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Ed Wolfman

Ed Wolfman

Senior Account Director at Pinpoint Resource Group
Ed has nearly 20 years of experience in the staffing industry. To put it in his words: "I love what I do. I believe that is what makes me good at it. There is nothing better than connecting the right person with the right opportunity."

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Windows Server 2003 End of Life Part 3: What Are Your Options?

This article is Part 3 in our series about Windows Server 2003 reaching its end of life. Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2.

As many of you now know, Windows Server 2003 will hit its end of life on July 14th, 2015, which means that Microsoft will no longer continue extended support.

If your business is still deploying Windows Server 2003, we’ve discussed the consequences of not migrating, as well as the steps you can take now towards securing your soon-to-be-outdated server system.

So where do you go from here? Maybe you already know that you have to migrate, sooner rather than later, but now the question is: where should you migrate to?

There are a few options.

In the 12 years since Microsoft released Server 2003, it’s also come out with two newer versions: Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012. On top of that, Windows Server 2016 is in the works, which Microsoft plans to release in—you guessed it—a year from now.

Windows Server 2008

What does Server 2008 have? A host of new security features, including a new firewall, full integration with Active Directory users and groups, BitLocker drive encryption, Network Access Protection to control network access, and Address Space Layout Randomization to fight buffer overrun exploits, among others.

Server 2008 is a good bridge between Servers 2003 and 2012, and will likely be a quicker and less complicated migration than skipping straight to Server 2012. However, Microsoft has already discontinued mainstream support for Server 2008, and extended support is going to end on January 15th, 2020.

That’s still 5 years out, but 5 years can be a very long or very short time period based on your business’ needs.

Windows Server 2012

What about Server 2012? In terms of security upgrades, Server 2012 features Dynamic Access Control to control unwanted access to your server, improvements to BitLocker, Secure Boot to prevent your system from booting unknown OSes or loading unknown firmware or drivers, and UEFI, which is the replacement for BIOS.

Server 2012 also has a web-ready OS with Microsoft’s Azure cloud environment already built-in, along with its Hyper-V virtualization environment.

One thing to keep in mind if you decide to migrate to Server 2012 over Server 2008, however, is the fact that moving up to Server 2012 would be much more expensive, given the price of the hardware needed to properly run all of its new and upgraded features. They’re great to have, of course, and could be invaluable for many companies, but the additional hardware and software would require a more significant investment than Server 2008.

In addition, Server 2012 has a steeper learning curve than Server 2008, generally speaking, and so, if getting your administrators up to speed as soon as possible is your top priority, you might want to stick with Server 2008.

In the end, both server systems have the same basic requirements for a minimal install. There are pros and cons attached to both Server 2008 and Server 2012, so it will take careful consideration of your budget, timeline, and business needs if you decide to stay with Windows Server in some capacity.

Other Options

What if you don’t want to stick with Microsoft? Unfortunately, there aren’t many options. You can find other server environments, the biggest of which is Linux, but the relative difficulty of migrating to them depends entirely on what you’re already doing with your Server 2003 machines.

If it’s file and print or a simple database, you should be able to migrate fairly easily. But if you’re using a highly vertical Windows application that can’t be found on Linux, you might be faced with a huge challenge. Everything depends on the number of Windows apps you use and whether there are any Linux—or other server environments—equivalents, and if not, you would probably have to be a little desperate to move away from Windows.

Not that there aren’t advantages of migrating away, but in this case, you will have to carefully weigh the definite challenges you’ll face against the potential benefits.

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The Cloud

What about the cloud? Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz surrounding cloud technology, and for good reason. In many cases, keeping your resources on the cloud can hugely reduce the costs associated with keeping those same resources within on-site infrastructure.

There are a growing number of options for cloud service providers, including Amazon Web Services, IBM Softlayer, and Google Could Platform, as well as Microsoft Azure, and they all come with import tools to help speed along a migration. However, depending on the service you use, there can still be a fair amount of manual effort involved. Additionally, you’ll probably have to take your servers offline for a period of time, which might be inconvenient to impossible, based on your business.

As with many of the other solutions I’ve outlined here, almost everything depends on your applications, and whether they would be able to function in the cloud, not to mention whether they would function well.

Other considerations that go into a cloud migration include app performance and portability, the ability to test how an app will behave in a cloud environment, and hardware scalability, as many cloud service providers charge a monthly fee based on resource consumption.

In the end, there are a multitude of considerations to take into account when choosing where to migrate, as well as benefits and drawbacks to each option.

Need more help going over your options? Let’s talk. We have the resources to guide you through the migration process.