As Microsoft® ends support for Windows Server 2003, many organisations are left unprepared and unaware of the dangers of continuing to run an unsupported operating system. Security issues, increasing support costs and the growing risk of fines resulting from industry compliance breaches are all threatening companies that postponed the inevitable – migrating off Microsoft Windows Server 2003.

A recent Spiceworks report indicates that by the end of March 2005, 28% of organisations that were using Windows Server 2003 were planning to migrate, while 63% already partially migrated or totally migrated. Of the companies that were planning to migrate, 27% were looking to migrate in the next 4 – 6 months. Organisations increasingly fear security, compliance and downtime risks brought about by the end of life support.

The Most Important Concerns about Microsoft Windows Server 2003 (Insight Post Miscellaneous Images) - TechXperts

The biggest concerns among organisations that plan to continue using Windows Server 2003 after the end of support are Security Risks (85%), Software Incompatibility (72%), and Compliance Risks (66%). Closely followed by Downtime concerns (65%), data loss and operating costs.

1: Security Risks are Rising as Hackers Look for Victims

Whilst organisations can continue to use Windows Server 2003, Microsoft have stopped providing automatic security updates, patches and online support. Using an unsupported operating system increases the risk of viruses and other security threats. As critical vulnerabilities affecting Microsoft’s server operating systems are not unheard of, now is the time for vulnerable systems that haven’t been migrated to a safer environment to be attacked by hackers.

The market is in fact waiting for a storm of attack attempts, malware and other troubles for companies choosing to continue using Windows Server 2003 after Microsoft’s extended support ends. Companies have to choose between running an insecure environment that will leave them exposed to potential handful security threats that can jeopardise their business, or to migrate to a new, safe and supported operating system.

2: Fines, Compliance Risks and Loss of Business

As Microsoft stops issuing security updates and patches for Windows Server 2003, organisations maybe putting customer records, classified corporate information and other sensitive data at risk. Not being able to update/patch your unsupported Windows Server 2003 environment may breach compliance regulations and put your organisations in danger of fines, penalties and even loss of business. Especially if your organisation needs to comply with regulatory compliance standards such as PCI, HIPPA, SOX, etc.

Organisations’ choosing to continue using Windows Server 2003 beyond the extended end of support period will likely fail to meet most industry compliance standards says the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) for UK Government. According to them, most compliance and regulatory standards consider running end-of-support software to represent a control failure, whilst service providers are likely to prompt organisations using hosted services to update legacy software so that existing service-level agreements can be met.

3: High Operational Costs for an Outdated System

Organisation choosing to run Windows Server 2003 unsupported will need to make significant monetary and physical resource investments to maintain and protect their environment. Any further patches, security updates and ongoing support will need to be provided from third parties – meaning expensive!

Microsoft themselves will be charging customers around $600 per server to safely run Windows Server 2003. This price is for the first 12 months and is likely to increase. Organisations may end-up investing more to maintain their old systems, compared to the cost of migrating off Windows Server 2003 completely.

Additionally, your old Windows Server 2003 environment is likely to be running on old hardware – typically eight plus years old 32-bit servers with no real power management. These servers are inefficient and expensive to maintain due to a lack of power management.

4: Application Compatibility and Performance Issues

Windows Server 2003 is a 32-bit operating system for 32-bit applications. The vast majority of servers running this operating system are likely to be older 32-bit servers. 64-bit has now become the standard for everything from drivers to applications, and application developers are abandoning 32-bit applications in favour of 64-bit. This creates a few issues for organisations running Windows Server 2003 unsupported:

1: As Windows Server 2003 is a 32-bit operating system, it may not be fully compatible with modern 64-bit applications, and performance issues may occur as a result. There could also be integration issues with your other applications and hardware.

2: Developing new 32-bit applications in-house makes no long-term financial or strategic sense for organisations as this means continuing to invest in an operating system that you will eventually have to let go of, and then spend even more money porting these applications to 64-bit.

5: Downtime Costs

System downtime’s and the costs of system downtime’s may be the biggest danger from running Windows Server 2003 unsupported. Many things can cause or contribute to downtime’s but running an operating system that is no-longer supported by the manufacturer and isn’t being patched may be asking for trouble.

Market data from Gartner indicates the unplanned IT downtime’s can cost $5,600 per minute. The cost of fixing downtime’s and getting systems back up and running represents only one part of downtime costs. The real cost to any organisation comes from reduced employee productivity and negative customer experiences that can jeopardise your long-term reputation and profit.

Average Costs of Unplanned Data Center Outages (Insight Post Miscellaneous Images) - TechXperts

Downtime costs can also be a barrier to organisations planning to migrate off Windows Server 2003. According to a Double-Take report – The Future of IT Migration 2015, system downtime and staff working overtime during the weekend were the biggest migration headaches organisations experienced the last time they performed a migration. This could deter some organisations from migrating off Windows Server 2003 – at the cost of incurring these 5 dangers.

Takeaway and Conclusion

All five of the dangers affect the productivity and profitability of any organisation that hasn’t been proactive and migrated off Windows Server 2003 and the only true method of avoiding them is to migrate off Windows Server 2003. However, migrations bring their own headaches and dangers – data maybe lost in transit, new host may not work as planned, and downtime is always a costly concern.

Fortunately, there are migration tools that deliver fast anywhere-to-anywhere “seamless migrations”. Migration methodologies such as the new Seamless Migration method offered by PerTECHtual deliver simple to apply and fully resilient migration that accelerates the benefits of migration and reduces risk and downtime to almost zero.

Download the FREE Whitepaper “Seamless Migration – How to migrate with Confidence” to discover how to enjoy the benefits of migration while minimising the risks with a fully resilient process.