Microsoft no longer supporting Windows 2003 beginning next month

Local tech firm says businesses still using the outdated system have a couple of options.

June 26, 2015
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If your business is still using Windows 2003, it’s long past time for an upgrade, and soon you’ll really have no choice. The software has simply reached the end of its lifecycle.

On July 14, Microsoft will cease supporting its Windows 2003 product. That means next month, the Windows 2003 software will no longer receive things such as assisted technical support from Microsoft, software and content updates, or security patches to protect PCs from harmful viruses, spyware and other malicious software, said Mike Lomonaco, director of marketing and communications for Grand Rapids-based Open Systems Technologies.

“All software products have a lifecycle. End of support refers to the date when Microsoft will no longer provide automatic fixes, updates or online technical assistance. As of July 2014, there were 12 million physical servers worldwide still running Windows Server 2003,” he said.

“It is a 13-year-old system with two more recent updates (2008 and 2012), so the cost of continued support from Microsoft is cost-prohibitive.”

The businesses most likely affected by the decision are small to medium-sized businesses, as well as those in regulated industries such as finance, insurance and government/public sector, Lomonaco said.

Microsoft estimates there are approximately 23.8 million instances of Windows 2003 currently running across 11.9 million physical servers worldwide, which accounts for close to 39 percent of the entire Windows install base, he said.

Not upgrading is really no longer a valid option, he said. Organizations governed by regulatory obligations may find they are no longer able meet compliance requirements while running Windows 2003, he said.

“Computers running the Windows Server 2003 operating system will continue to work after support ends. However, using unsupported software may increase the risks of viruses and other security threats. Negative consequences could include loss of confidentiality, integrity and/or availability of data, system resources and business assets,” he said.

“Users have the option to upgrade to a currently supported operating system or other cloud-based services. There are software vendors and service providers in the marketplace who offer assistance in migrating from Windows Server 2003 to a currently supported operating system or SaaS (software as a service)/IaaS (infrastructure as a service) products and services.”

Lomonaco said there are two main options for business users: either upgrade to new server software and migrate to new servers, or use cloud services instead of their own.

“Businesses can go to a cloud provider like IBM Softlayer or Amazon, but that would mean putting everything in the public cloud,” he said.

“The other choice is Linux. That would depend entirely on what the business is doing on the WS2003 boxes. If it’s file and print or simple database, they can do it fairly easily. If they are using a highly vertical Windows app not found on Linux, things become more challenging.

“The ability to move will depend on the degree of Windows apps the business uses and if there are Linux equivalents. If the company has a lot of homegrown apps, they will have real challenges.”

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