This content is part of the Essential Guide: A guide to Windows Server 2003 end of life
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Hidden costs of migrating from Windows Server 2003

When Windows Server 2003 hits end of life, it could mean new expenses in the form of new servers. Here's how to prepare.

Change is coming. Microsoft will cease support for one of its traditional stalwarts in July 2015: Windows Server 2003. The company estimates that 24 million servers are now running in enterprises large and small. Moving off of the system requires money, so here are ways Windows system administrators can sell management on the financial benefits of upgrading.

The first step in the process is to take an inventory. IT does not always have 100% visibility into department purchases, so a few (or perhaps many) Windows Servers wormed their way into the business’s backdoor. Once the inventory is complete, the corporation can get a better handle on the overall number and costs of its Windows Servers.

System incompatibilities create higher costs. Windows Server 2003 runs on Intel 32-bit microprocessors; Windows Server 2012 edition is built on a 64-bit architecture. Consequently, server amenities, such as internal memory, storage systems, application software and network connections, have to be retooled to operate on the more modern architecture. Rather than manage one pool of consistent devices, IT has to support two sets of systems with a number of inconsistencies, which increase support complexity and costs.

Performance is another reason to make a change. Video and complex graphics are becoming more common, and system response time slows as more information is loaded into memory. Users begin noticing performance problems when disk and CPU usage rates reach 50% and certainly if they are in the 70% to 80% range. Moving to Windows Server 2012 increases performance significantly.

Newer systems run on modern infrastructures that are more powerful than their older brethren. Moving to Windows Server 2012 expands system density by several hundred percent. The change means a smaller server footprint, less hardware, fewer software licenses, and reduced energy consumption.

Old hardware is like a car with more than 100,000 miles; the system breaks down quite often. Data center staffs should take a look at the number of service calls that come in for Windows Server 2003 and compare it to more modern servers to see how much time could be cut.

Chances for server downtime increase. Older systems send warning signs before crashing. Fan drives and hard drives become noisier, a good indicator that hardware failure is just around the corner. Businesses lose out on revenue opportunities and employee productivity when servers crash. Windows Server administrators need to quantify the potential losses; they will typically offset the upgrade costs quite easily.

Finally, the old system will not be secure. Patches and hotfixes will no longer be available, leaving Windows servers and applications vulnerable to hackers. As evidenced by recent break-ins at Target Inc. and Home Depot Inc., the bad guys have become increasingly sophisticated in their ability to break into enterprise networks and steal sensitive data. They move from the weakest link and eventually worm their way to coveted system administrator status. With no security updates, Windows Server 2003 quickly becomes a very weak link.

To be successful, Windows systems administrators need to talk in business terms. Nothing gets management’s attention more than propping up the bottom line. With Windows Servers coming to the end of its life, system administrators can find many good reasons why the business should invest in a server upgrade.

About the author:
Paul Korzeniowski is a freelance writer who specializes in Windows computing issues. He has been covering technology issues for more than two decades, is based in Sudbury, Mass., and can be reached at

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