Over the past several years, Microsoft has been beating the drum, waving the flag, and blowing sirens in order to broadcast upgrading from Windows Server 2003. The advantages are numerous and so are the risks of continuing to operate this server release after July 14, 2015, especially now that we’re past the end-of-life-support deadline.
Conversations about Windows Server 2008 versus Windows Server 2012 should focus on the similarities and differences between the two operating systems in terms of how they benefit an organization's support, compliance risk, and business growth needs.
Server 2008 and Server 2012 Debuts
Server 2008 was released to the market in 2007 and was followed two years later with Server 2008 R2. Three years later, Server 2012 was released in September 2012, and its R2 version arrived in October 2013, at the same as it released Windows 8, with Microsoft Server 2012 being the server version of Windows 8.
Microsoft offers even the smallest of companies use of its OS, so if the company has fewer than 15 users, all the server roles to handle Web services and SharePoint services are contained in the Foundation Edition of Server 2012.
However, the larger the firm, the more likely there’ll be dozens of servers each handling a sole task requiring more processing power or memory and data that need to be always available—without fail. In this scenario, Microsoft’s Windows 2012 Standard and Datacenter Editions offer advanced capabilities in deployment, memory, storage, virtualization, and security.
In Server 2012 R2, Microsoft has expanded the RAM support for virtual servers (1TB) and increased the number of supported physical and logical processors, which significantly raises the number of hypervisors that one server could offer clients looking for substantial expansion.
Helping Your Server Administrator Team Transition
Change scares most people, and server administrators who have operated Windows 2003 for more than a decade may have some concerns about what’s changed in the next server operating system that they will be tasked to support.
To alleviate their concerns and reinforce their confidence as they transition to the upgraded OS, the Microsoft TechNet resource holds a reservoir of knowledge that can help fortify IT administrators’ skills and give them direction on new features, typical server design, and best practices for deployment.
What About Security?
Companies that operate in the regulated financial or medical industries are required to have specific types of security mechanisms in place in order to protect the information of private citizens. Headlines were recently made that even the federal government was a victim of the loss of federal employee data, so the operating systems (in conjunction with hardware security such as firewalls, penetration testing, and defensive network designs) that have multiple tiers of protection are the ones that clients should use.
Server administrators will feel more confident when preparing their new servers to meet security compliance specifications. In Server 2008, Microsoft made security improvements to the kernel, Windows services, and Internet Explorer 7 and added an entirely new way to stand up server roles, protecting them while you are in the process of getting them online using Server Management security templates that open only the required features needed for configuration.
Both Server 2008 and Server 2012 R2 support the installation of server cores in order to help protect servers by limiting the amount of DLLs and files loaded, thus minimizing the areas of the server where an attack could take place.
We live in a mobile world, working wherever we can, no longer strapped to desktops. Security provisions in Server 2012 R2 take protection up several notches—not just with laptops, but also other mobile devices such as phones and tablets. By using new functionality in Active Directory and wireless authentication methods and requiring passwords to corporate resources, these devices can now connect safely to your network, thereby adding another layer of protection in your security arsenal.
When Windows Server 2008 was introduced, it offered new features in virtualization and gave Microsoft a serious position in the virtualization game. Server 2012 has gone even further, and for companies that are looking at transforming their environments into some form of cloud profile- on premise, hosted or hybrid, Microsoft Server 2012 R2 is a premier contender in this marketspace.
Microsoft Server 2003 has been a workhorse for many IT environments, and selecting the next operating system is an important decision. Consider the most critical issues or concerns in an organization when deciding to implement your next operating system:
- Is it preventing a bad security breach?
- Are end users requiring the use and support of their mobile devices on the LAN?
- Do you want to do more with less physical hardware and reduce power, rack space, and management time and cost?
- Or are you looking to become compliant after a failed audit and need to migrate to a version of Windows Server for which you know your IT staff will have a support line to Microsoft or OEM (original equipment manufacturer) vendors?
In the debate of a migration from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008 versus Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012, the answer is simple: Server 2012 R2 may offer far more features than an organization might need now, but will definitely want to have available in the future.