End-of-Service for Microsoft Server 2003 to Impact Millions of Businesses

Insight Enterprises Sept. 17, 2014

Insight Enterprises, Inc., a leading worldwide technology provider of hardware, software and service solutions, has outlined the issues confronting businesses as Microsoft ends support for one its most widespread software programs, Microsoft Windows Server 2003 — along with key steps companies can take to prepare for the transition.

The end of service for Windows Server 2003, set for July 14, 2015, has the potential to affect 24 million servers that run large and small businesses. As a Microsoft services partner that works with a wide range of businesses and organizations on IT solutions, Insight has identified this IT transition as more time-consuming and complex than the end of support for Windows XP, which impacted many unprepared businesses. 

“When Microsoft ended support for Windows XP in April, about one quarter of U.S. businesses were still using the operating system, which caused a series of operational issues and potential security challenges,” said David Mayer, practice director of Microsoft Solutions for Insight Enterprises. “While XP was primarily a desktop issue, we’re advising our clients that Server 2003 end-of-service affects entire servers, with the potential to have widespread impact on many more business operations. With less than a year to begin addressing the issue, we’re outlining for clients we work with a series of timely steps and options to start exploring now so they can implement their own outcome.”

Risks on the Horizon

An estimated 39 percent of all installed Microsoft Server operating systems are the 2003 edition. Underscoring the type of support the software needs, there were 37 critical updates released for Windows 2003 in 2013. Operating outdated server software systems is risky and expensive. Threats to data centers running the outdated software will likely increase, and businesses will have to deal with added costs for intrusion detection systems, more advanced firewalls and network segmentation.

Businesses that deal with sensitive or critical information, such as healthcare records or credit card payment data, could fail to be regulatory compliant, resulting in lost business or a dramatic increase in the cost of doing business in the form of high transaction fees and penalties. Without addressing the issue, organizations will likely fail to meet industry compliance standards, i.e., Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The Solution: A Phased Approach

To ensure a smooth transition, Insight recommends businesses start immediately, as it could take longer than one year to migrate all systems. An outline of steps to move businesses along includes:

Phase I: Discovery and analysis – Businesses need to undertake a detailed environmental discovery to uncover which servers and applications are operating on the software.

Phase 2: Actual migration – Options for mitigation include:

  • Software upgrades – including enterprise-class datacenter and hybrid cloud solutions that can be simple to deploy, cost-effective, application-focused, and user-centric.
  • Hardware upgrades – Windows Server 2012 requires new powerful hardware, which can deliver improved energy efficiency.
  • Cloud-based solutions – A flexible platform that allows businesses to rapidly build, deploy and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed datacenters.

Phase 3 – Monitoring – Ensuring zero downtime and zero negative impact through post-migration monitoring for 24-48 hours.

“There isn’t one solution for all businesses. Based on our experience working with clients, we’re seeing this issue cut across all industries and company sizes, and every business may need to budget time, finances and human resources to address it,” Mayer said. “Whether the businesses we work with choose to replace servers, upgrade software or migrate to the cloud there are critical decisions to be made that could take a good part of the coming year to address.”

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