The end-of-life of Windows XP may still be a recent memory, but IT departments must now be ready for another major migration milestone with only six months until the end of the road for Microsoft's popular Windows Server 2003 platform.

As the 14 July deadline for support approaches, it is important that businesses set the wheels in motion to move to an up-to-date operating system, or leave themselves open to potential security risks and added costs for patches. In spite of these risks, Microsoft estimates that there are roughly 10 million Windows Server 2003 deployments still live.

But - tough as it may be for some firms - the migration process has its benefits. Upgrading to Windows Server 2012 offers a raft of new features including improved management, backup and recovery, while it also provides the opportunity to modernise systems and create a more efficient and well-run IT estate. 

Here are some tips for how to get started with migrating from Windows Server 2003:

1. Take the end-of-life date seriously

Like XP, Windows Server 2003 was a well received and widely used operating system, with many reluctant to move. In fact, Microsoft delayed the end of life for XP so many times that many users were caught somewhat off-guard when the vendor finally kept its word. Don’t make the same mistake with Windows Server 2003.


2. Conduct a baseline assessment to determine which apps are currently running the Windows Server 2003 operating system

An audit is needed to determine exactly what systems are running on the operating system. The sooner this begins, the more prepared IT teams will be to deal with legacy apps that are difficult to move - such as line of business applications. 

 3. Determine which of those apps are no longer being used at all and can be unplugged

The migration process provides an opportunity for a clear out of unused applications, with many companies will build up a sprawl of apps that may have been long forgotten about. This is a chance to rationalise and simplify – and will also reduce the migration workload.

4. Determine which apps are being used by a small number of people and can be discontinued

Again, Windows Server 2003 migration can be used as an opportunity to optimise and drive efficiencies across their IT estate. Work out utilisation rates of applications, and anything that is not needed can be decommissioned.

5. Determine which apps can be virtualised

Most Windows Server 2003 deployments were carried out before virtualisation became as widely accepted as it is now. Those running on physical servers should consider moving to a more modern, virtualised platform.

6. Determine which apps can be moved to the cloud

When businesses first deployed applications onto Windows Server 2003, the cloud may not have been seen as a viable option. Much has changed however, and enterprise can pick which applications are better served being moved out of the data centre altogether, whether using Saas, Paas, or Iaas.

7. Determine which apps, that were probably written before things like mobility and cloud, can be upgraded or modernised to provide better business value to the company

The idea of building applications that were focused on use on mobile devices may not have been on the agenda a decade ago, but this is the reality for many enterprises now. Old apps may not make use of new technologies, so businesses need to decide which can be brought up to date to meet the current needs of their customers.

8. Consider hiring a systems integrator to help with the process.

Managing this change across a large organisation can be a tough job. In fact, many businesses are still struggling to move from Windows XP. For those willing to pay, third party support should be considered to ease the burden on in-house staff and reduce migration times. 

9. Get a realistic estimate of the cost and procure the budget need to make the move

The migration process is unlikely to be cheap, and businesses need to put in place a realistic budget. It also pays to think long term; delaying the migration only pushes back the inevitable expenditure, and it also means that company’s will be forced to pay Microsoft for expensive custom support.

10. Don't ignore the security implications of running unpatched server OSes

There are many potential reasons for companies missing the end of life deadline – cost, time constraints or just not taking the situation seriously enough. But all should be aware of the potential threat it presents to their business. When Microsoft stops its support and regular patches, unsupported software can become a target for cyber attacks.