This content is part of the Essential Guide: A guide to Windows Server 2003 end of life
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Three questions to ask before a Windows Server 2003 migration

With less than eight months to go before Windows Server 2003 end of life, IT needs to prepare and answer these essential questions.

Organizations running Windows Server 2003 should plan their migrations, if they haven't already. It's time to rally the troops, spread the word and get cracking. There's not much time left, and the migration process will involve more than installing a new server OS.

Certainly, the most basic aspect of a server migration depends on taking down old servers and bringing up new ones. But in the 11 years or so since Windows Server 2003 appeared, the IT landscape has changed substantially. Putting a checkmark next to each of the following questions is essential to a seamless and successful migration:

1. Will your target servers be physical or virtual? Local or cloud-based?

Since 2003, two of the biggest shifts in IT have occurred. First and foremost has been the move from physical to virtual servers; most Windows Server 2003 installations at least started on physical servers. The ratio of service devices to server installations has swung from one-to-one in 2003 to one-to-many for Windows Server 2008 and 2012 versions. Plan your post-migration target architecture carefully, and consider consolidation while deciding how many virtual server images you'll need to maintain after the move is done.

The second big sea change for IT has been a steady and inexorable migration into the cloud (where virtual servers, platforms and even infrastructures are the status quo). It will be vital to create strategies for access and control, security, reliability and availability as you decide whether to migrate onto new hardware in your own data center, or into a cloud-based environment. While you're at it, it's time to start thinking about how storage and networking play into your post-migration needs.

2. Do you need as many targets as sources?

Unless there are technical or compliance-based reasons to keep existing servers separate and disjointed, the answer to this question is quite likely nNo. Given the increase in processing power, capacity, storage and networking capabilities over the past decade, you may consolidate servers and focus on service delivery in your post Windows Server 2003 migration world. The devil is in the details; determine how many and what types of servers you will use after the migration.

3. How will you move applications and data?

The biggest sticking points for organizations that have moved from Windows Server 2003 were applications that couldn't move smoothly -- or at all -- from 2003 to newer server versions, according to recent surveys. When you consider that some of these apps were emergency ports from Windows NT or 2000 Server versions, and developers may be long since out of business, this can pose major difficulties.

One workaround is to build some unsupported virtual Windows Server 2003 installations in the new environment to host mission-critical applications and data while seeking replacements. Data files can also be an issue, and must be found, cataloged and prepped for migration long before the cut-over process.

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