July 14, 2015 is one of those important IT dates we told you to circle on the calender a while back. Windows Server 2003 end of life is here, meaning the one-time rockstar of server operating systems will suddenly become a model of instability with no patches or certified Microsoft support members to clean things up. Hate to break it to you, but simply running this abandoned ship is now a blatant violation of most industry compliance regulations.
If you’re among the 20-something percent of IT pros still in planning mode, you may be on the prowl for some realistic Windows Server 2003 alternatives. Let’s go over your options.
1. Windows Server 2012 ( or 2012 R2)
Survey data seems to suggest that most organizations have targeted Microsoft’s latest server product as their Window Server 2003 alternative. Similar to jumping from Windows XP to Windows 8, this migration path is like stepping into a whole new world. A lot of major changes have been made in the nine-plus years that separate the two releases, so very little harmony exists between them.
Unfortunately, there are no direct upgrade paths from Server 2003 to 2012 or 2012 R2, mainly because of architectural differences. Most Server 2003 deployments are running 32-bit systems whereas both 2012 platforms are exclusively 64-bit architectures. As such, tackling one service at a time may be the best way to port your IT operations over to Windows Server 2012. The plan here is to backup your core services and roles so they can be restored on a clean installation of the new system. The price you pay for taking such a big leap is a tedious one, and even then, the threat of compatibility issues lurks.
2. Windows Server 2008
IT managers in search of the most straightforward alternative to Windows Server 2003 can find it in Windows Server 2008. Microsoft offers a number of direct upgrade links between the two, so migrating all your services, roles, and data is usually a seamless process. Of course the 2012 versions feature the most bells and whistles, but Server 2008 is still a rock-solid OS platform. Plus, it’s covered by extended support up to 2020, so no need to panic any time soon.
3. Linux Enterprise Server
The need for a Windows Server 2003 alternative is yet another reason to consider Linux, but it takes more than just any old distro. You need a server-friendly platform, and while your options are limited, they’re as good as any on the list. For example, RHEL Server has all the tools, services, and resources you’d expect from Windows, including premium support, group provisioning capabilities, and the ability to tap into Active Directory via third-party tools like Vintela. With expert command of the system, a commercial Linux server will not only be an upgrade, but a welcome improvement.
4. Cloud Server
Cloud computing and its viability as a file storage alternative is well known. Its practicality as a server option is slowly being realized. Functionality wise, a cloud server isn’t much different than a physical one. However, it’s physically less of a hassle and comes with unique advantages such as:
- Manageable migration costs: Complex licensing fees can be avoided thanks to favorable pricing models fit for IT teams of any size.
- Easy setup: Cloud providers house and physically maintain the hardware, so initial setup is a breeze. Some even lend a hand in migrating your existing servers over to the cloud.
- Flexible scale: The cloud offers ample opportunity for scaling in neatly packaged solutions and robust configurations that cater to critical resource needs.
- Guaranteed availability: With lofty service level agreements to uphold, cloud providers strive to deliver performance and uptime rates that surpass what companies enjoy in-house.
As you can see, there is more than one practical alternative to Windows Server 2003. The only wrong move here is not moving at all. Once you’ve settled into one alternative or another, the IT team needs to be thinking ahead, making sure your organization is better prepared when the next crucial EOL date rolls around.