Windows Server 2003 – another one to bite the dust

There are many businesses still using Windows Server 2003 quite happily. However, Microsoft is ending support of this product from 14 July 2015. Similar to what happened in April this year with Windows XP, the discontinued support of the product by Microsoft spells the end of security patches and service packs for the product. The result – after this date Windows Server 2003 will be vulnerable to security breaches by hackers and other internet nasties. It should be a serious point of concern for businesses particularly as the server often holds sensitive and confidential corporate and client information.
There is a bit involved from planning, installing and migrating to a new server so it is best to give yourself some time to do it. There is no better time than over the Christmas break (Dec and Jan) when most people are on holidays and business is a little quiet.
There are 4 common questions which clients ask us about migrating away from Windows Server 2003. See below for the FAQ.

1. Is replacing Windows Server 2003 necessary?

You can in theory continue to run Windows Server 2003 past 14 July 2015. However, with the lack of continued security and operational updates/fixes provided by Microsoft on the product, your server will be open to security breaches and over time will stop running ideally causing issues with the network.
Disconnecting the server from the internet is an option. This will not however safeguard the server from security breaches as the server can still be comprised using the computers connected on the network.
We think replacing Windows Server 2003 necessary from a security and operational standpoint.

2. What are my options?

First work out the functionality required of your server by your business. With the huge range of options available this can be tricky. We always recommend working with a competent IT professional to determine the best fit.
For small to medium size businesses, its best to plan for 5 to 10 years ahead. The replacement server should last this length of time; anything else is not worth it. A bit of maintenance may be required from time to time such as installation of more RAM or hard drive storage.
Windows Server 2008 is more similar to Windows Server 2003 than Windows Server 2012 and less expensive. However, we do not recommend it as it is already 6 years old and only has a few more years before it reaches its end of its life. It will not be able to do the mileage of 5 to 10 years and will cost you more in the long run.
Windows Server 2012 is the most logical replacement product. You can replicate the settings you have on Windows Server 2003 with this product so nothing really changes.
These are common ways Windows Server 2012 can be used:

  • as a communal hub for all applications and databases which can be accessed by the business computers on the network;
  • as a Microsoft Exchange Server for emails;
  • to configure “lock down” restrictions preventing staff changing settings on their devices;
  • to allow “roaming profiles” for staff to access their data and desktop configurations on any computer connected to the network;
  • to automatically distribute applications and updates on all connecting computers
  • to control internal and external secured access data on the server;
  • as a terminal server or remote desktop server for staff to work remotely.
3. Why Windows Server 2012?

The latest Windows Server 2012 R2 is a reasonable choice for your upgrade. Released in October 2013, it has been used and tested for over a year and has been well accepted by the IT community as a stable platform with great features.
Features include server virtualisation, more memory storage and virtual machines, improved remote desktop services and a suite of server management tools. A large number of technical improvements have been made to the product relating to security, performance, application support, cloud integration and hybrid operations.
All in one server. With Windows Server 2012 R2 you only need one server; previously you needed multiple servers for different functionality. This makes application support easy. Application providers do not like supporting multiple operating systems or old platforms.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and Mobility. Mobility is very important for staff of today. We want to be able to access files, data and applications from anywhere on any device. Windows Server 2012 R2 was designed with these requirements in mind.
Hybrid and public cloud. Windows Server 2012 R2 is designed for a Mobile first Cloud first IT environment.

4. Which Windows Server 2012?

There is some choice when it comes to hardware and software with Windows Server 2012.


Hardware configuration can be done to suit all size businesses. While a litte more expensive than competing products, I have been using HP for Windows Server hardware for my clients as they are well built and reliable. HP also provides great support when there are issues and they can provide next day replacement of hardware which is important for businesses who cannot afford downtime. It pays to purchase top quality product.
Things to think about with regards to hardware requirements for your server:

  • How much storage do I need?
  • How many people are connected to the server?
  • What will they be using it for?
  • Do I need faster hard drives and lots of RAM to keep up with the usage demand on the server?
  • Do I need data mirroring hard drives (RAID) to ensure that there is a local backup of the data?
  • Do I need additional power supply in case of power failure?

Windows Server 2012 is recommended but there are options depending on the number of users of the server. They are:

  • Foundation. Designed for small businesses that are likely to stay small. It is limited to 15 users and no extra payment is required for extra users.
  • Essentials. Similar to Foundation but can host up to 25 users and no extra payment is required for extra users. It also has the capacity to run a second CPU and has more RAM capacity.
  • Standard. Ideal for all size businesses whether small, medium or large. There is no restriction to the amount of users who can connect to it at any one time and can handle many processors. It has a huge amount of RAM capacity. However,, you do need to pay for each user that connects to the server (Client Access Licence) which can get expensive.

Take a look at our popular HP Windows Server 2012 packages to see which best suits your business.
The package costs also includes a basic installation of the server. Speak to us for a more advanced installation.
Click here to download the pdf
Next week we will take a look at other options for replacing a Windows server 2003 including using a NAS (Network Attached Storage) for reduced cost and complexity.

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