Windows 2003 comes to an end - so what's next?

You’re probably already aware that Windows Server 2003 goes "end of life" on the 14th July 2015, but if you are still running servers on Windows 2003 what does this mean to you and what are your options?

By Your Office Anywhere.

Take a look at this article here from Microsoft about what you should do – quite daunting unless you are an IT professional (and looks daunting even if you are one!)

Well for a start Windows 2003 servers will, of course, continue to work but if you are Windows 2003 End Of Liferunning an unsupported version of Windows 2003 in July you are introducing an element of risk.

Microsoft will cease to provide any security patches for the Windows 2003 operating system which means vulnerabilities in Windows 2003 can be exploited.

There is also the potential that you may be breaking relevant compliance regulations by running Windows 2003. You may be frustrated about the cost, risk, and disruption of having to upgrade a perfectly good server, if so hold on to that thought a minute, it is something I will come back to.

There are a number of options open to you: you could, for example, do a simple straight swap, buy a new server and migrate everything to it.

This will involve some capital expenditure, not only on the server itself but also on new Windows Server licences and Client Access Licences, plus any migration expertise you may have to buy in.

An alternative, that businesses of all sizes are now taking advantage of, is moving their servers to “The Cloud”; but what does that really mean and why is it a better solution?

From a server perspective, Cloud Computing has come about following the advances in two technologies: Increases in Internet Bandwidth and hardware virtualisation. Simplistically the improved Internet provision means that people can connect to computers across the Internet at the same speeds they were communicating across their local network a few years ago; meaning it doesn’t matter where your server sits.

Virtualisation means that computing resources, RAM, CPU can be shared across many systems. The physical servers behind them are then used to their maximum potential, making them much more cost effective i.e. cheaper to businesses but the businesses are getting enterprise class hardware.

So, let’s assume you’re considering swapping your old Windows 2003 for a shiny new one in the Cloud, how do you decide who to host it with? Again you have a couple of options, you could host with some of the large American providers such as Amazon or Microsoft. They will provide you with your server but expect you to do all the technical work (or pay someone to do it), but that does slightly go against the ethos of outsourcing.

A better bet would be to have your server hosted by someone who will also support and maintain it, and who will also provide the shared infrastructure to enable all your team to securely access the server or applications running on it over the Internet.

A good hosting company will provide the flexibility to rent your server and licences based on your needs, renting more licences when you need to grow or less when not required, you should always avoid companies that will tie you in to long contracts.

As you are renting licences you are always entitled to the latest version, which means no more frustration when the operating system goes end of life. The hosting provider should be securely backing up your data, patching your server with critical updates, maintaining Anti-Virus and basically providing all the support an IT department would for an on-site server.

Obviously every company is different, so your hosting company needs to be flexible and innovative to provide the right solution to your company needs. For expert advice from cloud hosting specialists about the options after Windows 2003 go to