Surely everyone knows by now Microsoft will end Windows Server 2003 support on July 14, 2015. Tech writers have cautioned to “start migration preparations immediately if you haven’t already” for the past 18 months. Microsoft Server 2003 end of life is upon us. Nonetheless, a recent Spiceworks survey shows an inordinate number of users still cling to Windows Server 2003: 62 percent of U.S. firms are still running at least one instance of Win2K3 less than seven months before end of support. Figures are surprisingly high in regulated industries—in the healthcare and finance sectors, 71 percent still have hardware running Windows Server 2003.
Less surprising are the two main reasons businesses cited as to why they have yet to upgrade, which are lack of time and lack of budget. The narrative shapes up much like that around Windows XP end of life migration: outdated software increases exposure to security threats, and server performance and application compatibility issues will worsen over time. In the end, businesses cannot afford to risk their operations. Just as we have seen in the half year since Microsoft ended support for Windows XP, it is likely business users will eventually leave behind Windows Server 2003 in a steady stream once Microsoft pulls the plug.
At the present, firms are in procrastination mode, or so it seems. And fair enough; server migration can seem like a dreadful task, if not a resources intensive one. But make no mistake—there are silver linings that come with upgrading away from Windows Server 2003 sooner rather than later. Here are five.
Give your old, unneeded systems a spring cleaning
The first step in any upgrade scenario is to take inventory. Retiring hardware without the proper specs for running Windows Server 2012 should be a serious consideration if it cannot be upgraded. It is recommended that Exchange or MySQL servers have at least 8 GB of RAM and 50 GB of system disk space to adequately run a newer server operating system. Server memory is fairly inexpensive—8 GB RAM upgrades are under $100.
Microsoft recommends a 3.1 GHz (64-bit) or faster multi-core processor for Windows Server 2012 workloads. Intel Xeon E3-1220V3 Haswell Server CPU is designed to run on small business servers, and there are other options available. The AMD Opteron 4334 has similar specs and price point.
Understand that old motherboards are usually not compatible with new processors, so make sure to check the specifications on these. For this reason, many IT teams will look at buying entirely new server hardware when it is time to upgrade the processor, as it becomes more cost-effective than trying to piecemeal together new parts on an older system.
Users should also be aware that Windows Server 2012 licensing is structured on a per core basis, so a processor with more cores will add to the total cost of ownership. There is good news for small businesses that deploy 50 or fewer devices on their server network; Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Essentials does not require Client Access Licenses in 25-user / 50-device environments.
A chance to standardize system environment
Whether you choose to upgrade to Windows Server 2012 or move onto a Red Hat Linux system, a large-scale infrastructure upgrade presents an opportunity to standardize applications across an entire business. When we talk about standardization, it doesn’t mean all systems will be exactly the same. Rather, it means that all systems will have a defined foundation upon which to base all of its applications, virtualization platforms, and system tools. More importantly, IT can use the same set of tools to control everything. This results in more efficiency and less downtime.
Gain energy efficiency
Reducing energy-related operating expenses is at the top of many IT teams’ list of goals. New servers, especially rack-mounted units, are designed with energy efficiency in mind, and present an opportunity to address this action item. Energy Star is a government-backed labeling program that helps identify appliances with superior efficiency in how they consume energy. Some servers are built to operate using 80-PLUS efficiency standards—the Dell Precision series is a good example of these types of servers.
For more about energy efficient computing, see: Power Supply Certification: What Does It All Mean
Opportunity to start into virtualization
If your shop has a handful of older servers, perhaps virtualization wasn’t worth considering in the past because the computing power required for it wasn’t really needed. Today, most new servers are capable of virtualized computing. If you’re upgrading the hardware to a four core processor to run Windows Server 2012, you will be gaining adequate horsepower to virtualize your computing environment. The benefits of virtualization include more efficient use of computing resources, which results in lower energy costs and easier administration.
Move it all on the cloud
If you think you’re better off using hosted computing assets elsewhere, now seems to be a good time for that as well. If you are in an environment with only a few servers that are used for office production software, e-mail exchange, secure shared storage, and Web hosting, Microsoft Office 365 is an option worth looking at. You will have to assess your needs to determine whether or not going the cloud route is cost-effective for your operation, Office 365 is tailor made for small office, multi-device operations.
If you are running Windows Server 2003 software in a business environment, upgrades are immanent in 2015. Meet this challenge with a positive attitude knowing that you will have a superior IT environment after it is finished. That way you can view Windows Server 2003 end of life as a new beginning.