On July 14th, 2015, Microsoft will end support for all versions of Windows Server 2003. This means that Microsoft will no longer offer support, security patches and software updates for this product.
What are the risks of continuing to run Windows Server 2003 while unsupported?
Continuing to run Windows Server 2003 after July 14th will not only leave your network open to serious security vulnerabilities, there’s a possibility of system instability issues due to compatibility issues with newer hardware and software, and you can face compliance issues with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards and other industry regulations.
Some companies have custom applications that support critical business functions based on the Windows Server 2003 framework, and these applications may not work on a newer OS platform. The problem with this scenario is that most organizations don’t have a plan for how to migrate these workloads to a different application. However, this pales in comparison to the cost and resources that will be used to maintain and protect an outdated platform.
What are the options if choosing to continue to run Windows Server 2003?
The first option would be to do nothing. However, this will leave your network easily exposed to threats and attacks, as hackers often look for vulnerabilities in out-of-date software to exploit. As time goes on, Windows Server 2003 installations will become a very high target as they represent the least secure systems.
In addition to having a larger attack surface, there are also many technical issues that the server administrator will have to deal with. Windows Server 2003 was released over a decade ago and IT architectures have evolved dramatically since.
Windows Server 2003 runs in 32 bit mode only, which means it is not compatible with newer 64 bit modes, therefore it cannot make use of modern updated hardware and software in order to help accelerate performance.
The bottom line is that will lead to higher costs of server operations within the IT structure and will leave the network exceedingly open to emerging threats.
What about using custom support solutions?
While this option helps protect from high priority known threats, it does not protect against newly emerging threats such as zero-day vulnerabilities. In addition to insufficient protection, custom support agreements will significantly add to the already high costs of maintaining an outdated server.
Luckily, these are not your only options. In this three part series we will explore other options that are available - from better options to secure your server to full migration from the legacy systems.