On July 14, 2015, Microsoft announced the End of Support for the Windows Server 2003 operating system. End of Support means Microsoft will no longer release any patches and security updates or provide online technical assistance for any Windows Server 2003.

A report done by Spiceworks at the end of 2016, showed that at least 53% of organizations were still running servers with Microsoft Windows Server 2003.  Back in 2014, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued a statement warning that unsupported installations of Windows Server 2003 had an elevated risk of exposure to security attacks.

According to a report from Kaspersky Lab, in 2017, the average cost of a data breach for small and medium-sized business was $117.000. If you are one of these organizations that are still running Windows Server 2003, your business may be in real danger. A security breach doesn’t only pose a financial risk to your company but also has the potential to put you out of business. A report from the National Cyber Security Alliance shows: 60% of the small and medium-sized business that suffered a cyber-attack, were out of business six months later.

In this article, we will demonstrate why you should move to a newer release of Microsoft Server, what the benefits are, and some recommendations for achieving a successful migration.

Benefits of Migrating to a newer Windows Server Version

Improved Security

Systems that are no longer supported by the manufacturer are the preferred target of hackers and malicious users.

Why?

Because any security issue that is discovered after the End of Support will not be fixed by the manufacturer.

Hackers know that if they find a vulnerability it won’t be fixed – giving them more time to exploit the vulnerability and gain access to your data. On the other hand, fixes and security updates for supported operating systems are regularly released, making it harder for intruders to exploit known vulnerabilities and gain access to your systems and data.

Newer versions of Windows Server were designed with improved security mechanisms to prevent the most common type of attacks used by hackers such as:

  • Stealing credentials
  • Using malware to access server and applications
  • Targeting vulnerabilities in virtualization software

In newer Microsoft Server releases, new sets of tools and features were added to make the operating system more secure.

A few of these newer tools and features are:

  • Windows Defender – an anti-malware application that can detect malware threats in real-time and provides automatic updating features.
  • Windows Device Guard – ensures that only trusted software can be run on the server.
  • Credential Guard – uses virtualization-based security to isolate and protect credential information.
  • Improved Auditing Functionality – provides an administrator with more detailed information about potential breach attempts, allowing the admin to respond faster and perform a better forensic analysis.

Improved Compatibility

Many software vendors only support their products as used within operating systems that are supported by the manufacturer, so the chances are that much of the software you are running inside an unsupported version of Windows Server would also be unsupported. This scenario only compounds the risk and increases the administrative burden.

Better Performance and Scalability

A key component for application performance is random access memory (RAM), Windows Server 2003 can support up to 1 TB of memory. Newer editions of Microsoft Windows Server can support up to 24 TB of memory. This expanded memory capacity opens a new frontier in terms of application stability and performance.

No Compliance Issues:

If you are running an unsupported version of Windows Server, your organization will likely fail to meet industry compliance standards such as HIPAA, PCI, SOX. Companies in industries impacted by these regulations will likely refuse to establish any electronic connection with your organization because the connection would expose them to non-compliance issues as well.

A Step Closer to the Cloud:

One of the biggest benefits of newer versions of Microsoft Server is the set of functionalities that make it suitable for Cloud Workloads.

One such functionality is called Nano Server. In simplest terms, Nano Server is a slim version of the operating systems optimized for running containers and cloud applications.

Containers provide small, fast-starting virtual instances that can host applications in an isolated user space while sharing the underlying Operating System. Because containers don’t need a full operating system, they consume fewer resources.  Couple the Nano Server with improved memory management and you have your own private cloud where you can run hundreds of containers efficiently and securely.

3 Recommendations for a Successful Migration Away from Windows 2003

  1. Get Support from an Experienced Provider

Any migration has risks involved and has the potential to impact the continuity of your business. In order to reduce that risk, make sure you get support from an experienced service provider that has performed this kind of migration in the past and can properly design a migration plan, create a mitigation plan, and execute the required steps for a successful migration.

Menark has helped dozens of organizations upgrade their Windows Servers infrastructure and we would be happy to talk with you about your migration requirements.

  1. Communicate with Colleagues About the Migration

A migration will not only impact the IT department; it will likely impact applications and IT services that are used by other areas of the company. Make sure you have a communication plan in place to let other areas of the company about this migration, why it is necessary and the benefits it will have for the organization.

  1. Set a Proper Timeline

Depending on the number of servers your organization needs to migrate, the process can take a few weeks to several months to implement. Make sure you set a proper project plan, with a reasonable timeline to properly execute the migration. You may also want to plan your migration in batches, starting with the least critical servers, so you can execute the migrations on the critical servers once you have been successful on non-critical servers.

To conclude. It’s always best to have a professional IT support technician such as those found in the Menark team on your side when doing server migrations. We know what we are doing, and we won’t let you down.

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Published By: Scott Clarke on June 1st, 2018