Further to last year’s end of support for Windows XP, consumers are now facing the final months of another Microsoft product support cycle. Extended support for Windows Server 2003 ends on 14th July 2015 and, despite Microsoft first announcing this line in the sand back in April 2013, many organisations are yet to formulate a clear migration plan away from this server platform.

The extent of the problem varies according to the reports you read but the common consensus is that millions will miss the deadline. As with the end of support for XP, it seems the potential security risks associated with running unsupported software are not enough to deter significant numbers of businesses from continuing to run a product that has been replaced several times over. In the case of Windows Server 2003, there have been two major updates (2008 and 2012) and three minor updates, since it was first released onto the market in April 2003.

[themecolor]What does ‘end of support’ mean for Windows Server 2003?[/themecolor]

After 14th July 2015, Microsoft will no longer be issuing any updates or patches for Windows Server 2003, which will lead to a progressively less stable and less secure infrastructure for any business that continues to use this operating system after that date.

But for most organisations, this deadline is about more than just an out-of-date network operating system. Given the age of the solution, it is likely most servers running Windows Server 2003 will have other business-critical applications installed that have also past their own supported life cycles. This further complicates the delivery of on-going support to organisations who fail to upgrade and compounds any regulatory compliance issues.

The major concerns, which face organisations who continue to run Windows Server 2003 after 14th July 2014 deadline, include:

  • No more updates – there will be no more updates to fix bugs, address performance issues and patch security vulnerabilities. So whilst 37 critical updates were released for Windows Server 2003/R2 in 2013, any critical issues will remain unfixed after the July deadline, leaving servers open to malicious attack and data theft.
  • Non-compliance – regulated industries generally require organisations to operate on supported IT platforms, so companies that continue to use Windows Server 2003 risk falling foul of industry wide compliance standards. This also applies to organisations handling regulated data such as healthcare and payment card industry (PCI) data. In these situations, non-compliance could result in fines, loss of business or maybe both.
  • Software and hardware compatibility – new software applications and hardware devices are not being built with Windows Server 2003 in mind, so companies will soon begin to experience software and hardware compatibility issues, if they have not already. There is a good chance that your organisation will not be able to run the latest instances of key business application software or communicate using the latest devices if it continues to run Windows Server 2003 beyond July 2015.
  • Increased support costs – operating legacy servers is expensive. Protecting an unsupported Windows Server 2003 platform, may require new intrusion detection systems, advanced firewalls and network segmentation, all of which come at a cost. Add to this the investment required to maintain ageing hardware and it is clear that the cost of ownership of Windows Server 2003 is likely to rise.

So, do not delay. With just weeks to go until Microsoft withdraws support for this product, any businesses still running Windows Server 2003 should contact our support team as a matter of urgency to discuss migration options.