The End of Windows Server 2003 Support: How Are Organizations Plotting Their Next Moves?

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The End of Windows Server 2003 Support: How Are Organizations Plotting Their Next Moves? – 

Old computers On July 14, Microsoft will end its support of Server 2003. That will present challenges for organizations whose servers still run this operating system; according to a recent Softchoice survey, more than one in five servers still do.

One of the challenges facing organizations currently using Server 2003 is security. “When the software goes to the end of support, you no longer get updates,” says Keith Groom, director of Microsoft solutions with Softchoice, a provider of IT solutions and services. That’s a security risk, as many software updates are designed to fend off new viruses or hackers as they emerge, he adds.

In turn, this means many applications won’t comply with regulations such as Payment Card Industry (PCI) requirements, which include a provision that systems be protected from vulnerabilities through the installation of security patches. When Microsoft ends support, it also will stop issuing security patches.

That’s not all. Some applications may no longer function, once the operating system behind them isn’t operational.

To be sure, some of the companies still running Server 2003 are doing so for non-mission-critical, non-customer-facing applications such as print servers, Groom notes. While they’ll need to shift to new server operating systems, the time frame isn’t as urgent as it would be if they were using 2003 for critical applications.

Cloud Options Grow in Popularity

Companies planning to migrate from Servers 2003 have several options, Groom says. They can, of course, purchase new software and hardware.

They also can move the workloads previously on 2003 to the cloud through virtualization. Another option: replacing the workload with a SaaS (software-as-a-service)-based application. For instance, an organization running an on-premise human resources application on Server 2003 may opt to migrate to a SaaS application, at which point they can retire the legacy server.

Another option is shifting to infrastructure as a service, or IaaS, which is geared toward datacenter infrastructure systems, such as storage and networking.

Some organizations may decide to move to a private cloud – that is, a cloud computing platform that’s implemented internally under the auspices of the IT department or through a trusted cloud partner with added protections and architectural options that a public cloud provider can’t offer.

No matter which cloud option they choose, it’s becoming clear that many companies are choosing to implement a cloud solution, rather than update with on-premise server operating systems. Data from Softchoice’ internal data show that 40 percent of companies plan to move to the cloud, Groom says.

That squares with the experience of cloud services provider Odin, says Alex Danyluk, the company’s vice president of alliances. “Because of the advent and maturity of the cloud, a lot of customers are looking for cloud solutions.” Historically, each time a software solution goes off support, growth in cloud services spikes, he adds.

Indeed, Odin’s U.S. SMB Cloud Insights report, released in May 2015, predicts the U.S.  small and medium business (SMB) cloud services market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.4 percent in the next three years, jumping from $25.2B in 2015 to $34.9B by 2018.

Questions about Getting There

While cloud-based applications can remove some of the pain inherent in hosting solutions on-premise, they’re not a panacea. About four out of five companies moving to the cloud don’t know what migration path to take, according to Softchoice’s data. The reason? “The multitude of options available,” Groom says. “There are lots of ways to get there.”

Groom recommends companies follow several steps to determine the path forward that will work best for their organizations. First is assessing the applications they are currently running on Server 2003, and determining each application’s importance. Without a detailed discovery of an organization’s current assets, it is “almost impossible to build a production-ready future state,” he says.

The organization also needs to define the future state it hopes to move to, and develop a plan for getting there. The implementation plan should account for both technology and users, Groom says. “If you invest in moving to the cloud and the users don’t use it, you’ve created a productivity and cost issue.”

However, ensuring the receptiveness of end-users to cloud-based software can be a challenge, as some IT departments lack the range of skills needed to move to the cloud, Groom says. Of course, that will make it difficult to train others in its use.

When that is the case, it makes sense to bring in outside experts, Groom adds. “People are less resistant to change if you can provide training for the new technology.”

Companies also need to assess potential cloud service providers, Danyluk says. They’ll want to check the portfolio of services each offers to determine whether a provider can meet the organization’s current and future needs. For instance, for providers of IaaS, this typically includes backup and database services, among others. Avoid “a one trick pony or single-point solution,” Danyluk says. “Look at your full lifecycle as a company.”

About Karen Kroll

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