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Strategic vs Band-Aid Approaches to Windows 2003 End of Life

Retired Employee
Retired Employee
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By Sam Restifo, Lead Technology Strategist, Cloud and Datacentre


It’s estimated that between 20 – 25% of businesses are still operating Windows Server 2003 (WS2003). This is despite Microsoft officially terminating support on 15 July 2015.


Aside from the potential security and compliance risks, these businesses are choosing to use and maintain software that is 12 years old.


Customer and employee needs have changed


12 years ago the iPhone did not exist; businesses didn’t use apps like they do today. 12 years ago activity-based working was rare, online shopping was in its infancy and people certainly didn’t watch TV or host a video conference from their mobile device.


Businesses that are still using WS2003 are using an application that was designed when many of today’s business needs didn’t exist. Businesses are hampering their ability to optimise employee productivity and customer experience.


Upgrading servers upgrades your business’ competitive ability


The majority of the hype around WS2003 end of life focused on business’ increased risk profile.  Even if businesses are comfortable with managing the risk, by not transitioning from WS2003, they are inadvertently:

  • expending time and effort maintaining the status quo,
  • hampering the ability of their businesses to respond to and stay ahead of competitive demands.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Cloud and Enterprise Marketing Takeshi Numoto in his blog post “For customers still using Windows Server 2003, now is the time to migrate” comments that “Upgrading servers is not just a maintenance task. It provides an opportunity to deliver significant business value.”


Preserving Windows Server 2003 is spending money to go backwards


Most businesses still running Windows Server 2003 will have to take some type of action to protect themselves from security and compliance risks.


Businesses need to consider not just the actual expense but also the opportunity cost that comes with reliance on software not designed to meet the mainstream needs of today’s employees and customers.


Whilst WS2003 included many of the features that power business productivity today, much of the functionality was in its infancy.  More pertinent to business productivity, if the features were actually integrated, it was certainly not in the seamless way many applications interoperate today.


Unified Communications 2003 vs 2015


Take Unified Communications as an example. 


In 2003 instant messaging (IM) was considered an application used by teenagers, not a business’ answer to email overload and better collaboration.  Today however, IM is a mainstream business application and its uptake for work is growing at a greater rate than personal use.[i]


Video conferencing has similarly advanced from something that was cumbersome and expensive to a common place business tool.  Whereas in 2003 video conferencing frequently required booking a specially designed video conference room, today video conferencing can be launched from a desktop, laptop or mobile phone and is generally integrated with IM, online conferencing etc. 


Skill search is another example of a feature of current server software that drives collaboration and productivity. Whereas in 2003 the effort required to answer a question such as ‘Do we have any solution architects with skills in Exchange design, based in Brisbane, who can assist in responding to this RFP” would have involved phone calls, searching the Intranet etc., in 2015 functionality in software packages such as Microsoft SharePoint Server means that answer is at every employee’s fingertips.


Not transitioning can mean doubling up on IT spend


It is likely that businesses still operating WS2003 are not only spending money to mitigate ‘End of Life’ risks, simultaneously they are spending time and money to buy or create applications to meet demand for ‘modern day’ customer experience and employee productivity tools.


All whilst competitors who transitioned from WS2003, provide these services in their standard operating environment and are free to concentrate their time and resources on development of the applications and tools that will drive business growth and competitive advantage.


Staying put will cost more in the end


This view is well stated by Microsoft, “Staying put will cost more in the end. Maintenance costs for aging hardware will also increase, and customers will face added costs for intrusion detection systems, more advanced firewalls, network segmentation, and other security measures—all simply to isolate Windows Server 2003/R2 servers.”


For a relatively small increment in time, effort and expense, there is an exponential increase in benefit for businesses that take a strategic vs tactical approach to dealing with WS2003 End of Life.


The recommendation for Australian business is, ‘don’t reach for the box of band-aids’, but get your organisation behind the need to take a strategic approach to upgrading your core IT infrastructure to support modern platforms and services available in the market.


Safe Harbour


Microsoft’s recent acknowledgment of our expertise in delivering modern IT infrastructure capabilities through certification of Optus as a member of their Cloud Operating System Network (COSN) means Optus is able to provide a ‘Safe Harbour’ whilst customers undertake the strategy and migration process. You will need time to plan this well, and you don’t want to have to shore up your Windows Server 2003 operating environment whilst you do this, nor do you want to be exposed to security risks. 


As a Microsoft COSN partner we were the first network service provider in Australia able to provide custom support whilst you undertake the transition process. This means we are able to extend the security patches, bug fixes and technical support that Microsoft provided prior to ending support for this product.


About Optus’ Safe Harbour option 


[i] The Radicati Group press release:  “Instant Messaging Statistics Report, 2015 – 2019”


1 Comment
Esteemed Contributor
Esteemed Contributor

Excellent article however I disagree somewhat on having to upgrade everything just because it is at end of life. Whilst it isn’t Server 2003 related the US military is still using Windows XP and they are still getting updates and security patches for it. Smiley Happy