News Column

Tackling the Windows Server 2003 Challenge

August 28, 2014

Emma Okonji

The planned withdrawal of technical support for Windows Server 2003 after July 14, 2015 by Microsoft, is already posing threats to businesses that still run on the software platform. But the threats could be addressed with modern technology solutions.

The announcement by Microsoft that it will officially withdraw its support for Windows Server 2003 (WS2003) after July 14, 2015, is raising concerns among organisations, whose application data are currently running on the platform.

Being one of the most successful applications of Microsoft, just like Windows XP that has lost official support from Microsoft since April this year, several millions of applications are currently running on Windows Server 2003.

Applications used by operators in the oil and gas industry, financial institutions, government ministries and parastatals, including the public and private sectors of the economy, run on Windows Server 2003. The implication is that as soon as Microsoft, which owns the application ceases to offer support for the application, the businesses running on the application will become vulnerable to cyber-attacks that could lead to huge data loss, operational downtime and eventual collapse of businesses that the application is supporting.

Fear of the enormous loss is beginning to unsettle business owners and organisations and they are looking for technology solutions that will help them upgrade and seamlessly migrate their application data from WS2003 to the higher versions like Windows Server 2008 (WS2008) and Windows Server 2012 (WS2012).

Aware of the concerns and the need for business sustainability and continuity, Wragby Business Solutions & Technologies Limited has assured organisations whose applications are currently running on WS2003, of modern technology solution approved by Microsoft that could take care of the complexities posed by the planned withdrawal of WS2003.

The solution could also seamlessly migrate all applications sitting on WS2003 to either WS 2008 or WS 2012, without interrupting business continuity during the period of upgrade and migration. Chief Executive Officer & Principal Consultant of Wragby Business Solutions, Mr. Gbenga Iluyemi, told THISDAY that it has the expertise and solution from AppZero, which is the only solution approved by Microsoft that will successfully complete the upgrade and migration without stress.

According to him, Wragby Business Solution has joined the AppZero Partner Programme as a Gold Partner for Nigeria and the rest of West Africa. AppZero has become the surest way to move Windows Server applications to and from any cloud, while simplifying complex production applications. AppZero's app migration tool quickly and easily moves applications from old, bare metal machines that run out dated versions of the Windows operating system (OS) onto a cloud or dedicated hosting environment that runs Windows Server 2008 or Windows 2012.

About Windows Server 2003 Windows Server 2003 is a server operating system developed by Microsoft, and released on April 24, 2003. It is an updated version of windows 2000, and was released to the manufacturing industry on December 6, 2005. Its successor, Windows Server 2008, was released on February 4, 2008. It is based on Windows XP, basically becoming an enhanced version of XP. According to Microsoft, Windows Server 2003 is more scalable and delivers better performance than its predecessor, Windows 2000. Windows Server 2003 includes compatibility modes to allow older applications to run with greater stability.

Windows Server 2003 brought in enhanced active directory compatibility, and better deployment support, to ease the transition from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP Professional.

Windows Server 2003 was also the first operating system released by Microsoft after the announcement of its Trustworthy Computing initiative, and as a result, contains a number of changes to security defaults and practices.

It comes in a number of editions, each targeted towards a particular size and type of business. In general, all variants of Windows Server 2003 have the ability to share files and printers, act as an application server, and host message queues, provide email services, authenticate users, act as an X.509 certificate server, provide directory services, serve streaming media, and performs other server-oriented functions.

Official end-of-support According to information from Microsoft's Support Lifecycle, the company has announced July 2015, as the date for the end of support for Windows Server 2003 and all the sub-editions of the product such as the Itanium and x64 editions, which include the Compute Cluster edition, the Datacentre edition, the Web edition, and the Enterprise edition.

What that means is that any future attacks aimed at vulnerable components on those platforms won't be patched. Microsoft stopped offering support for Windows Server 2003 in 2010, but the operating system has since continued to receive security updates and paid per-incident support. All that ends in the next 11 months from now, raising fears that businesses that failed to migrate out of WS2003, would automatically be at risk after July 2015.

Industry experts estimate that there are more than 10 million devices still running WS2003 that are soon-to-be stranded. Experts in the industry reasoned that to run a secure IT infrastructure and increasingly meet the legal and regulatory requirements of many jurisdictions, adequate resources must be provided for the monitoring and shielding of servers running server 2003. They also said separating the data and applications from the operating system is necessary so as to let go the server."

Business implications According to Iluyemi, withdrawal of support by Microsoft, means the end of updates and patches for computing security issues, and loss of compliance and that regulatory certifications for financial institutions that have attained Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) certifications, becomes invalidated as the support on applications and programmes comes to an end for any organisation, data centre or server running the OS after the expiration date.

"Lack of compliance poses a big threat to local financial services partnership with global payment platforms like VISA, MasterCard, American Express and legal right to continue with card services. This also affects the oil & gas, and the manufacturing industries, including the private and public sectors whose applications are running on WS2003," he said.

Iluyemi said no serious minded organisation will want to risk their businesses by running applications on unsupported WS2003 platform. He therefore called on organisations not to make haste to upgrade and migrate from WS2003, using the recommended solution by Microsoft, which is AppZero that could be easily deployed by Wragby Business Solutions.

Judging the exact impact of Windows Server 2003's end of life by 2015, technology research analyst, Wes Miller said businesses would stand at risk if the WS2003 applications were not migrated to other newer version before the July 2015 date.

He believes that the installed base for Windows Server 2003 is sizable, and will put businesses and organisations at serious risk to contend with if the situation is not addressed fast.

"This means that no further patches or security updates will be available from Microsoft. In itself this poses a security risk and compliance problem for businesses. Most third party applications are now only supported on the latest 64bit platforms and application support from these bodies is another major risk driver for the change," Miller said.

The need for upgrade Speaking on the need for upgrade and migration from WS2003 to either WS2008 or WS2012, Director, Wragby Business Solutions & Technologies Limited, Mr. Wale Oyenuga, said all OS has lifespan, which is about 10 years, and that during the lifespan, the developer of the OS would from time to time, provide security patches to protect data running on the platform.

He explained that upgrade became necessary for every OS because of changes and development that have led to the introduction of new innovations to technology.

"As new technology evolves, there is need to also upgrade an existing technology solution in order to meet up with new technologies," he said.

According to him, there is always an end of life for every applications and most times the period could be extended. The lifespan is not more than 10 years, and when the lifespan of any product is gone, Microsoft seizes to support such applications.

That is why we are talking about Windows Server 2003 that has been in existence for over a decade and has exhausted its lifespan. Microsoft is therefore withdrawing support for the application server. For example, the platform of Microsoft Windows Server 2003 is different from 2008 and also different from that of 2012 and there is even version 2 of Windows Server 2012.

Before now, the rate of data hacking is not as sophisticated as what it is today and there are new innovations like cloud computing, smartphones, data increase and different applications and several other innovations and these have led to upgrade of applications in order to meet the demands of today's technology space.

Wragby business solution According to Iluyemi, Wragby Business Solutions is a cutting edge end-to-end business technology services and solutions that empower customers to fully optimise day-to-day operational tasks by providing best-in-class business and technology solutions to enhance productivity, reduce risk, and further control costs. Explaining how Wragby will successfully deploy the solution, Iluyemi said the company would first carryout technical assessment to find out the exact type of applications that the organisation has that are sitting on Windows Server 2003. "The number of applications, the versions they are running, and frequency of users, are some of the things we will look at before talking about migrating from WS2003 to WS2008 and WS2012. We believe that proper planning and assessment will determine what the organisation has that are sitting on Windows 2003," he said.

He explained that AppZero is an Information Technology company with a very unique solution for seamless migration and that Wragby has partnered AppZero and gotten training and skills from them to help organisations migrate from Windows Sever 2003 to the next upgradable level. "We want to use the opportunity to bring Wragby solution to organisations in Nigeria and West Africa to help them address the situation emanating from the planned withdrawal of support by Microsoft for Windows Server 2003 by July 2015. We have the solution to migrate applications from Windows 2013, as advised by Microsoft. We want to let organisations know that they will not be at any risk migrating their applications from Windows Server 2013 as envisaged by many," Iluyemi said.

Duration of upgrade/migration

"There is no fixed time for a successful migration. It all depends on the number of applications that the organisation has. The more the application data, the more time it takes to complete the migration,"Oyenuga said.

He explained that some organisations have up to 50 applications running on a single server and that they have several of the servers in the organisation, and that the first thing to do is to assess the servers in order to establish the technical footprint. "We look at the technical footprint, take risk assessment and then consider the number of servers and the number of applications running on the servers, as well as the versions of the applications. If all these are ascertained, we will then consider compatibility with the new platform. So to seamlessly migrate, the time of migration depends on the volume of data and the number of servers of the organisation. When all these have been considered, the next step will be the deployment and migration stage," he said.

Oyenuga called on organisations to begin to plan towards upgrade and migration from WS2003 to either WS2008 or WS2012, irrespective of the organisations' budget and policy.

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: AllAfrica

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