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Migration plans just didn’t gel as expected? Still can’t find a good reason to justify a switch? Perhaps there’s just no budget for it right now…

Whatever the reason, your organization missed Microsoft’s July 14 end-of-support deadline (EOS) for Windows Server 2003 (WS 2003) despite the dire warnings that have been playing out in the media these past few months.

You are not alone and there’s no need for alarm.

Research firm Gartner projected earlier this year that no less than 1.6 million instances of 13-year-old server operating systems will remain in operation past the OS’s end-of-support date. Only 25 percent of firms recently polled by application migration company App Zero have an upgrade plan to switch to newer systems, such as Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2012, or transfer existing workloads to the cloud.

End-of-support means that Microsoft will no longer issue fixes for newly discovered security holes thus providing an opening that hackers and malware writers can exploit, leaving systems, as well as data and applications stored on them, at risk of a security breach. Many applications on the OS will also lose support and WS 2003 will no longer meet Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance requirements.

Tarun Bhasin, research manager for infrastructure solutions with analyst firm IDC Canada believes that while organizations can still milk some productivity out of Windows Server 2003, this move could limit business growth.

“The comfort level that IT has regarding WS 2003 limits their options from a business standpoint as legacy applications running on old hardware will struggle to keep pace with business demands,” he said.

Are you in trouble if you missed the July 14 deadline? Not necessarily. Here are some of your options:

Quick and costly

You can obtain WS 2003 support beyond 2015. For example, the Treasury Board of Canada said the government is working with Microsoft to support the operation of 8,000 servers still running the old OS until the government retires the machines over the next two years.

Microsoft provides customized support for ongoing patches for WS 2003, but will charge customers $600 per server to the extended support service. There are also third-party providers that offer services to keep the OS compliant and secure.

This could be an ideal path if you are already preparing your migration journey but it proves costly and unsustainable in the long term.

Less disruptive migration

Moving to Microsoft’s latest server OS, Windows Server 2012 (WS 2012) R2 will require changing applications, but there is a simpler and less costly alternative.

Many organizations are upgrading from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008 (WS 2008) instead. The seven-year-old server OS will be supported by Microsoft until the end of 2020 and migrating to it will not require the major application revamp associated with a switch to Windows Server 2012.

Turn to virtualization

Virtualization decouples hardware and software, allowing legacy software to run on newer servers longer. For instance, VMware provides excellent support for legacy OS, allowing older Microsoft operating systems to run on newer processors that the software doesn’t even recognize.

Virtual devices in virtual machines also offer encapsulation and prevent driver compatibility issues.

Seek cloud cover

Investigate the possibility of going with a cloud service rather that sticking with the on-premises approach.

The EOS for WS 2003 might be the perfect opportunity to look into this option for your organization.

Among the advantages offered by cloud providers include lower and simpler licensing fees; ease of setup; flexibility to scale; and service level agreements that surpass that of many on-premises models.

Start liking Linux

This might be the time to consider Linux. According to Red Hat, Linux growth is “outpacing” Windows in global server operating system environments. Figures released by the company indicate that Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) averages 118 percent more users than Windows.

Annual server infrastructure cost is 29 percent lower than Windows because RHEL requires little infrastructure, less software and less maintenance, according to Red Hat.

Microsoft may have pulled the plug on WS 2003, but there’s definitely no need to panic because there are plenty courses of action available.

“It’s important for IT managers to take a step back and evaluate their options,” said Bhasin.

Technology Writer Nestor ArellanoNestor Arellano is a Toronto-based journalist who specializes in writing about technology and business news. Nestor reports on IT trends, new products and best practices, and how these can be of use to business and IT decision makers in the enterprise, small and medium size business space, and government.

For more information on our Windows Server 2003 EOS migration, please visit our Windows Server 2003 EOS migration page or request information to speak with a cloud specialist.