Your SMB may not have a business case for Windows Server 2003 migration.  That’s right.  While slim, there is a chance that you may not need to go through the painstaking process of upgrading to Windows Server 2008, 2012 or cloud after all.

This may come as a shock if, like many companies, you are used to hearing about the looming July 14 deadline for the migration. While the crunch still holds true, according to some IT professionals, there’s no sense in forcing the change if the benefits don’t outweigh the costs.

“The companies out there who have seven months left who will lose support, the reality is, you probably don’t care.” said Richard Boelens, System Administrator at Performance Advantage, a Toronto-based IT consulting firm which is has been helping IT World Canada move its own data off of Win2K3 over the past few years.  He said that the reality is, of course, that many small and medium-sized businesses don’t have the resources to deal with a migration.  His message is that, for some, this may not be the end of the world.

“The reason why you’re running Server 2003 is because it does work,” he said of small businesses.  “It’s not on the internet, it’s just in your office.  My business is working, it’s working well. When a server breaks, I’ll panic then.”

Namely, it’s important to think about what functions your business will lose if something breaks and there is no longer support.  Boelens cited an example where a client moved off the server only because their drive started failing.  While once July rolls around, security updates and patches will no longer be made available, some companies may only have limited assets like non-mission-critical functions on a Windows 2003 server.

The more you rely on Win2K3  and the more important its functions, the more of a business case you have, and vice versa.

“At Enterprise level, it’s a different game,” Boelens said.  “SMBs can only be expected to pay what they need to, not what they should.”

According to Boelens, four considerations that small and medium-sized businesses should make before deciding to migrate are:

  1. Is there a business case?  This is the first step in a long list of decisions.
  2. What’s the impact to your business, if that server is down? How quickly would you need it back?  Is it mission critical?  Another consideration is that the server could be attacked through other things on the network it is connected to.
  3. Is your hardware past end of life and likely to fail? According to Boelens, chances are it is, as most hardware tends to be ten years old even though recommendations for small businesses hovers around four to five years maximum.
  4. Do your software vendors support new operating systems? In some cases, “you’re held hostage by the application,” Boelens said, because a software no longer exists or is not yet compatible with a newer operating system.  In that case, other options include switching software or modifying the business process, such as switching from fax to email.

But if you have the time, resources, and perhaps even a business case and are looking for a verdict, Performance Advantage’s stance aligns with most IT providers out there.

“End of day professional opinion is that you should upgrade because you can’t phone support,” said Boelens. “That doesn’t just mean patches and security updates, it means when you phone Microsoft because you don’t know how to fix a problem, you can’t pay them enough to give you support.  [But] there has to be a damned good reason [for a migration], either to … generate revenue, or otherwise incur losses which is greater than the cost of the server.  There has to be a business case.”

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