If you’re still using Windows Server 2003 to run the back end of your business, it’s time to move on. Unlike the desktop OS (see It’s Time to Upgrade – A Conviction of Windows XP), you won’t have to train users on a new system by upgrading the back end, which is a good thing. Below, you’ll find a number of the many reasons that it’s important to upgrade your servers if they’re running a twelve year-old operating system.



End-of-Life-for-Microsoft-Server-2003-1Security needs to be the first thing I mention, right up front, because it’s the most important consideration in a server upgrade. No matter how fast a server is, no matter how easy it is to manage, and to store all your data, and to serve up your emails, it’s all irrelevant if your server is vulnerable to attackers who don’t have your best interests in mind. So it’s important to note that Microsoft has stopped supporting Windows Server 2003 as of July 14th, 2015. If you’re still running this operating system on any of your servers, those servers are becoming more and more vulnerable as the days march on. Security holes are discovered in all Windows versions on a daily basis, and Microsoft patches them as quickly as they’re able. So, since Microsoft is no longer updating Windows Server 2003, the number of methods that attackers can use to get into your server are growing and growing. Upgrading to a current OS, such as Windows Server 2012 R2, will restore your business’s security by running a system that Microsoft is actively updating.


ReFS (Resilient FileSystem)

Windows 2003 still uses an old version of the NTFS filesystem. NTFS itself is over 20 years old. With Windows Server 2012, Microsoft has introduced a far more versatile filesystem, allowing for more storage than NTFS, and more resiliency and data integrity.

Speaking strictly on numbers, ReFS supports volumes up to one yottabyte. Not sure how big that is? Neither was I, so I looked it up. One yottabyte is 1024 bytes, where a gigabyte is 109 bytes. Or, another way it’s been put, is that a yottabyte is enough for 7,000,000,000 people to each have 130 terabytes. Of course having the hardware to facilitate that much data is unfathomable today, but at least we know that ReFS, and thus Windows Server 2012’s storage capabilities, are future-proof for a very long time indeed.

NTFS offers you enough storage, you say? That’s reasonable. There are other features of ReFS that make Windows Server 2012 desirable over Windows 2003. Most notably, and probably obviously, is ReFS’s built-in resiliency. ReFS can recover from data corruption quite quickly. In fact, its built-in data recovery, based on checksums and a “copy-on-write” method that provides much more data redundancy than NTFS, is so good that utilities like CHKDSK just aren’t needed. CHKDSK doesn’t even exist for ReFS, because the filesystem recovers from corruption right away, without any user intervention.


File Sharing

I’ll be blunt. The file sharing service in Windows Server 2003 is relatively horrible when compared to anything newer. Windows 2003 still runs the SMB protocol version 1.0, which was introduced around 1990. Microsoft made some improvements over the years, of course, but no major overhaul was done until 2008 with the introduction of version 2.0, and 2012 ushered in SMB 3.0. Since jumping versions, the protocol has been slimmed down, and pipelining has been introduced, making for far more efficient file transfers, even over high-latency connections. The newer versions of SMB are also more robust and tolerant of non-Windows machines. So if you have some Macs in your office, they’ll play a lot nicer with a Windows Server 2012 system than Windows Server 2003.


Virtualization (And Other Money-Saving Tricks)

Back in 2003, virtualization was not a particularly common technology, and most servers were physical. By this, of course, I mean that one server would run one operating system to which all its resources were devoted, much like most people’s home PC’s. In today’s tech world, if you’re running more than one server, you’re wasting resources, ie. power, ie. money. Around 2008, Microsoft started making a greater effort to support virtualization in its operating systems, and from the server standpoint, these optimizations were made with both hosts and guests in mind.

On newer Windows Server versions, Microsoft has included the ability for the operating system to act as a hypervisor, meaning that one Windows Server can actually house several guests. This means buying less hardware, as one physical box can run several “virtual servers,” with each of these guest systems making sure the computer’s RAM and CPU cycles are used to their greatest efficiency. Aside from buying fewer servers, that can also mean lower electrical bills. In fact, Microsoft offers a minimal “Server Core” edition of Windows that you can run for free, meaning you don’t have to buy an extra copy of Windows to be the hypervisor.

As a guest, or “virtual machine,” Windows is now more aware that it is running in a virtual environment, and much more capable of operating efficiently in this state, leveraging the resource sharing abilities of the hypervisor.

Virtualization aside, newer server operating systems are more evolved in every way, including the power saving functions. Windows Server 2012 is more finely tuned to save money on your power bill by leveraging the scaling features of modern CPUs.


In Conclusion

If you continue to run Windows Server 2003 at your organization, you’re putting your data at risk, wasting money, and making things harder than they need to be. Make your life easier and safer and upgrade to a supported Windows Server operating system. Contact Catharsis – Your local Managed IT Service Provider in downtown Toronto to help transition you to a safer operating system.