deadline, at least your company’s most important assets will remain secure.
- Non-compliance is dangerous, but no one expects a massive attack in the first days (or months) after the EoS deadline – While Microsoft is standing firm on its EoS deadline, Server 2003 will remain operational after Microsoft drops all support. And while no one in the industry expects any kind of major attack on the server after support ends, users essentially will be swimming without a lifeguard. If a malicious attack does take place, there won’t be anyone (or anything) available to stop users from drowning. Last year alone, Microsoft released 34 critical security updates for Server 2003.
- You can skip Server 2008 if you want to upgrade to Server 2012 or above – it isn’t necessary to move your system over to Server 2008 as a stepping stone to Server 2012 R2. Save yourself and your customers the extra legwork and move directly to the most recent server using Microsoft’s free assessment and planning toolkit.
- Microsoft and Dell see the EoS deadline as a driver for building larger projects – Even though the EoS deadline marks the final nail in the coffin for Server 2003, one solution’s death could spell new life for many other projects, said Michael Tweddle, executive director of Technical Strategy for Dell Windows Server Management. Because the now-ancient Active Directory infrastructure is being retired, migrating to new servers will allow enterprises to begin utilizing cloud and other solutions such as Lync in their businesses. So instead of holding a funeral for Server 2003, Dell recommends companies and solution providers celebrate the opportunity to transform outdated infrastructure and applications into 21st century powerhouses.
- Channel partners stand to benefit from the migration process – Channel partners have ample opportunities to profit from companies looking for help migrating their servers, said Alan West, the president of XMS Solutions. With 20 million instances of Server 2003 still active, partners can capitalize on the fact that most SMBs don’t have the manpower or the resources necessary to fully train their own staff to make the leap from Server 2003 to a more modern server. This means companies are in need of an outside entity to focus on migrating their systems for them. Migrations can mean big business for companies willing to shell out the hourly rate to get a third party to do the migration for them.